The Personal is Political

By Farrah Alexander

NO MATTER WHICH SIDE of the political fence you stand on, most would agree this election season has been divisive, heated and downright ugly. Across the country, we have had many awkward holiday dinners, mass unfriending sprees on Facebook, genuine friendships have become strained and the overall political climate in our country is tense.

Understandably, many people are done. They want politics to return to a taboo topic no longer brought to the dinner table. They want to turn off the news. They want entertainers to focus on entertaining, parents to focus on parenting and everyone to kindly and politely keep their political opinions to themselves.

I get it.

However, the personal is political. I don’t know a single parent who is not affected by policy change of some variety. Even if you weren’t somehow personally affected, surely you have values you believe in and want those values represented by our elected officials.

For example, maybe you want our country to join the rest of the modern world and provide paid family leave for new parents when a child is born. Maybe you want to ensure parents of disabled or medically vulnerable children have affordable healthcare. Maybe you want to make a difference in the local homeless population. Maybe you’re sick of common core and never want to see it on your child’s homework again. These are all political issues.

Apathy impedes progress. Regardless of your political affiliation, this country needs your passion, ideas and voice. If you’re passionate about a particular issue, you’re probably not alone. But if you swear off the voting booth and turn away from the news in frustration, the likelihood of you influencing change is improbable. If you rally together with like-minded individuals and promote your ideas, well, it may still be improbable. But you’re much more likely to make a difference if you do something, anything.

This isn’t about partisanship. I’m not aiming to begrudgingly drag anyone over to my political party. I just believe politics are something that affects everyone and we should care. Dissent is a fundamentally patriotic act. If I disagree with your opinions and you disagree with mine, that’s OK. I respect your opinion and think we both have the ability to grow and learn – if we would just listen. Decency and kindness trumps egotistical pride.

Parents have the ability to bring a heap of valuable experience, diverse backgrounds and new ideas to the political landscape. We also have the tremendous responsibility of raising the next generation of voters. Kids are naturally inquisitive and may be interested in the political process already. Are we cultivating them to be civically mindful, or are we dismissing politics as a boring chore reserved for adults?

By involving our children in the political process, we have opportunities to share historical lessons. Would you have the right to vote 100 years ago? You have an opportunity to discuss suffrage, civil rights and the responsibility and duty every American holds in the democratic process. What is your child passionate about? Sure, your child may not have strong opinions about tax policy. But your child may care about social justice, the environment or education opportunities. While encouraging these interests by volunteering or learning more, your child is becoming an altruistic and knowledgeable future participant in our democracy. The future will thank you.

I’ve heard many gripe that moms should stick to being moms and stay out of politics. Frankly, this is insulting. Yes, we’re moms. But we’re also women and Americans whose opinions go far beyond our preferred brand of diapers. We have voices we shouldn’t be afraid to use and deserve to be heard.

Although the temptation to bury your head in the sand may be great, I implore you to resist. I trust that you’re a bright, caring, and passionate individual and have much to offer. With a mutual respect for each other and a willingness to work together despite our differences, I feel confident that we can propel our country past this hiccup of dissonance. Together we will be stronger.

Let’s stop considering politics such a dirty word. Let’s stop distancing ourselves from those who are different. Let’s start talking and then listening with the same care. The future of our country depends on it.

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