On Politics, Social Media, and Parenthood
My son and I were in the grocery store yesterday. He was helping me push the cart and as we entered the very tight dairy aisle, a woman stopped in the middle and blocked the way with her cart. My son knows how this irritates me and so he said, “Beep! Beep! Hello?” Well, the woman heard him and I was embarrassed that he had been so rude and so I immediately apologized.
My son was completely humiliated and nearly in tears. He hadn’t meant to be rude. Instead, as he told me on the ride home, he was just doing what he’d seen me do in the past (of course, when I’d done it the person hadn’t been right there with the cart, but that’s not the point). I said, “You’re right. I have done that and I won’t do it anymore. I’m sorry. I’m being a bad example. I will do better.”
And I was being a bad example. I guess it’s hard to remember to be a good example every second of the day and sometimes frustration takes over and we say and do things we shouldn’t and, often, we do this in front of our children.
One thing we’re trying to teach our son is that his actions speak louder than his words. A hard lesson for an articulate kid who is usually quick to apologize the second he realizes he’s done something wrong or hurt someone’s feelings. The apologies are great, we tell him, but you have to work on your body and your mind to not do these things.
Actions speaking louder than words is a process we are all learning in this house.
Here I am a few weeks away from turning 45 and I am still learning this lesson. Actions speaking louder than words becomes especially tricky in this social media world we live in. Sometimes we post things online that we regret, if not immediately, then at some point. Sure, we can always delete those things but that doesn’t mean that they have not been seen by others before we do.
Yesterday, I did something I had promised myself I would not do again: I posted about politics on Facebook. This is not to say that I posted something political, I did not; instead, I stated that I did not want people posting political propaganda (no matter how well meaning) on non-political threads I started. Regrettably, some people misunderstood me and suggested that I block political posters if I didn’t like it. Some assumed that the person had posted something against my beliefs (he hadn’t) and that maybe I should unfriend all of the people who don’t share my same views.
I understand the confusion. I had not been clear in what I posted. Here is what happened: I posted a link to The Hobbit trailer and, oddly, someone in the comments section posted some propaganda about the economy. It wasn’t that I didn’t like what he posted, it’s that he chose to post it at all in this undeniably unpolitical thread. I felt like this person was making a lot of assumptions about me and had I let the comment stay, I would have been letting him speak for me.
As long as I have words, nobody speaks for me.
So that was what prompted me. Not the constant spew on the general Facebook wall. Not someone not sharing my same views. Not people posting their own views on their own profiles. None of that.
It was someone assuming something about me and then using my forum as his own. That is all.
Even so, the whole episode has added on to something I’ve been thinking about and worrying about for a while.
I am a political person. I am a tree-hugging, same-sex-marriage supporting, obamacare-loving, global-warming fearing, pacifist, left-wing liberal who is even to the left of left. To put it in perspective: President Obama is much more conservative than I am. Still, I will vote for him and I do appreciate that he is a moderate as I don’t believe that anyone on either extreme can truly speak for the whole country and what I care about IS the whole country, the whole world, and not just myself.
I don’t expect everyone to be just like me (as much as that would make life so much easier). In fact, I do have close family members and friends who are (often much) more conservative than I am. There is much that we do not agree upon. As for my family members who do not agree with me, we have quietly agreed to simply not talk about politics (the last presidential election taught us as much). Just as I come to my beliefs from a lifetime of learning and choices and decisions, they come to theirs in the same way. And so long as they are not bigoted in their beliefs, then we are usually able to find common ground. Just as they love this country, so do I. Just as they want the best for their loved ones, so do I. Just as they want food and shelter and clean air, so do I.
It is in our differences that we are divided and in our ability to overlook those difference and love each other still, that we connect.
When we talk about the election at home, my husband and I are careful to tell our son that our choices are not his choices and that when he is eligible to vote, we hope he will make up his own mind based on his beliefs. Soon, I will be an example for him in my own voting choices. Even though I have lived in this country for 34 years, as a citizen naturalized since this last election, this year will be the first time I can vote in a presidential election. I have been waiting for this day for a long time. I am proud that I will be joining my fellow citizens at the voting booth and lending my voice to their voices. Yes, we do not all agree, but we are going to use our own actions to speak for us on that day. I hope my son will be watching and taking note and that when he steps into the booth to vote he will remember the day that his mother voted in a presidential election for the first time and that he will let his actions speak louder than his words.