Monday, November 14, 2011

Mama On: Taking Responsibility

"I see you!"

I was talking with a friend over dinner the other night and the conversation turned to the things people do when they don't think anyone is looking.  My friend is from Boston, and she talked about the evening she realized that her mother was ready to step up and take a stand for more than herself and her own children.

My friend was young, six or sevenish, and she and her very happy brother were headed to a neighborhood store for the treat their mother had promised -- popsicles!  Walking along, the way children do, they never noticed the staring man parked at the side of the street with his hand working busily in his lap.  But their mother did.

Knowing that all of the neighborhood children, including her own, took this walk regularly and the kinds of bad things that can happen to children at the hands of people who didn't mind sitting around and masturbating on city streets, she took action.  "Hey!," she shouted, "get out of here!"

When the man was slow to move, the petite Tiger Mama found a stray brick on the sidewalk and used it to punctuate her message.  The man realized that someone was determined to take responsibility for his actions, and drove away.

Now, even after being on the receiving end of a Mamaknological defense action, we don't know that the man never "did his thing" (oh, the pun...) again, but we do know that my friend learned a couple of life lessons on responsibility by watching her mother.  She learned that one person can make a difference, and that the person who sees the problem can fix it.

My own mother, the World's Preeminent Mamaknologist, used to look at men or women who openly urinated against building walls, masturbated in public, or slipped their hands into other people's purses and wallets, and deliberately announce, " I see you!"  Don't ever think that those three words are a law enforcement panacea, but they call attention to the action and make it clear that not everyone is going to let it go uncontested.  Not everyone who is caught doing something wrong will stop doing it; but the Mamaknological magic is that now that they have been seen, someone else knows that they are doing the wrong thing, and witnesses have power.

The Mamaknology here is that we must take responsibility for what we see.  We cannot ask someone else to take responsibility for those things we let slide, and that covers everything from the people who watch while a child is mistreated, to politicians who try to pretend that they never said or did what the video clearly says they said or did.  Don't speak up, and you have to take whatever comes.  Pretend not to see, and you leave the responsibility to someone else who may not give half a damn about you, your life, your family, or your community.

So, as a practicing Mamaknologist, I'm going on record here and now.  I care about me and the people I love.  I care about the world I live in.  And while I may not be ready to pitch a brick, Boston style, I am going to speak in my mother's words:

I see you.