Okay here goes. Let me get this out of the way right away, I voted for President Obama. So if that disqualifies the proceeding comments in your mind, that is okay. But I hope it doesn’t. I don’t believe that I have “blindly chosen to remain deceived”. In fact that statement is pretty hurtful in my opinion. But that is a conversation for another time and probably a different forum.
I tried to listen to the speech with an open mind last night, knowing that I (like everyone else) would most likely hear what I wanted to hear. There were some things that I liked and agreed with, there were also some things that I didn’t agree with. The bottom line is that we have heard it all before (or something similar) from our previous President, and the one before that, and the one before that…etc. States of the Union (or is it, State of the Unions) are a lot of applause interrupted by moments of talking about things that sound good, but will most likely not happen. So rather than get into the details of the speech, I will share something that happened while we were watching.
My 12 year old son was going in and out of the room and about halfway through the speech he asked me, “Why does everyone hate him so much?” My first response was quick, I said something like, “well, a lot of people don’t agree with decisions he has made…blah blah blah.” He took that as an answer and left the room again. I didn’t think much more about his question until this morning and it kind of shook me that he used the word ‘hate’. Maybe hate is too strong a word and I think (I hope) that even in disagreement, hate is not the emotion felt towards our President. But what I continue to come back to is that in the mind of a 12 year old, hate is what he perceived. That’s at least a little scary isn’t it?
I started playing back the tapes in my head of all the times I may have perpetuated that perception with comments about President Bush, who I didn’t always agree with, or John McCain, or probably, more recently, Sarah Palin. My son’s statement hit me harder today than it did last night. Our leaders talk about not leaving a debt load on the next generation. I wonder if the financial deficit we leave them, might be the least of our worries! It seems like way too much energy is being spent (dare I say wasted) on tearing down those we disagree with and destroying what little common ground we have to work with. We need to find another way to have this conversation, a way that teaches our children how to settle their disagreements in a civil manner.
Last week, my wife and I took our 3rd grade daughter to visit a new school that we were considering for open enrollment. That particular night was mainly intended for incoming Kindergarten kids, but older students were welcome too. In the course of the night, the kids were asked to sit around a table for an activity they would be working on. As the chairs filled up, one little girl was left without a place to sit. The teacher leading the activity pulled a chair next to a little boy and said she could sit down there. The girl looked up at her with a completely serious face and said, “But I don’t like boys that much.” The teacher without missing a beat said, “well, in Kindergarten we sometimes have to sit by boys.” Brilliant! Whether its Democrats or Republicans that you “don’t like that much”, sometimes in life we have to sit by each other.
Pull up a chair…