Friday, January 11, 2013

A Letter to My Boys: On Diversity & Acceptance & Being an American

I don't write about myself too much here, but yesterday I encountered something that is weighing so heavy on my heart. I did use it to have a good discussion with Gavin, but my hope is that they can read back on this blog and see the person that I am, and who I hope they are growing up to be. This is such an important topic.

Yesterday a good friend - one of my best friends - told me she was drawing a line and only going to be spending time with similar minded people that she found common ground with. The basis for being similar minded was political views. She's always been very conservative. I've always been fairly liberal, but not outspoken. We've never discussed politics. It was a huge blow to me. This was my maid of honor. I think she might be listed as second in my will to look after my kids if for some reason my brother can't. Yeah, we were that tight.

To Sam & Gavin:

I am so proud to be an American. There are so many amazing things that this country stands for. We were founded on the ideals of being a democracy. People have the right to think for themselves, and we vote for the people that we believe will steer the country in a direction that we want to see it go.

We are a country founded on diversity. I have heard so many terms over the years "melting pot", "mixing bowl". All to say that we are all different - we come from different places, we have different beliefs, we have different ideas on how the country should be run.

These are such good things.

Sometimes there are more people that think differently than us than think the same. Sometimes we don't agree with the way the leaders of the country are doing things. The great thing is that, we can disagree. We can speak out, and we can voice our opinions, and exercise our right to influence the outcome by voting. It doesn't mean it always goes our way. That's ok because while we may not always agree with how things are being done, it doesn't mean that the other side is fundamentally wrong.

There is a difference between being firmly grounded in your beliefs and being divisive and narrow minded. Don't limit your relationships to people that think exactly the way you do. Celebrate your differences. Let them challenge your belief structure. Being a republican doesn't make someone a bad person any more than choosing to wear jeans while you prefer sweat pants makes someone a bad person.

Learn about your differences. We have an amazing opportunity to learn from each other - explore new religions, other cultural traditions. Understand that what your family and home structure looks like might be very different from someone elses.

We might not always understand, or even like, someone else's opinion. Don't allow your view of another human being to be limited to just one facet. We are so much more than "just" our religion/political affiliation/job/gender/ethnicity/sexual orientation. Surround yourselves with good and loving people, and accept that you won't see eye to eye on everything. Differences are not a reason to dismiss people. Tolerance and acceptance is about loving someone even when you think they are wrong.

When evaluating a relationship ask yourself: does this person treat others fairly? are they kind? If the answer to these questions is yes, none of the other stuff matters. If you have someone in your life that is a good person, that supports you, that you enjoy spending time with, none of the other stuff matters.

Some of my favorite people in my life have vastly different religious and political beliefs. I don't like them any less for it. I welcome discussion on those topics because I'm always curious to learn the reasons why people feel the way they do. But honestly, I don't even give it that much thought. We find common ground in working together, in our life history, in running, in being parents. Yeah, sometimes we may migrate towards people that think the same way we do, and that's ok too.

How boring would your world be if you surrounded yourself ONLY with people just like you?

I leave you with saying that I am so lucky for all my friends and family and the diversity that is represented amongst all of them. No one says it better than Ellen DeGeneres in her sign off -

Be Kind to One Another

1 comment:

catchupdaphne.com said...

Goodness, Bridie, that is so heartbreaking. I love what you wrote to the boys. You know, having Daphne and connecting with people all over the country has exposed me and allowed me to make friendships with people across the spectrum of religion and politics, which has greatly enriched my life. Yes, we consciously avoid certain topics, but I don't see anything wrong with it necessarily. It is easy here in the NY area to live within a liberal bubble, and dismiss other ways of thinking as strange and scary. The reality is, in most cases, people are looking for the same things: love, good health for their families, happy children. We just all choose to go about it a little differently.