My kids and I talk a lot about the people they go to school with. This includes political clubs. There is now a Young Democrat club at the high school as well as the old Young Republican Club. My daughter still helps run the Horror Club (a favorite among teachers.) My son is involved with a group of young artists. They aren’t all art majors but they enjoy sharing the creative process over coffee and long walks on the beach.
It reminded me of a spring day in 1979. I was walking across the quad of a well-known and honored university and happened to meet a young woman who was a Young Spartan. That would be a communist. It just seemed so bazaar to me. She was so happy with that glassy eyed look that usually belongs to someone who belonged to a cult. I immediately wondered if she was sleeping the one of the charismatic young male leaders. I couldn’t imagine why she’d be soliciting for such a group. It was so random and at the time a little disturbing.
I’ve wondered a couple of times over the years what happened to her. Is she still politically active? Does she think back about her experience and feel stupid? Did she marry a domineering idealistic man and follow him to the ends of the earth only to be left alone with nothing but regret of what could have been? Is she Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager? I’ve never been one to join groups so I have no idea. Did her parents know she was involved in the group and soliciting for new members/followers? Wouldn’t it be odd if she read this blog? Are you there pretty brown haired girl with the lovely smile? You know who you are.
My daughter tells me of kids in her high school who target others they feel are “at risk” for indoctrination into different religious groups. My son tells me of groups on his college campus that go after the lonely and lost and naive. Where do you think terrorists get their minions and slaves? They know their targets.
Yes, I am a cynical one when it comes to groups and movements. Groups and clubs are fine. It is when those in charge want to control the movements and thoughts of the members so completely that the group becomes the most important thing – more important than the individual.
I tell my kids to turn away from anyone or any group that counsels them to reject their family, friends, school, or personal beliefs.
One of my brothers is the kind that gets targeted by recruiters of shady organizations. Andy is so sweet and loving most of the time. He has that hint of vulnerability that draws women and cult leaders alike. But like the rest of my family he is pretty good at taking care of himself. Alright, I admit we’ve had to bail him out a few times and I do worry about him. I worry more about others who don’t always have that strong support that my brother does.
From the start, as a mom, I preached the idea of independent thinking. I intentionally raised my kids not to be followers. Kids don’t have to be leaders but they should never be followers.
I’ve also tried to raise them not to be those glassy-eyed innocents that end up in the clutches of people who only have two goals: to use other and to control others.
When I was young I asked my father what made people join cults and extremist groups. He said it was because it was easier not to have to make any decisions about their own lives. By giving up their own choices they didn’t have to take responsibility. They didn’t have to think.
When you don’t have to think for yourself life is easy. Maybe not good but it is easy.
Remember kids, nobody ever said it was going to be easy. That isn’t a bad thing.
Inspirational speakers (and other such con-artists) give me the creeps. You know, the kind who talk about living up to your potential and success. If you want to learn about success go talk to someone who is a real success. Talk to a teacher or a small business owner or the director of the local zoo or museum or the CEO of the high-tech company your neighbor works for. Talk to someone with a real job.
Save the glassy-eyed wonder for the next time you go to Yosemite. Save it for the next time the moon looks so big you think it will collide with the earth. Save it for the quiet sounds of a baby breathing or the faint heartbeat of a ghost.
Or just save it for a Vampire (believe me, it will be well worth it.)
And remember talk with your kids and always LISTEN to what they have to say.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman