Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Rose is a Rose. A Person is a Person.

(This article originally appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Daily Review Atlas) All week, everywhere I turned all I heard all about was the NBA Clippers owner Don Sterling. And for a lady who’s interest in sports is limited to my expected attendance at my children’s various events, I was quite annoyed.

Usually I’m vaguely aware of most news headlines. I prefer to focus my energies on keeping my own little corner of the world as drama free as possible. Truthfully, I barely have time to watch the daily weather report but even I couldn't avoid hearing about the racial firestorm Mr. Sterling started with his conversation with V. Stiviano. 
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In case you’re unaware, Sterling was recorded telling his girlfriend (presumably ex now) that he does not want her bringing "black people" to his basketball games. Incidentally, the woman to which he is speaking is black and Mexican. But that’s not all. The recording goes as the two discuss Sterling's request that Stiviano not publicize the company she keeps on her Instagram account.

By the way, I love Instagram. In fact, it's one of my favorite apps on my smartphone. I enjoy browsing photos from near and far and typically it’s what keeps me entertained as I wait every afternoon to pick up my daughter from school.

This is precisely what I was doing recently, windows rolled down, enjoying a freak bout of warm springlike weather when I heard the school bell ring. I looked up from my phone to scan the bulging crowd of students scurrying towards freedom hoping to get home quickly because I was longing for my yoga pants and a cold glass of iced tea.

Disappointed I didn't see my child, but committed to remaining patient, I went back to perusing photos of the Eiffel Tower, the London Underground and Rome (a girl can dream, can't she?). That is until I overheard a disheartening combination of shouting and laughing.

My heart sank as I observed a group of cajoling boys across the street. A tease was going on. A group of kids were trailing behind a set of boys calling out horrible names, accusations of sucking male body parts and demands to learn, and I quote, “American”.

I was equally mortified to have been a witness to this assault and unequivocally relieved that my daughter missed the horrific display of vulgarity. And yet, I recognize this is the world in which she lives.

Because whether it’s Los Angeles, the home of the Clippers basketball team, my Midwest small town or Ukraine, humans continually remain capable of treating those that are different than them with disdain.

And it’s not okay. 

Research supports the notion that the biggest influence in children's lives are their parents. I know we’d like to blame culture and music and television for the problems of our youngest generation and certainly as a modern day parent, even I can’t deny some influence exists. It seems like an everyday battle just to keep my kids safe from the wiles of the internet. But just because something is hard doesn't mean it is impossible.

Parents are leaders.They are leaders in their own homes. This is a responsibility we must take seriously. We must strive to be counter-cultural when the headlines scream of hate and intolerance. This requires teaching our children and expecting better from them. Furthermore, it’s not enough to talk about compassion, we must spend every moment of our lives living love out so that our children can bear witness to acts of kindness.

And I thought breast feeding twins was hard.

Jokes about pollacks and light bulbs should cease. I know, I've been to Poland where their electricity situation is completely illuminated. Irishmen in pubs? Catholics in church? Lawyers in heaven? Pigment of skin? Dialect of language? Differences? Yes! Reasons to joke, laugh or discriminate? No. A person, like Gertrude Stein's poetic rose, is a person is a person is a person.

Actor Will Smith once said, "If you're not making someone else's life better, than you are wasting your time." I agree but I'm not naive. Arguments, disagreements, misunderstandings, wars and racism will always exist but they don't have to here. Not in my home. Not in the moral foundations I'm laying in my children.

And if each of us, every mother and father, basketball team owner and actor, child and senior citizen would choose to live everyday by the one simple guideline offered in the Golden Rule then love would win.

Children could walk joyfully down the street, basketball could be fun and we all would be free to befriend anyone we wish. Then slowly, very slowly, over time the world would be a happier place. We’d be free from the fear of different, we'd develop compassion and see people as people rather than a color or a language. Then I could get back to organizing my iPhone photos, checking the weather app and taking caring of my family. It's not hard to be kind. One just has to practice it. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why! 

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