Last week, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a piece attacking hipster parents. It was a topic of many interviews I did in New York; he certainly achieved his agenda of getting talked about. Surprisingly, his attack was aimed not at book writers like me, but at the blogs and websites devoted to altparenting. He’s an old-guard attack dog wacking the ways and means of a younger generation. I usually pay him no mind — I mean, his Iraq-war stance has been his own undoing. But this time I have to comment.
As I told Doug Henwood at WBAI, Brooks is continuing what Fitzgerald called the American habit of missing the point. Altparenting isn’t about CBGB’s toddler T-shirts. Okay, yes, like all parents, my generation is guilty of wanting to raise our kids in our image; is that wrong or surprising? But it’s about issues deeper than T-shirts and image: It’s about raising our kids to share our world view, our beliefs, our value system. And those views, beliefs and values are not necessarily the same as our parents, and certainly not of Brooks, which is of course why he’s on the warpath. CBGB’s is a deceased symbol of a way of being – a place and a time and a community — that we don’t want to see vanish from the earth ideologically. Punk isn’t just a style: It’s a way of taking on the world, it’s a protest and a voice and a mission. It’s punk love, and punk anger, and punk energy. It, and hip-hop, defined our generation, and yes, we want to keep them alive in the future. And one way to accomplish that is through our kids.
Sure, they may rebel against it and become smooth-jazz lovers. But probably not. I mean, punk speaks to kids on their level: It’s puerile, immediate, loud, raucous. The Ramones singing Tom Waits’s “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”: That’s my favorite kids song.
For me, it’s about trying to raise a little boy who will think about men and women as equals and partners, who will question warmongering, and who likes to dance. So far, we’ve got one out of three.