November 7, 2012

Election-Season Social Media: A Lesson for My Daughters

Yesterday I voted in my second presidential election, the second that I have been eligible for. It was the first time I voted in-person at the polling locations since I had to submit an absentee ballot in 2008. What a difference 4 years makes! I don't mean politically, because I personally believe that 4 years is an incredibly short amount of time to try and turn an entire country around, I'm talking personally!

4 years ago, I sat in a hospital room, next to my husband who was in the middle of a stem-cell transplant and high-dose chemotherapy. I lived off of grilled-cheese sandwiches from the cafeteria, and diet coke (because some things don't change :)). I held Sean's hand and we watched the election coverage together, wondering how our lives would be effected by either outcome.

Fast forward 4 years, and so much has happened/changed in my life--Sean has passed now, I have twin toddlers, I am remarried to a brilliantly amazing man, have a photography business, live in Boston, and a myriad of other things!

One thing remains the same, though, and that's is that Barack Obama has been re-elected to serve another 4 years as the President of this country. My aged and worn memory doesn't reach back to 4 years ago to the comments being made on social media about the outcome of the election, but last night's posts are certainly fresh in my mind. 

All of you have seen them. It doesn't matter who you are or if you yourselves are the ones who are posting about the end of the world, the evil takeover from a sinister dictator, or your nausea induced by the campaigns, everyone has these sorts of posts constipating their news feeds on Facebook and Twitter. 

Yesterday I voted in my second presidential election, the second that I have been eligible for, and I took my daughters with me to do it. I have made it a goal of mine to take my children with me to vote each and every time. If I have to pull them out of school to do it, so be it. I have decided that as a parent, I need to be proactive about introducing this system to my children. It's not to say that my parents didn't do that for me, because I think that they did, but I do believe that my political influence came primarily from forces outside the home, from places such as school, my friends, and social media. Obviously my children will be exposed to my political beliefs. It's a hazard that comes from living with other people. I do hope to be an example to them, politically and otherwise.

Like many many others who have succumbed, I have great and sudden temptations to post my diarrhea-of-the-mouth on my timeline. I have refrained (amazingly, since I am extremely opinionated) from doing this, though, because I don't want to use Facebook as my platform. This is one of the examples I hope to set for my girls. If I want to make a statement or do something to make a difference, the way to do that isn't to gripe about how I feel to all of Facebook (after all, that's what husbands are for!). I hope to show them that if I feel the need to take a stand on something that is important to me that I will do that with civil action, and democratic decency. And even if I feel too small to physically make a difference in this vast nation, I will still exercise self-control and keep my bickering to myself. 

I want to show my daughters that it's okay to be upset that things didn't go your way. I want them to know that it's okay to experience true emotion, and that their emotions are valid. I do hope to teach them, though, that name-calling, berating, belittling, being publicly disrespectful, and shedding outright slander against those who are elected to the presidency is not acceptable behavior. And this lesson has started already, people. My twins are 2 and are the queens of tantrums and throwing fits. They are learning now that it's okay to be upset that they didn't get their way after mommy told them 'no', but that it's not okay to scream and throw a fit about it. They're learning that it's okay to be angry that sissy took their toy, but it's not okay for them to hit or push.They're learning to use their words, to share, to love, and to get back up on their feet. And they're 2.

I want my children to learn from my experience in this election--even if the outcome isn't what you had hoped it would be, it's not okay to behave like a 2 year old. It is only appropriate to behave like a 2 year old, if you are in fact, two-years old. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. If you claim Christian values and can't behave as God calls us to, pray for yourself instead of for survival from the "apocalypse". Choose your words carefully and realize that there are people in this world who have lived through actual dictatorships, and many, many, many others who did not survive. Remember that there are plenty of things in this world that are far worse than to ask that every citizen of a country provide help and assistance to every other citizen of that country. Remember that God's message to his followers is to love one another. Not love the person who has the same skin color as you. Not love the person who has the same sexual orientation as you. Not love the person who voted for the same person you did. Everyone. Good. Bad. Right-Wing. Left-Wing. Hipster. Preppy. Toddler. Mother. Period.

You get the idea. 

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