Mean People Suck (but they matter, too)

It’s been a while since I plopped down in front of a computer to tap out anything more than a work-related press release, but thoughts are running rampantly around in my head like caffeine dosed 2-year-olds. “So, what’s new?” those of you who know me might ask; well, I feel compelled to rein them in and make some kind of sense of them. And besides, with the millions of post-election “thoughts on paper” being circulated, what’s one more? So…

I am an Ohio-born and raised, college educated, married, mother of three (not, in fact, an “uneducated redneck in a flyover state”). However, my husband of 15-years was not born in the United States – but more on that later. He is now a legal U.S. citizen who came “through the front door” of our great country with his mother when he was a young child. She wanted a better life for her son. They both became naturalized citizens of the United States, lived, worked, went to school, and paid (still pay) taxes. My husband is now a grown man, college educated, successful in his career, a devoted father and husband, and a proud American. His diverse background has been a benefit to him; he is able to speak multiple languages and travel the world with ease.

Maybe now would be a good time to tell you: his mother was Peruvian and his father, Austrian. His grandparents hailed from Italy, as did mine. And probably yours, too; maybe not Italy, but somewhere other than the United States (unless of course you are of Native American decent). Let that sink in for a minute: your grandparents, great grandparents, someone somewhere in your genealogical lineage came from another country. A country outside of the United States of America. This person, or more accurately, these people, are why you are an American (or maybe you are the first generation in your family.). They were the brave souls who also wanted a better life for their children and themselves.

Not only did they seek a better life for their families – (or, maybe they were running from the law? We all have one of those relatives. No judgment here.) – but their DNA contributed to how you appear to others. Hold-up: “What? Where are you going with this?” – right? Bear with me…

As I said, I’m the mother of three. My children span in age from 7 to almost 13 years old. They all three have their father’s deep brown eyes, dark hair and enviable olive toned skin that tans beautifully in the sun. Do they look “different?” I don’t think so. Did I expect to have to defend them from racist-ish comments? Never. Never ever – not even once – did this cross my mind. But it should have. Because guess what? Their heritage is apparently a problem for some people.

And let me preface this by saying, the comments my sons have had to endure started long before Donald J. Trump ever announced his intention to even run for President of the United States. Long before Trump was elected to office our sons endured comments about being deported and speaking Spanish. And, might I add, comments about being a “Muslim terrorist” and “little Indian.” Seriously, if you are going to attempt to insult someone because of their heritage, let’s get it right, shall we? Peru is not in the Middle East and there are no kangaroos in Austria. Check the map.

I know, I know…kids will be kids. Kids say things and do things that can be hurtful. Mine are not immune to that, but if I ever learn of them making a comment that can be construed as discriminatory or prejudiced (and please, tell me if they do. I want to know.) …then they will wish their kinfolk never decided to hop on the boat. (That’s a joke, people.)

I’m not trying to be offensive to anyone, but I’m sure someone is offended anyways: it’s called “an attempt at humor.” Are all of our children learning hate speech? No. My children encounter plenty of people who have no idea of their heritage, nor do they care. To them they are just typical – sometimes annoying, sometimes cute – kids.

While I firmly believe that prejudice and hate speech are learned behaviors, I will say that in the past few weeks it has become more prevalent. The number of comments being made is alarming and I’m past the point of being able to say, “Just let it roll off and move on.” It’s insulting and it’s hurtful, but not just to my children and the others who are enduring these comments, but to the many others who are – for example – of the Muslim faith. The term “Muslim” has become an insult; a term used with malice for the purpose of hurting another person.

Maybe in my little bubble, I thought kids today were colorblind and beyond hurling what they perceive as verbal insults like “little Barack Obama.” True story; a couple years ago my son stepped off the elementary school bus and asked why someone would call him that, and if it was meant to be hurtful. Was it? I’m not sure what the context of the conversation was, but when it continued into the next day and the next and the next, I assumed it wasn’t meant to be a compliment.

SOAPBOX WARNING: We all bleed red. No one gets out of here alive. We all make mistakes; every one of us. Every. One. Writing all of this might be a mistake – I’ll let you know later – but another example: why are our citizens running through the streets insulting one another, burning dumpsters and embarrassing themselves? What’s with the signs dropping the F-bomb? What happened to preaching peace and love? Does that not apply to all? How is this helping anyone in our country? You can’t fix what you perceive to be a mistake by making yet another one. You are combating the very thing you protest against – hatred – with hatred.

If you want to protest, you have that right, by all means protest. If we all agreed on everything, nothing would ever change. But, please, show our children how to be this “tolerant” that you speak of; show them how to be peaceful; for the love of God and country, show them how to maturely accept things as they come and make the best of it.

Oh, here’s another idea: put your thoughts on paper. How does that saying go…ah, yes: the pen is mightier than the sword. Be a Keyboard Warrior and share your thoughts. People may disagree with you, but that’s okay = free country!

And, this might sound preachy, but pray. What have you got to lose by doing so? If anything, you can give voice to your thoughts and concerns, your values and reasoning … before you throw a rock through the front of a local business. Let’s teach our children to pray; pray for our country and yes, pray for our enemies both big and small. Pray for the ones who hurl insults and hatred. Pray for unity and understanding. Pray for those who call you a terrorist because your dad speaks another language. Pray for our leaders, even if you don’t like them. If it matters to us, then it matters to Him. And I think our country, our citizens, our land, our choices matter to Him.

But mostly, our kids matter. No matter what else is happening in our country or world, our kids, our friend’s kids, our enemy’s kids – they all matter. What doesn’t matter is what color their skin is or where they are from. They’re watching and listening at home, at school, on TV, everywhere. Let’s do our best to raise respectful, responsible citizens.

We all have to live under the same big sky, and contrary to popular belief, our children aren’t little terrorists (humor again, people, just humor. Try it. It’s fun!), but they are the ones who will suffer at the hands of ourselves if we don’t pull it together.