September 8, 2009

A Basis for Understanding

Yes, this is another “when I was growing up” story. Hear me out on this one: my parents gave me huge gifts as a child. They taught me to listen to the President of the United States. They taught me to listen with respect to our elders, whether they were talking about politics, religion, new hunting guns, or the latest corn crop. They taught me to be appropriately afraid of new things, but not to let that fear control me. (For example, when we took a tour of New York City’s Bowery in 1968, that was a reasonable fear. Falling through the bleachers at a Bulldogs basketball game at Larwill was an unreasonable fear.)

Now I cannot say that I always listened to my parents with respect. That would be a lie. I was a teenager, just like everyone else, and of course much smarter than my parents. I was smarter than they were until I had my own child, and then I figured out they weren't so dumb after all. Took 33 years. I'm a slow learner.

While I was aware of political differences in our extended family, these differences were not a division; they are a cherished part of who our family was.

My maternal grandmother was a proud member of the RNC. I remember framed photographs of both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan among her possessions, usually propped up on the television next to my confirmation picture.

My paternal grandmother called Richard Nixon “Nick-A-Son” and thought he was a crook, and expressed that thought often.

My grandmothers also taught me many things – from values like “Cleanliness is next to godliness” to the importance of being a good friend and getting as much education as possible. While my paternal grandmother didn’t have much education, she had a book at her side every time I visited her home. My maternal grandmother was a Registered Nurse, a huge achievement for a farm girl in 1929.

I was able to reconcile political differences between family members, because I was a kid and cared more about seeing the latest episode of The Brady Bunch.

However, here is the lesson: I learned from my parents and grandparents that reasonable people can discuss controversial issues and not be conspiratorial or paranoid.

I have family members who voted on both sides of the partisan fence in many elections, including two new voters in this recent Presidential election who more than likely cancelled each other out.

Which brings us to today. Moreover, I literally mean today, September 8, 2009.

This morning our President, yes, the President of all of us, spoke to ninth graders at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. The written speech was available yesterday, first on Fox News, and then everywhere. Today our President spoke live on C-Span and other venues.

As his predecessors (George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan) did in televised addresses to schoolchildren, our current President urged schoolchildren to set goals. He reminded young people that if the world is to change, they will change it by their ambition, hard work, and education.

This business about working hard and getting a good education is not different from what both my grandmothers taught me.

I know you are supposed to never say “should” to another person, but here goes. It’s my forum. As parents we should teach our children to respect those who serve us, whether as President of the United States, or a Marine on the loneliest outpost in Afghanistan.

Tomorrow there’s another speech. Let’s listen to what our President has to say and then make up our minds. Quoth the raven.