For Pete’s sake.
I feel like I need to write a disclaimer before beginning this post because the last time I wrote about politics, even though the point of the post was to have tolerance and respect that we are each entitled to our opinions, I lost a few readers. Yes, a few people got their knickers in a knot, in spite of my whole tolerance message, which is sort of funny if you think about it. Anyway, before anyone gets all read-between-the-lines-y, let me save you the trouble. This is not a post about politics, m’kay?? I don’t care who you vote for or what party you belong to, really, you can be one of the two people in the country with plans to vote for Roseanne Barr. It’s about considering what you say to children.
I’m sure most of you saw the picture yesterday of the little girl crying over the elections, which is understandable. I’m sick of it too. What bothered me, however, was this quote from the child’s mother –
“She talks about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama all the time,” Evans continues to tell ABC. “She always says that Obama is the president and that Mitt Romney is a bad guy who just wants money and wants to be the president… She is very precocious.”
First, I don’t think a four-year-old child deduced that solely by listening to NPR, as her momma claimed. Second, this reminded me of something that happened to me some time ago.
Several years back I volunteered with a non-profit organization that worked with children of all abilities through art, music, and dance. The program was a year long, and culminated with a play put on by the kids, most of which were autistic, and their siblings. We met twice a week, and the program served a dual purpose, which was to give the parents a break for a couple of hours. Since they were dropping all their kids off, they could run errands, have a peaceful dinner, or sit in an adjacent room with other parents and chitchat. Win-win.
Working with children with autism takes time. A couple of kids took to me immediately, and then there were some I had to work patiently with to form a bond. And let me tell you, finally gaining a child’s trust, particularly when it isn’t easy for them to give, is a wonderful feeling.
So, at some point during the year I had gone home for a week to visit my family. When I walked into the next session with the kids, a group of parents were outside talking, and one of them asked where I was the previous week. I told them I was visiting family, blah blah blah, and that was that. Flash forward to the next meeting. Upon arrival, we’d give the kids a good ten to fifteen minutes to play, or warm up to being there, or whatever, before we began. It was almost time for everyone to get into groups, so I was rounding up kids. A young boy that had had a particularly hard time at the beginning of the year, but had grown to like attending, was in the corner fiddling with a toy. I walked up to coax him into the group. I’m not really sure how to describe his reaction towards me…it was like he recoiled from my presence. I had worked very hard to gain his trust, so I was taken aback by his reaction. I asked him what was wrong, because he also wouldn’t look at me.
“My parents said I can’t talk to you.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re from Texas. You voted for Bush.”
The child’s mother was one of the people in the group the previous week I spoke with about my trip home. Not once was politics mentioned, why would it? So, basically, this woman decided she knew my political ideology based on what state I’m from. There are 25,674,681 people residing in Texas. What did she think? We are all robots with lone stars tattooed on our asses? What the hell?
At the time, however, I wasn’t angry. I was heartbroken. She had three kids in the program, her oldest son, who was autistic, and her two younger boys. None of them spoke to me for the remainder of the year. Because I’m from Texas. And yes, that was the whole reason – she spoke to the program organizer about it. I was appalled on so many levels. I had worked hard to obtain her child’s trust, and in one fell swoop it was destroyed. Fortunately, none of the other parents cared where I was from, only that I took the time to help their children. But the entire experience was marred for me over the incident, because ultimately, this parent taught her children it’s okay to not like someone for no other reason than where the person is born. How awful. How utterly, completely awful. It’s bad enough when an adult embraces intolerance, but to pass it onto children?
Anyway, I can understand the little girl’s frustration with politics, I certainly feel it too. I can’t wait for it all to be over, so that hopefully, we can return to being rational individuals. I understand that some people are passionate about their political beliefs, and hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. But perhaps we should consider the impact we have on others when making sweeping generalization about good and evil.