When my babies were tiny babies, I worked hard to nurture them; they were not “easy” babies, like the ones you see sleeping in their car seats when their parents are out to dinner (those babies, man – amazing), but I didn’t know any better then. My babies had high needs and they wanted those needs met in a timely fashion, thank you very much – like, now-before-you-take-a-bite-of-that-sandwich-or-hop-in-that-shower.
When I had a few minutes to myself to read newspaper articles so that I could feel like I was still a thinking human belonging to a larger world and I read something heartbreaking that I felt should not be, I would think, “Sheesh, that should not be. I wish that would not be; that should be changed,” and then I’d go back to rocking someone or reading a book to someone or saving someone from falling down the stairs.
Now, my babies are 8, 6, and 3 years old. The world outside of our home is quickly becoming as much their world as our little home’s environment has been for the past many years. When I read something heartbreaking in the newspaper now, I think, “Sheesh, that should not be. I wish that would not be the case for the world in which my kids will live. Is there something I can do that might work to change that?” This, for me, is the natural progression of parenthood: first, we work to make it good at home for them; then, we work to make it good in the world for them.
When I read about refugees fleeing their countries for their lives, I see myself; I see our children. When I see a family raising money to pay for their son’s healthcare, I empathize and wonder what we would do if we were in the same situation. When I see problematic situations for other people, I want solutions for these people. I know that we are never far removed from being the “other people.”
We (or the Russians) elected someone who does not sound like he cares about all of the proverbial “other people.” His tweets, which contained most of his statements as President-Elect, do not sound welcoming, caring, hopeful, or leading of all of the other people with whom we share our country and our world.
And, yet, here we are.
My eldest is reading to my baby right now and my middle child is writing a story; I am listening to the news and I do not like what I hear. I almost added “as a woman,” but I wonder why that’s even necessary: Do I need to be a refugee to empathize with a refugee? Does one need to be chronically ill to understand that not having affordable health insurance would feel frightening and hopeless? Is it because I am a woman that I am upset by his first wife’s testimony that she was violated by him? I’m not sure why we have to state who we are or what our experience has been in order for anyone to understand why we want equality, justice, and peace in all of its manifestations for all.
I have never thought any politician was perfect: first, because they are human; and second, because politics isn't a sweetheart game. I've worked in the game and worked to elect people to the game: it's rough and tumble and people do what they need to do to get what they want: that means Ronald Reagan did and that means Barack Obama did.
But, as with all sports, there are some rules to the game. If a president/senator/representative was going to push hard on one thing, he knew he'd have to give up a little something elsewhere. Compromise has always been part of the sport. And that’s because we have a great big country with a lot of different people who want a lot of different things.
The game, somehow, changed, though. Congresspeople will not allow a vote to come to the floor if it involves something on which they don’t want to compromise. A President is talking about growing our nuclear weapons arsenal via social media. If we assumed previously it would all be just fine even if we weren’t watching or even if we jumped to the next sound bite, it no longer feels that way anymore. It feels more aggressive. It feels different. If before I thought someone else was watching and making sure our democracy would continue on normally, I don’t allow myself that luxury anymore.
If I'm going to ask my children to stick up for other people even if they, themselves, feel safe, I must do the same. If I'm going to ask them to sit next to the kid that is getting bullied, I, myself, must do the same. If I expect them to make the world at large a better place, I must work to do the same. Not after making a dinner or after paying the bills, but concurrently. I can make dinner and call my senator while the water boils. I can call my representative on the way to work. This Saturday, I can take an early morning train into the city to let the world know: no matter what he tweets, we want a better place for all of us. And we will work for that place today.