Friend Lynn and I spent some time standing at this busy corner in Buenos Aries near this subway entrance one late afternoon, as people were heading home. We watched people, looked at buildings, and I was working to understand this culture I was visiting for the first time. But what captured our attention the most was this family.
I earned a Masters degree in Social Work – and I was responsible for creating a curriculum and teaching in the social work program at a private university for many years. Our curriculum, in part, guided student learning in child welfare, human development and the family life cycle. We worked hard to teach students information based on research instead of the popular trends of the day.
For example, at this conservative Christian university we shared research that suggested children develop as well with same-gender parents as with heterosexual parents. We also tried to help students work through how to make decision about how to help people when their personal values and information from research conflicted. Do they support agency policies and state laws that allow for same-gendered adoptions when they believe that homosexuality is a sin but research says that homosexuals are equally good parents as heterosexuals?
Watching this working mother and her children brought so many thoughts and struggles back to me, the ones I struggled with as I faced my responsibilities for guiding student learning. Our reality in middle-class US culture is so different than in most of the world but our culture has such a strong influence on what we “know to be true”. My knee-jerk reaction was to judge this mother because she had her children with her on this very busy intersection where she couldn’t supervise them. She should make arrangements for them to stay with a neighbor or hire a sitter.
Then I pushed judgement aside and just watched. The children would run off together to a place out of my view. They seemed to know how to navigate their urban playground – they had been taught. Shortly they would return to talk to mom – who listened and responded as she did her work. She was laughing with them. If she had a customer, the children stood quietly until she finished or worked with her as she taught them to take payment and make change. Watching them filled me with joy – and the lead photo is one of my favorites of the trip. She was parenting them with love and discipline – what experts say are key to successful parenting in all cultures.
I was quick to jump to conclusions and judge this mother, until I started thinking about them, and the reality of their circumstances, and the facts that I know.
We are living through problems that are complex and difficult – and scary. Isis has proclaims to be at war with the Western world and has a well-trained, indoctrinated army – similar to what we saw with Hitler’s in Germany. There are millions of refugees fleeing unthinkable savagery, flooding into Europe, over 50% of them children.
Think of the unimaginable horrors that would make becoming a refugee, making your children into refugees, a better option. I can’t imagine what would have made me want to take three young children on a camping trip lasting two years or longer, in cramped and inadequate conditions, requiring that we walk the whole way, and without adequate food or water. And they don’t know whether they will have a home to return to.
I’m 71 so I’ve lived through quite a few scary times and I have learned about other scary times before I was born. ( have learned a lot by reading well-researched historical novels. There haven’t been many times in written history when men haven’t been waging wars for power, principles, revenge and/or greed somewhere in the world. I remember being afraid of bombs during the cold war, and even more afraid of what was happening under the witch hunts of McCarthy. I just remembered that men were proclaiming that we could never have a women as president because with her monthly hormone fluctuation she would be sure to hit the red “bomb them” button, starting the destruction of the whole world. And now we are hearing male presidential candidates yelling “Bomb the shit out of them.”
I am mostly discouraged, but also have a couple of hopes and dreams. I am keeping them simple and close to home: the big ones for Isis and the refugees are for later. Here they are – just two:
- That our presidential candidates will stop spouting off fabrications and lies and beliefs presented as facts because they hope it will get them votes and start dealing with facts and presenting humane solutions.
- That the electorate will start asking themselves if what the candidates say is true (if you need help, Google Fact Check – nonpartisan and very good), and if their policies are feasible and consistent with what is moral and just and will support the common good. If you don’t hear facts and policies from your current favorite – ask for them.
I saw a blog comment by a man who was willing to admit that Trump may not tell the truth and may be offensive to a lot of people but he would still vote for him because he didn’t want our country run by big corporations. As I was told when I was young and in school – children, it is time to put our thinking caps on.