Monday, June 18, 2018

Figuring Out What to Say

Photo:markusspiske via Pixabay
Some days, I don't know what to say. This isn't such a bad thing when I'm home by myself and there's no need to say anything at all. It's workable when I'm in a group conversation and a personal remark isn't necessary, or when I'm teaching a class and I have visual aids such as PowerPoint slides and a curriculum to fall back on.

It is somewhat problematic, however, when I'm trying to come up with a blog topic.

The thing is, today I do know what I want to say, but it's political. I try to avoid getting too political here as that's not the primary purpose of this space and I don't want to alienate people. But, when the topic is close to my heart, hitting on all the ways I identify myself (writer, parent, educator, family member), it's tough to pretend it's not worth talking about.

As a Jersey girl, I'm usually shamelessly outspoken. As a counselor, however, I learned how to keep my opinions to myself when that was the best choice in a particular situation (odd that I still struggle with this as a wife, however). As a child advocate, I want to pull together all of those roles -- wife, mother, counselor, educator -- and share information on why things matter.

Today, my heart hurts for the families being ripped apart at the border of our country. I recognize that this is a multifaceted issue, but everything I teach in my classes tells me how wrong this practice is, both short-term and long-term -- how the toxic stress we are creating in these little bodies won't simply go away if and when these children are reunited with their parents. I listen to the news on my way into work and need to take a moment to regain my composure before I go into my classroom and teach young adults about child development, trying to keep my views out of the discussion. Most days, I succeed.

But the awful feeling of helplessness persists. Today, I came home and changed into shorts and my "Nevertheless, she persisted" tee shirt and, instead of writing this post or grading papers or doing any of the things on my list, I started calling congressmen (all men, in my case). I was polite, but determined, as I talked to representative after representative -- young people, spending the summer answering phones, hoping to make a difference. I asked the same question each time: "What, if anything, is the Congressman planning to do about the policy of separating parents and children at the border?" Some conversations left me optimistic ("The Congressman is co-sponsoring a bill....") and some left me frustrated ("the Congressman has no official statement").

We are destroying children, but the Congressman has no official statement.

Did I want to leave a message, asked several of these young people, none of whom have any more power than I do.

Why, yes. Yes, I did.

As it turns out, maybe I did know what to say. Or maybe the tee shirt gave me the nudge I needed.

But somehow, I didn't feel better.

I feel a little better now, sharing all of this here. Whether you agree or disagree with me, if you've made it this far, I thank you for listening. The only way we're going to make any progress is if we listen to other people's views and talk to one another.

Even when we're not sure we know what to say.

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