Letter to a Comic

Dear C,

Thank you for putting yourself out there and thank you for encouraging your guests to do the same. It means a lot to me, personally. I discovered your podcast when, for three consecutive shows you spoke with comedians and everyone of them spoke honestly about how their childhood experiences shaped them as adults.

Emotional language — the articulation of feelings — was not something I grew up with. We were taught to channel our feelings into work, play and, if those were ineffective, to self medicate. As a 50-something pale male, I’m encouraged to see younger people exhibiting an emotional and social maturity that used to be less common.

I think the reason your commentary is so important to me is because, by speaking to your guests about their childhoods, you are shining a light on a subject that is more or less taboo: the quotidian moments of not-love (or, to be blunt, abuse) that run the gamut from neglect to emotional manipulation to physical abuse that affect a child and that lay the groundwork for a fucked up adult. “One in every 7 children, and nearly 1 out of every 40 infants, in the United States experience some form of maltreatment, including chronic neglect or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.” (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child.) Of the 6 children who avoid this, how many are shaped by emotionally inarticulate parents who use guilt and shame as behavior correctives?

Now, after 12 years of being a home parent and seeing two kids through city schools, what I thought I knew has fallen away, leaving a couple of things I suspect are true:

1) Some culturally transmitted child raising practices and beliefs are just bad. I’m talking about the deep structure hangover that regards children as bad because of their entirely natural selfishness — a selfishness they are all too often yanked out of through smacks and shaming instead of gently encouraged to express their (also innate) altruism.

2) As above, so below: our government and leadership is a reflection of dominant family structure, with an authoritarian male at the apex (I wonder if Pence would be comfortable with the thought that he is Trump’s honorary female). The nationalist authoritarian meta-meme currently sweeping the globe is a reaction to progress in families, child care and in the elevation of women’s rights.

I think that your podcasts helps keep the pressure on so that the pendulum doesn’t swing back too far. Now if we can just keep the internet free and open, things should work out…

Thank you for keeping it real,