Opinion: Kids aren’t fooled by political games | PostIndependent.com

Opinion: Kids aren’t fooled by political games

Robyn Parker
Free Press Opinion Columnist

I first learned about “rollin’ coal” two years ago when the owner of Chick-fil-A denounced homosexuality and supported a Ugandan ministry committed to executing lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender people. In response, human rights supporters gathered across the United States to oppose bigotry. Locally, 50 of us gathered to wave rainbow signs and to sprinkle glitter on the sidewalks.

The event was the first time I’d personally witnessed hatred from which my white, heterosexual, Protestant upbringing usually shields me. I saw attacks some of my friends experience every day, and it became downright scary to realize how much energy some people devote to intimidating and harassing others.

My favorite of the haters was an elderly woman with salon-styled hair and manicured fingernails. She reminded me of my grandma until she raised her middle finger at us and mouthed the associated words as she passed by the protesters.

Some people spit at us, and others revved their diesel engines, leaving us in clouds of smoke. Some of them drove around the block repeatedly in case we missed their messages the first time.

Rollin’ coal is the “art” of making social statements through clouds of pitch black exhaust fumes. Drivers spend thousands of dollars removing pollution controls and installing smoke switches and pipes on their vehicles. Common targets are bicyclists and eco-friendly cars. Some have stickers next to their smoke stacks which read, “Prius repellent.”

Just last weekend, I was driving my daughter and her new friend to the mall when we became the target of one of those enhanced trucks. The engine roared as the driver raced by to cut sharply in front of us. As I slammed on my brakes to avoid rear-ending him, he covered us in smoke too thick to see through.

My car is just a regular gas-guzzling sort, so the hostility was surely caused by one of the bumper stickers on the back. “Right to Know GMO – Yes on 105” or “No on 67 – It Goes Too Far.”

That weekend was the first time my daughter’s friend had spent much time at our home. She didn’t think she’d ever met a Democrat before and plied me with questions. She wanted to hear what I think about everything and why.

Our conversations, topped with a real-life coal-rolling experience, were striking because the issues we’re fighting about are so ridiculous, especially to a young person just learning about politics.

First, we talked about Amendment 67, which is a personhood law so extreme it would define life as beginning with the union of a sperm and an egg. Any birth control methods which prevent implantation, such as IUDs and some pills, would be considered murder, and therefore, illegal.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, teen pregnancy rates have dropped 40 percent in recent years, thanks in large part to a Colorado program which provided 30,000 IUDs to at-risk teens. Even 15-year-olds understand that birth control prevents unplanned pregnancies and that restricting access to contraceptives will only increase the need for abortions.

Next, we talked about same-sex marriage, which is a huge issue in local political races. Last winter, One Colorado organized a group of LGBT supporters to visit their elected officials in Denver. Despite their long drive, every single Republican representative and senator from Mesa County refused to see them.

The group caught State Representative and current Senate candidate Ray Scott sneaking out a back door and literally hiding from them. Years earlier, the Mesa County Library was forced to alter an exhibit about LBGT issues when House District 54 candidate Yeulin Willett threatened to sue them.

Today’s kids cannot fathom institutionalized discrimination or the fixation adults have with other people’s sex lives. It’s hard to convince them that such stories are even true.

Finally, my daughter’s friend and I talked about pollution and fossil fuels. I explained that Republican candidates want to relax regulations to maximize extraction of oil, gas, and coal. We talked about air pollution and kids with asthma, and then the friend asked, “Don’t they know about solar and wind energy?”

Kids are ready to address real issues and plan for the future. Why aren’t we?

A fourth generation Coloradan, GJ Free Press columnist Robyn Parker is the former host of the progressive community radio show, Grand Valley Live. She is a stay-at-home mom, active community volunteer and board member for local environmental and social justice organizations. Robyn may be reached at gjrobyn@gmail.com.

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