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Friday, November 2, 2012

It's been a long time and weighing heavily on my mind...

Oh my...I haven't written a post since July. And that was a long time in coming. I've been busy, teaching 19 credits, tutoring for athletic services, the normal stuff. That's really no excuse. Blame in on the love of my life, my Droid Razr Maxx...enough computer to stay in touch but not quite user friendly enough to do much real writing.  Facebook and Twitter, yes. Paragraphs? Punctuation? No.

So, what is weighing heavily on my mind these days? Politics for sure. Ohio is Ground Zero for the election and my family is heavily involved in making sure that federal, state, and local elections move the country forward and not backward.  Yet it's more than that.

----I apologize in advance for the disjointed nature of this post and any odd spellings, etc. I'm working in between having meetings with students and also have a "corneal abrasion" and corresponding scratch on the underside of my eyelid so am sight impaired due to not being able to wear my contacts (and therefore my reading glasses). I can read my phone because I can situate it at precisely the correct distance for close vision...but without a lot of unattractive and uncomfortable shoulder hunching and squinting, seeing the computer screen is a challenge. Plus, I must remove my glasses (and I admit to being too cheap to have paid for bifocals when I got them as "back up" to my contacts, since I so infrequently wear fact, until this week, I last wore them in MARCH) to see anything close up, which means I sit here, in the student union, hunched over and squinting at my laptop and surrounded by multicolored blurs that I know are people...I'm just smiling vaguely and nodding when these blurs make motions which I think are directed toward me.  And of course, if I can't see, I can't's been a long week).----

Frequently on Facebook, people can be seen making updates along the lines of "I said I wouldn't post anything political..." or "I normally avoid the political..." and most recently, no fewer than five people have posted pridefully that their children voted in their first presidential election (that's a good thing) but then followed that up with a regretful statement along the lines of "I think I've been too outspoken of my own political beliefs and influenced him/her too much."

Obviously this is not how I feel.

I do, though, think that it is a uniquely "American" feeling, much to our detriment. As one who spends MOST of her waking hours in the company of young adults, I am frequently dismayed to hear such people say, "I vote/believe/support X because my family does" but then those same individuals are unable to articulate why their family does or why they should or do vote the same way.

It's the same sort of head-in-the-sand approach to strong emotions and unhappy experiences that many USAmericans try to avoid within families.  Women (especially) in this country are exhausted and burned out trying to keep everyone happy.  One of our most common axioms is to not discuss "politics, money, or religion."

Why? Because doing so can stir up some heave sh*t for sure, but so what? Can we not remain family if we disagree? Can we not be friends if we disagree? Do we have to avoid the hard stuff?

By not examining our beliefs in the company of others, how can we find flaws? The plethora of "your picture/rant/whatever changed my mind said no one ever" memes which abound on Facebook is just one symptom of our (collective, national, cultural) myopic approach to disagreement. Why don't we garner insight from these things? Maybe our overall position might not change, but are we incapable of altering or solidifying our own position?

Have you ever sat through a lunch or dinner with people who talk about nothing? We call that small talk. No substance. No chance to offend. Sports, pop culture, and food.  Ugh. That can only sustain a person for so long. If we didn't discuss hard topics in my family, and yes, we sometimes disagree with each other and we even display strong emotion while doing it, life would be boring. If my children weren't learning how to disagree with people, how to build and sustain their own positions, then how can I expect them to go out into the world and defend their beliefs? Where else to learn to do this but with family and friends.

Of course, this all means we argue, and sometimes we explode. Oh, we still love each other, but at times we disagree vehemently. I grew up in a home where such disagreements were disallowed (I'm not sure my parents would agree with my interpretation of my upbringing, but I always felt that I needed to toe the party line). We spent a lot of time and energy on keeping people "happy."

I was recently discussing this same sort of muddled thinking of mine with several people on different occasions  my son studying in Europe and some friends friends from Europe.

When The Eldest left for his year abroad, I suggested that he not communicate with us (other than to let us know he arrived safely and in the case of a true emergency) until he'd been there for three or more weeks, just to give him time to settle in, adjust to life, form his own network of support, but mainly, to let him come into his own, as his own man and as an adult.  When we finally did get a chance to have a discussion (in the modern sense of discussion, via Facebook chat), I asked how he was adjusting and getting along with the family with whom he is living as I'd heard that frequently students living with families have more problems than those who live in apartments or dorms since family life is so culturally dependent. He said that he'd had no problem and that he'd realized that our family is very "European" in that we heatedly discuss hard issues, disagree, etc. His host family was rather taken aback when he joined in on a discussion of abortion at the dinner table since their experience was that most American students found that a taboo topic. My friends who are European agree. Here in USAmerica, we avoid the hard stuff. One friend, who was just sitting here with me said that what she remembers from college was loud and diverse arguments about politics and religion.  See, we can disagree and still be friends. Oh, we might think our friends are horribly wrong.  Crazy wrong even. That doesn't negate the friendship. There are many other aspects to people than their religious or political views. Why can't we explore those views?

Why do others' views offend us so?

Back to the people who think they may have influenced their own children too much...where else but the family do you want your children to begin to get the knowledge to form their beliefs? School? That's a bad idea. Media? Maybe a worse idea.

However, if you don't have deep, fact based and heart felt discussions about these issues with your children and just expect that they will garner the important information on their own, you are neglecting the nourishment of their intellect. Sure, I want my kids to vote like I vote. After all, I think I'm right. Isn't that why people take their kids to Sunday school?

If you come to my house, we will discuss the uncomfortable issues, because that's what we do.

If we actually discussed hard issues, there would be fewer people unable to articulate why and what they believe like the people  in this video:


Kirsty said...

YES!! THIS!! I have been saying this since I moved to this country.

Sarah S. said...

I'm still struck by the idea of teaching 19 credits? Was that a typo? Because, whoa..

We talk politics here, too. Obviously. With my child (and first time presidential election voter to be) as well as with any strays who happen to be around.

dawn h-s said...

Sarah, yes, 19 credits. I have 15 under my regular contract (which is only 3 classes, as they are each 5-credits--but they are composed of some fun, enjoyable, but all academically at-risk students). Then I have an overload teaching one other 3-credit class for my colleague who is running for Congress, and then I teach a 1 credit seminar class for a living/learning community that meets Tuesday nights. I also tutor for athletic services....

Jay Ann Cox, PhD said...

We talk. Character, political,moral, emotional and health issues. A lot. Our UU faith allows us the room to explore,listen, and ask questions and make decisions. So far we haven't disagreed. But since I find all politicians to be weasels, for the most part, I am jaded and don't have a dog in any given political debate. But there are important things that I do fight for.

Nice post, dawn.