Explaining Stuff

I feel like I almost never speak my mind.

Outside of my inner circle of friends, it is rare that I say what I’m really thinking. This will, I’m certain, come as a shock to many people, in part, because I never shut up (sorry! I love to gab; this is true.) But the truth is that I often refrain from saying what I’d really like to. I’m afraid to offend. I don’t want to turn off. I don’t want to rile anyone up.

Because the biggest truth of all is that I cannot take confrontation. I completely shut down. And then I cry, which feels like the biggest defeat of all. It’s hard for me to defend myself in any way when I’m doing that red-faced, blubbery, incoherent tear thing. So I try to keep it cool.

In failing to deal with my tear-trigger, I always dreamed to become one of those articulate, quick-thinking speakers. A woman who can snap at someone to stop them in their tracks, turn off the ammo firing at me, and flip it on its head. Well, I never quite figured that out. But I admired people who could.

Now we have a president who can seemingly do just that.

He disarms with his words. His cunning, quick tongue fires at anything in his way. The man can stand his ground. He can seemingly take on anything in his path. He can use derisive little one-liners to bring about pause.

He sounded less presidential. Less professional. He sounded like a man without any real ammunition at all.

What I thought I always aspired to has been, in fact, the exact opposite of what I thought I wanted. Being well spoken, informed and effective is very different from firing at will. It’s different from ridiculing others simply for the sake of it.

I don’t like engaging in political conversations because, remember, I hate confrontation. I don’t like having to defend my ideas because I can’t. But even more importantly than that, I don’t want everyone else to share my ideas. They’re mine. You’re allowed to have yours. You’re supposed to have yours. Please, have yours!

But having children gives me a reason to think more critically about my stance on things. It means needing to consider my opinions and defend them, not because I’m being attacked, but because someone wants to know and understand where my ideas came from.  And I feel like it is my moral obligation as a citizen and as a parent to at least know how I feel and why I feel that way.

So I need to have an opinion about politics. And our president. And how to speak to others. And how to engage with people whose opinions I do not share.

LM1 is precocious, to say the least, and he’s always picking up on things and asking questions.

With the political climate being what it is, I have had our television tuned into the news more mornings than I’d like to admit (because we try to limit screen time….because we’re trying to pretend that limiting screen time makes us better parents).

This week I had the news on while I made breakfast, and I heard the phrase “SOB” spoken full-out on the television. I was shocked that the tv let out such words. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure we’ll hear it at an Eagles game or in a zillion other places, but for my three-year-old to hear it at the breakfast table, I thought, Whoa! When I heard someone say SOB on the tv I felt HORRIBLE for having the bomb dropped over pancakes and chocolate milk.

Lesson learned: no more news at breakfast.

But there’s more to learn here for me: I realized the reason it was on the news was that our nation’s president used the phrase to describe other Americans.

And I thought about how this abrasive language, which degrades other human beings, has become a part of our everyday norm. Now this guy is calling another nation’s leader “Rocket Man,” a childish, irrelevant term that is insulting at the human level.  (Note: I’m not saying Kim Jong-un is a great guy or anything– I don’t really know him or his politics.) But is name-calling accomplishing anything?

I’m confused about when name-calling became a part of politics.

The president has an opinion about how NFL players are using their celebrity as a platform to disrespect the American flag. He has an opinion about what should be done by leaders within the NFL to alleviate the protests.

That’s cool. Have an opinion. Voice an opinion. Share your thoughts and feelings and encourage others to consider your side and take action to defend your opinion.

But do we need to degrade our fellow men with rotten language and cheap insults?

Won’t our thoughts and ideas come across in a clear and articulate way when we refrain from this behavior? Aren’t we supposed to listen to each other in order to best resolve conflict? No one is listening from the moment anyone drops a nasty insult. That’s what stops the listening.

I need to understand these things better because I want to explain this life to my sons. I want to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong. I want them to learn to choose for themselves what is right and wrong. But I also want mentors and adversaries to help model productive behaviors and ways in which to engage others– the people we agree and disagree with. There are good ways to engage in discussing our differences of opinion. There are productive ways to ask questions, to learn, to be heard, and to listen.

So how do I explain that?

Interesting read from the New Yorker. Not sure how I feel about this one, either. But for now, I think I’ll keep trying to inform myself as best I can. I’ll inform my opinions and decisions with facts and news and information. And I’ll try my best.


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