More than anything else we do in our lifetime, it is what the youth of today learn from us that creates our legacy. Notice I didn’t say ‘what we teach’ because what we teach and what they learn can be universes apart.
You can’t escape hearing about the Foley Debacle these days. It is everywhere and for good reason. With all the finger-pointing going on, it’s easy to ascertain that not only did people know about it for years, but so many people knew about it as to create the classic abused/abuser environment.
As an abuse survivor, it took me years to unlearn some basic truths that I learned as a child. These truths were not true in the socially acceptable circles out in the open. But on the most very basic levels of my Self, they were rock hard truths.
In a classic familial abuse situation, it is the children that learn to read the parents. They learn to assess the feeling of the room before even walking in the door. They learn to read their parent’s feelings and attitudes and intents to gauge the danger level. The children become parentalized and must watch out for their own safety and welfare because no one else will do it for them. Parents/adults can’t be trusted.
Let’s say that at some point, those kids get to a place where they are brave enough to tell someone what is happening. They hone in on an adult that can be trusted. They somehow find the words to speak the agonizing truth of the situation. And here is where they learn their next lesson: will they be believed? And, if they are believed, will they be protected? A child learns many truths about life in the aftermath of telling their secret.
In this Foley situation, the things that bother me the most, and there are so many to pick from, are 1) the kid(s) that came forward years ago were not believed to the degree that they should have been and if they were believed, their feelings and the danger of the situation were minimized, 2) the adults in control ‘stuck together’ and most likely shuffled off those particular kids to new places to keep them quiet, 3) new interns and pages were told that ‘this is just the way Foley is’ and it then became THIER responsibility to monitor what happened in this completely power-lopsided relationship, creating the illusion that children can control the abuse that happens to them, 4) immediately after being found out in the mainstream media, Foley’s camp turned to ‘he’s an alcoholic’ and ‘he was abused as a teen’ and ‘he’s gay’ in order to divert responsibility and 5) these kids and young adults are treated with less respect and have less protection than working adults do with sexual harassment statutes in place.
I find it indescribably sad that our youth are going to what should be an exciting and knowledge-packed place and supposedly having this spectacular experience learning how our government works and the ins and outs of how things get done and instead are learning the very worst kind of lessons about dysfunction, which apparently, is how our government works.
We can teach our youth all kinds of things that we wish they would learn, but it’s what we do and what we allow to happen to them and to this country that they will internalize. That is our legacy.