Friday, January 14, 2011

Labels

I listen to talk radio when I can.  Now that my children are home with me I don’t have the opportunity to listen from 1:00 to 3:00 to my favorite host, Andrew Wilkow.  I was able to catch some of his shows here and there this week. He is talking about the political nastiness that has been slung back and forth by members of political parties.  When I checked yahoo for some quick news updates I saw Sarah Palin is getting slammed again for something she said regarding how we talk to one another in different parties about various political and social issues.  Even President Obama spoke to the nation regarding the way we talk to one another and what we are saying.  Is anyone listening to what everyone is saying?
Can we for one moment put aside our political affiliations, right or left, conservative or liberal, progressive, libertarian and any other I have forgotten?  Does our label define us or do we define it?  Can we put aside our religious affiliation, whether Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Anthiest, Agnostic, Mormon, or Jew and see one another without the filter of preconceived ideas that are inherent in labels?
One thing that Andrew said this week stuck with me.  He mentioned that we now live in a society that absolves itself of personal responsibility because of the labels and groups we feel we must assign everyone to.  The person who took the lives of innocent people last week is not simply an evil person, making evil choices, he has become a liberal atheist pothead supporter of Hitler.  What are we supposed to then think?  Well then....of course....that explains it?  I believe who we are, how we act, and how we speak to one another defines us.  How we vote and the religion we practice are secondary.
President Obama can speak before a nation of citizens, preachers can give heartfelt sermons at the altars, politicians can promise to reach across the isle,  but will that change the direction of humankind?  Human-kind.  I think in order to make a change we need to begin at home and begin young.  My friend has a bumper sticker that says Change The World: Be Nice to Your Kids.  This is where it needs to start.  Can we all recite the Golden Rule?  It seems to transcend political and religious affiliations.  The Golden Rule: treat others as you wish to be treated.  It is so simple, yet so profound.  
Would we kill indiscriminately if we followed the Golden Rule?  Would we sling insults back and forth “harmlessly”?  Would we bully our classmate?  Would we tease someone about their sexual identity?  Would we forget to care for our elders?  Would we?
Have you noticed how parents speak to their children lately?  I have.  I’ll admit raising my voice and losing my temper at times but my number one priority is to treat my children with kindness.  I have busted my butt this fall getting them to treat each other with kindness.  Yet it means nothing if I do not model it myself.  Parents are the biggest influence positively or negatively in their children’s lives.  In many ways parents define who we will become.  I may be a Catholic Conservative Republican Woman.  But guess what?  One of my best friends is a Non Practicing Protestant Liberal Woman.  Another friend is an Agnostic Liberal Woman.  Oh and I have some friends who are Republican Veteran Catholic Entrepreneurs.  And I have some Muslim and Catholic Immigrant friends who happen to also be Turkish and Mexican. 
I could go on and on with the labels me and my friends assign to ourselves.  But we never define ourselves that way to one another.  To me they are mothers, fathers, friends, teachers, mentors, guides, inspirations, and sources of joy.  I look at their families and see children being raised by kind and gentle parents and think to myself, this is how we will change the world.  We will seek to change the systems that are not working in our lives and redefine our labels and in the process raise children who learn to speak and act and treat one another with kindness, generosity and a welcoming spirit.  

If we look back over the course of human history it is filled with just and unjust wars, persecutions, plagues, and crusades.  There has been much triumph and much tragedy.  We will always have mentally unbalanced unstable people walking among us.  In a free society we will trade our complete security for the lack of restrictions.  But what if one person who clearly recognized the signs of a person in trouble takes the time out of their lives to seek assistance?  What if the teachers, administrators, parents, friends and parents of friends who see a problem, see a child struggling, seek council and ask for help?  Can we change the course of a human life?  Perhaps.  
I dislike Hillary Clinton’s phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” because not all in the village are meant to be child rearers.  I want to choose my children’s “village”.  I think my circles of family, friends and faith have given my girls a support system to see how the Golden Rule Applies in real life.  Does your child have a village?  
As parents let’s build that village together oblivious to our labels.  Let’s put the emotional and physical development of our children first so that we can raise men and woman who are not only intellectually developed and physically capable of continuing to run this great country of ours, but ones that can demonstrate how to treat one another with kindness and compassion, regardless of labels. 

8 comments:

Jenilee said...

It is an incredible goal to have our children learn to treat others as they would want to be treated. Not much in our culture models that for them. It is our responsiblity as parents to be that for them. Interesting post!

Jen @ Forever, For Always... said...

This is a great post and so true!! Hard, but true. I completely agree that it's so important to teach (and model) to our children how to treat others. We are often kinder to strangers than to our family! Have a great weekend - God Bless!

GARY said...

Amen, it begins at home !!!!

Helena said...

Jessica, YES. What an incredible post. Thank you, so much, for this.

I think the Golden Rule is the one I live by; I breathe it, I feel it every day—it is inside my skin. I just wrote about this to a friend; how my personal mantra is to be patient and to be kind. And by kind, I mean respectful, towards others and towards myself. This philosophy is incredibly important to me. Of course, like everyone, I stumble; sometimes I fail. Then I pick myself up, take responsibility, and keep on.

If you keep patience, kindness and respect close, keep these things in your TRUE heart, then together they are very simple, surprisingly easy principles to live by. And then, you try to pass them on, every way you can. I talk about these things all the time with my kids.

And I completely agree about the labels. They accomplish nothing. I think they were invented to help statisticians but have been co-opted, used for judgement, and are now potentially quite dangerous. I don't think I could even write one for myself. I'm open to so many things; I don't think I could choose which Who I am!

Theresa said...

Great post! Very true! I actually wrote something similar in my journal...I may post.

mamak said...

Wooof! That was one well stated timely message. I have a hard time with all of this. ( remember my facebook post, grin..) I think we like to put people into neatly labeled boxes and sort them out to make sure they are not like them. And if they are like them, micro label again to distance further, extremists, etc...
Anyway, all that fascinates me. I think you are so correct. Our future is going to be really violent and crappy if we the adults do not start back at the beginning. Kindness and civility. With out that we are animals.

Karen said...

This is a wonderful post. I feel SO strongly that the world could be changed if we all were only kinder to each other. I honestly believe, as individuals, we are mostly kind but in a group the worst element seems to rule.

I too deplore labels. My favorite line of this post is "Does your child have a village"? If we made sure each of our children were surrounded by kind, considerate people, what a change it would cause.

Loved this Jess. LOVED IT!

Team Walker said...

Thank you for your post.

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