My daughter has three children: a teen, a tween, and a 10-year old. “What has that got to do with politics?” you ask. Well, following accepted thought that all politics is local, I’m thinking that you can’t get much more local than one’s household. Which brings me back to my daughter’s household: almost always loud. There are arguments going on, taking forever to agree on what to have for dinner, where they want to go and when, and who’s turn is it to sweep the steps.
Everyone has an opinion, and my daughter takes the time to hear them all, filtering each individual gripe, which she calls “concerns.” What?? In my day, Father knew best, and then, after Dave’s death, as a single parent early on, I knew best. This idea of compromising with kids annoys me; she should just put her foot down. “I don’t believe in all this discussion,” I say. “It’s vocabulary-building,” she answers. Again, I say, what??
A huge difference in our generations. As a member of the Silent Generation, 1929-1945, I knew who was boss growing up and assumed the same role in raising my family. “Because I said so,” was all that was necessary; no discussion, no explanation. And, in some weird winding way, that brings me to this year’s presidential election. Too often we are emotionally caught up because others “said so.”
For most of us in the Silent Generation of women, growing up before the emergence of the modern women’s movement, we weren’t expected to have an opinion beyond household matters. Remember the days when after a family dinner, the men gathered in the living room to discuss “important” stuff and the women around the kitchen table? Perhaps that is why it has taken us so long to find our voice. Add to that our need for the approval of others. No surprise, then, that some of us still find it hard to express our thoughts.
So here’s an idea. Let us, individually and collectively, inform ourselves beyond the hype. Let’s reject the TV “talking heads” that entertain, but seldom educate. Let us initiate the discussion with family, friends, and associates. In preparation to be “in charge,” I encourage you to take a look at www.FactCheck.org, www.FactCheck.org, co-founded by the highly respected Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania. We will be able to do a better job of filtering the facts from our fears, putting our fears into a greater context, and initiating productive discussion. Annoying, maybe. A lot of work, certainly. Necessary, definitely. November 8 is fast-approaching.
Those of us in the Silent Generation, 1929-1945, and Baby Boomers, 1946-1964, have an opportunity, even an obligation, to participate in conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and associates with fact-based knowledge
about the presidential election. We need to speak with confidence to help others think with clarity instead of uncertainty. We must bring our enlightened voice to the discussion, whenever and wherever we find ourselves. Break the silence, undo the clichés, widen our vocabulary. It’s worth the time it takes to sit down and sort out the issues in your own mind. Be able to speak with authority about your concerns. Beyond our generational apprehension about Social Security and Medicare, we care deeply about the issues of our Constitution and the building of a free and peaceful world for our children and grandchildren, the economy, the environment.
One thing I know. In my daughter’s home, the family starts and ends the day together. There is always good and free discussion around the table. Without cell phones, the conversation is thoughtful and respectful; not always quiet, but spoken with assurance. This idea of raising critical thinkers just might be the right thing to do. As the “youngest older” generation in history, it’s not too late for us to take the lead in discussions of politics and public policy FactCheck.org is a great place to help get to the truth.
I’d love to stick around and hear the conversation around my grandchildren’s dinner tables in years to come. I hope that what I hear doesn’t make me regret the decision I make, the decision I choose not to make, or the decision I left to others. The stakes in the presidential election just weeks away are too great to base our vote on innuendo, intimidation, hate, fear, and gripes. Take the time to quietly think about this election and to be informed. And then, for goodness sake, check out the facts and speak your piece. Looking back, do it in honor of the women who fought for our right to vote, 1850 to 1920, who were bloodied and jailed, who spent their lives for a belief bigger than themselves. Looking forward, do it in honor of our children and grandchildren and those of others. And, then, don’t even think about sitting this one out! Right now, our voice needs to be heard.
By Joan M. Wright, Founder, AWESOMEover60, LLC, Venice, FL