My Daughter Gave My Son a Tattoo of the Islamic State Flag

When Freedom of Speech isn’t Freedom

I blame myself. I think it’s natural for all parents to blame themselves. I want to go to sleep at night knowing I taught my children valuable lessons and they made good choices. Unfortunately as they transform into their own identities on the journey to adulthood there are influences greater than myself. There are times when I wonder, What the fuck just happened.

Enter the tattoo gun.

I woke to my 17 year old son standing at the end of my bed. My 22 year old daughter had given him a tattoo on his hand the night before with the tattoo gun her boyfriend gifted her.

Thanks daughter’s boyfriend, but not really.

My son thought I’d be upset with him for getting a hand tattoo. I’m not sure why. It’s his hand. I don’t have to walk around wearing it. For the record, it’s not his entire hand. It’s a tasteful size between his thumb and his pointer finger. For the record, I was totally down when his sister gave him an ankle tattoo, although I’m not sure I would have went with, Yeah Dude.

Do you want to see it? He asked.

Sure, I responded thinking, could anything be worse than Yeah Dude?

I sprung from my bed. I thought for sure I was stroking out.

Why did you tattoo the Islamic State Flag symbol on your hand!?

(Insert panic here)

What? No. We Googled tattoo ideas and we thought this one is cool. It’s not the Islamic State’s flag symbol.

I’m certain it is. I’ve seen it in photos from Nickolas Kristof ‘s articles about ISIS decapitating people. Google terrorist flags.

Yes, it’s true. My son now had the Islamic State’s flag symbol tattooed on his hand.

No one will know what it is.

Um, I did in about .2 of a second.

Not all of Islam is bad.

Of course they’re not. I know they’re not. You know I’d take in every Muslim refugee I could.

Truth be told, I’m more upset with the ignorance of the American government (one person in particular). If it weren’t for racism and blaming an entire nation for the crimes of a specific group of people I wouldn’t have nearly collapsed with stroke when I saw his tattoo.

At the same time I’m a mother. The type who would prefer my son not be jumped and beaten near to death, or interrogated by the FBI or denied safe passage through the security check point at the airport.

Here I am thinking the same thing regardless if my fears are due to America’s newly founded hate standard. This is the world we now live in and I am ashamed. My son’s right to freedom of speech is no longer treated as a right, it’s a nail in the coffin.

Google is a cesspool of misguided information, because of course the Islamic State Flag symbol is included in images for tattoos. Of course it is. This is all just an innocent mistake, a misunderstanding, a cool looking symbol.

What I wanted to say to my son was, Yeah dude, cool tattoo! We no longer live in a era that allows me to do so and I’m equally indecisive. I want to encourage my kids to be open minded and at the same time protect them from torment and bulling.

My son wore his tattoo proudly to school the next day and I went straight to the source immediately when I returned from driving him.

Want to go get a cup of coffee and a giant size bag of Reese’s Miniature Peanut Butter Cups with me?

Bribery.

My daughter and I put on our thermal underwear, pants, thermal shirts, sweaters, hoodies, three pairs of socks, snow suits, caps and sub-zero boots, got in my truck and headed into town.

I stopped in front of the coffee shop. I took a deep breath so I could keep myself in check but found myself speaking loudly regardless.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME YOU TATTOOED THE SYMBOL OF THE ISLAMIC STATE ON YOUR BROTHER’S HAND?

I did?

YOU’RE GOING TO FIX IT. ADD MORE STARS. MAKE IT A FULL MOON. I DON’T CARE. DO SOMETHING.

I think you may be overreacting.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO OVERREACT ABOUT ISIS? THEY SLAUGHTER PEOPLE. THEY’RE TERRORISTS.

Okay, I get it. I’ll fix it. We didn’t know. Calm down.

She never did change his tattoo. Instead, just a few days later she gave herself the same hand tattoo so they would forever be bonded on yet another level.

Their sign of unity showed me that I’m blaming all of America for the crimes of a specific group of people. Not all of Islam is bad and if I believe that then I believe all of America isn’t bad either, and that I’m angry about one individual thing and not all things.

I didn’t ever mentioned the tattoo again. I let it be, although we did have a good laugh over how I overreacted when he made it through the security check point at the Eastern Iowa International Airport without cause for alarm.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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