As a mom, this election year has me all worked up. Not because of any policy a candidate has proposed in a precisely, professionally worded speech. Not because the candidates have outrageously talented photographers following them around to capture those anything-but-candid candids. And not because I think the word Forward is backwards or the lack of a one-word slogan represents lack of focus. (I was a communications major. I get spin.)
I’m upset because this election season is making my job as a mom harder.
You see, there are a few basic lessons I’m working to teach my kids about respect. And everywhere I turn, somebody is showing me—and them—that if you’re “passionate”, the rules don’t apply. For instance…
Don’t call people names. Use your words to tell me how they upset you.
Idiot. Murder. Ass. Bigot. Are those the words we want our kids to think of when we say, “Commander in Chief” or “President of the United States”? Even if it’s not “our guy”? Because those are the words I’m hearing thrown around—all too casually. Of course one of the great things about our country is that we have the freedom to speak our minds, but let’s remember, we also have the freedom to use our minds. To engage in productive discussion instead of simple name calling.
Funny doesn’t equal smart.
Sure, there are some pretty hilarious political gaffs, parodies, and one-liners out there. But unless they’re part of a bigger discussion involving critical thinking and an understanding of the issues, they’re entertainment. Not information.
Just because one kid (or even a whole team) did something you didn’t like on the soccer field, doesn’t mean everyone who plays soccer is a jerk.
Those people you’re calling idiots because of a policy idea you disagree with? They’re the neighbors who bought your kid’s Girl Scout cookies. Those people you’re calling racist because of one candidate across the country with closed-minded views? They’re the folks you laughed with at a BBQ last weekend. While there’s no doubt this country is made up of people with very different beliefs, my fundamental belief is that there’s a lot more that unites us than divides us. (But I realize that’s not very entertaining.)
If someone’s being mean, just walk away.
You know what? This is the only truth I’ve been able to hold on to this election. Everywhere I turn these days, the discussion is mean (even if it’s punctuated with a laugh). So I’ve walked away. And I’ve shielded my kids as best I can from it.
But that’s not what I want.
I want to be able to discuss the issues in a safe place where multiple points of view are discussed and respected. Even when extremely passionate people disagree.
So last week, when I heard that a blogging friend of mine (who I met through a mutual friend) was starting a new project, I was thrilled. Aimee, of Everyday Epistle, is very outspoken—and well spoken—in her conservative views. And, recently at BlogHer, she met her equally outspoken—and well-spoken—liberal counterpoint (who happens to live in my neck of the woods), Lisen of Prism Work.
Together, they’ve launched a new online community: Finding (Un)Common Ground. The tagline is, “2 moms discuss life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Here’s an excerpt from their About page:
“They live in different parts of the country, have different beliefs, and hold different perspectives on divisive issues. What they also discovered in that first, brief meeting was a mutual desire for civil discourse. A need to elevate the dialogue. Understand and be understood. Respect instead of attack. Hard to come by these days, especially online.”
The project just launched last week with a discussion about the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya, and I’m really excited to hear more from both women. I hope you’ll check it out, and—if you do feel strongly about an issue—I hope you’ll engage in the respectful discussion, so those of us who want to learn more and make thoughtful, educated decisions can hear both sides of an issue.
Congratulations, Aimee and Lisen! And best of luck to you as you respectfully discuss the issues in an effort to find common ground.
What about you? Are you bothered by the political climate and how it’s impacting your family?