Beto O'Rourke's Shocking Writings as a Teen Offer a Lesson for Every Parent
The hot new contender in the race for U.S. President might be everything that the Democratic party has been looking for. He’s young, articulate, and the perfect opponent to go against Trump in the general election. But if you have been watching the news, there’s a little snafu that might derail things.
When O’Rourke was a teenager, he was reportedly part of an underground hacker group called the “Cult of the Dead Cow.” That in itself can be dismissed as the foolishness of childhood. (At 16, I played in a garage band called “The Squirming Melons.” We were terrible. Just ask my mom.)
What is actually documented, however, is what O’Rourke wrote as a “creative” and counter-cultural teenager. Writing under the name “Psychedelic Warlord,” he wrote a lovely poem called “The Song of the Cow”, which I refuse to quote here, just because it’s so gross.
Even more troubling is the short “murder fantasy” he wrote called “Visions from the Last Crusade.” In it, he writes:
“One day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street. They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles. ... This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams. …. As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”
Sure, we were all foolish as teenagers, but this stuff is pretty dark. Hail to the Chief.
How do Beto O’Rourke’s musings as a teenager apply to how YOU parent?
As I wrote in a similar post last fall during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, there are lessons that parents can learn as we see this type of stuff show up in our public discourse. Specifically, every parent needs to face the reality that the choices our kids make in their younger years have a way of following them into adulthood.
As I reflect on nearly 30 years of ministry to families, I am sickened by the number of times that I have heard parents make excuses for their teenagers with an attitude of “boys will be boys” and a philosophy that young people should “sow their wild oats” and get it out of their system before they settle down into adulthood. It absolutely sickens me.
On the news, we have seen a sharp, articulate leader in Beto O’Rourke. At first glance (if you are a Democrat), he seems very electable to our nation’s highest office.
We can also read the poems and essays of his 17-year-old self. Here, you see a young man who wrote about (among other things), running over children, calling women the most derogatory and misogynistic terms, and getting a butt-shine from a cow, whatever that means. And it’s all there online for us to see today.
The bottom line is that what Beto O’Rourke did and wrote as a teenager will have an impact on his life, 30 years later. Get ready for 12 months of hearing these writings referred to over and over again.
So what is the lesson to you as a parent today?
It is simply that what your kids do now has huge potential to impact their lives in adulthood.
O’Rourke’s circumstance reminds me of the family whose 28 year old son is listed as a sex offender because of an intimate moment with his girlfriend when they were teenagers. It reminds me of the countless young people I have counseled because of some form of unwanted sexual aggression from someone they were dating. It reminds me of all the young married couples who are trying to overcome all the sexual baggage from their pasts. They had hoped that marriage would solve their porn problems or instantly wash away the promiscuity from their college years, but it hasn’t.
All of this motivates me to continue to call parents to raise the bar for their kids.
We have to teach our teenage boys that it is possible to live lives of purity and chivalry…to treat all women with respect and to have zero tolerance for anyone who does not. We have to teach our teenage girls that they are beautifully made and that they have a voice. We have to teach all our kids that their sexuality is wonderful….but that it is also precious. They should carefully guard it (and guard others), not treating it carelessly as many in our culture are prone to do.
The stakes are far higher today than ever before.
Beto O’Rourke’s integrity and credibility are being undermined today by a collection of online posts in the primitive early days of the internet. In today’s social media saturated world, where we can “google” anything about anybody’s past, what sort of impression are your kids making on the world? What will their digital footprint say about who they were….and who they are?
Most universities and employers now make a social media search a normal part of the recruiting process. They want to know who someone is beyond what they put on their official application. And while that photo from 5 years ago might make a teenager look carefree or funny or sexy, it has the potential to make a young adult look questionable in character. Just ask the guy who wants to be President of the United States.
So what should you do as a parent? How can we help our kids to make wise choices today?
1. Expect a lot from your kids.
Raise the bar. Encourage your kids to go against the flow of the culture. Challenge them to live extraordinary lives that are selfless and courageous. Address foolish behavior tenaciously…especially those things that are damaging to others.
2. But leave grace for mistakes.
Your kids are not going to be perfect, just as you were not perfect. Set the bar high, but create a culture of grace where restoration is possible when someone in your family makes a boneheaded decision.
3. Eradicate “sow your wild oats” thinking from your family’s minds.
There is no basis in truth that young people will “get it out of their system.” If young people practice foolishness as teenagers/college students, at best, they will learn that it is normal. At worst, they will do something stupid that will impact their lives forever.
4. Encourage your kids to choose their friends wisely.
Even if they are striving for impeccable character, when they run with those who are not, their reputation can be impacted. And it is likely that their values will be compromised and weakened. One specific question that parents should ask: “Is the greek system at college worth it?” (Can of worms officially opened.)
5. Guard social media.
Instagram, Snapchat, and all the others are the private worlds where our kids interact in many of their relationships. But we must always assume that what they put online is public to all. For more detail, read this post about guarding your digital footprint.
6. Be intentional to teach your kids a better way.
Our kids will not learn character and selflessness and Godliness in a vacuum. They will learn much of what they see in us. But we must also take the time to teach them what it looks like to live their lives with wisdom. We have to talk about what it looks like to choose to be different than the world around them.
There’s help for parents who want to get this right.
We have created a few resources for teenage guys and girls that help parents to have these critical conversations with their kids. These tools have been specifically designed to share truths with young people in a way that mom and dad can then add their perspective.
Our ground-breaking book, The Talks, has helped more than 25,000 parents equip their kids to develop a healthy view of sex and relationships.
Our innovative resource for teen boys, The Young Man’s Guide to Awesomeness, has given thousands of guys the tools they need to make wise choices about porn, girls, and the direction of their lives.
Meet Me in the Middle offers a God-focused perspective about 10 key issues that teen girls are facing. And it does it in a format that invites a girl’s father into the conversation.
Just ask any of the 10,000+ people who subscribe to our online content each month (or read our reviews on Amazon) and you’ll hear the same thing: I.N.F.O. for Families offers the practical tools families need to face the critical conversations of our day. Get your hands on the resources that will help your kids to get to adulthood with their character and relationships and reputation intact….