I noted this down a long time ago, when
I’d been surfing the net and watched an interview. I’d been reluctant to post
it, as I knew that I needed to say something about it, and to try and find a
positive spin that would come out of it. But maybe not.
A well-known US TV host and
comedian told another well-known TV host that he thought there was “a bigger
difference between people with kids and
people who don’t have kids, than Red state Blue state” politics. Or in the
terminology we might be more familiar with elsewhere in the world, between
right wing and left wing politics.
I remember being appalled. First,
he he said it to an interviewer who, to my knowledge, does not have children. The
two share a common view of politics and society. They both seem to be decent
people with a similar morality. So why would he say that? Secondly, is he
really so blind as not to be able to understand people without children? To see
such a huge cultural gap between us? Or perhaps he was simply trying to
downplay political differences, by choosing a comparison with the fact that everyone
has been one of these groups (people without children) and – perhaps as far as
he thinks – will be (a parent), and it's not a big deal. But that's not how it came across.
You can see why I was considering
the wisdom of sharing this view? It brought me pain when I first heard it, and
it still irritates me, though I can laugh at the ignorance of this now.
I know what he was saying, of course.
He was saying that the similarities of raising children, the shared day-to-day
issues, are essentially the same between people of opposing political
philosophies. He was saying that the areas they have in common are far larger
than the areas where they differ. I understand why he said it too, trying to and
encourage those on both sides of the political debate to see each other as real
people, people similar to themselves. This effort is especially important in
today’s environment of polarised political views.
But in doing so, he threw us under
the bus. Stuck us on the outskirts of society, labelled as as “alien” and “other.”
Implied that because we didn’t have children, we could never understand their
lives. He isolated us, when we already feel so isolated. In order to promote unity and understanding amongst one group, he took a deliberate position to make another group seem different, even when they are not. We’ve seen that
happen throughout history, and it is never a good idea.
What puzzles me is whether it was
prepared. Did he sift around before the interview to find a comparison that
would upset the least people? Or did it just pop into his head? I am not happy
with either of those options. They both point to disturbing views of those of
us without children, views that were flippantly thrown out into the world no
matter who it hurt.
After all, there are childless
people of all different political persuasions, in the same way that there are
parents of all different political persuasions. There are childless people with
different moralities just as there are parents with different moralities. There
are good parents with compassion and empathy and terrible parents with neither.
I think I have more in common with parents with compassion and empathy than
they would have with those parents who have none. Surely? So maybe what ties us
together with parents is our humanity, our concern for ourselves and our loved
ones when we and they are vulnerable – whether that is for children, for the
sick and vulnerable, or for the elderly. We all share enjoyment in a beautiful day,
in laughter with friends or family, in a satisfying meal, and in a good night’s
sleep. It’s an important reminder for us all.
So I’m going to turn it around and
say that we need to try and apply this towards our own views towards others,
including towards parents. It’s hard at the outset of this journey, when our
wounds are open and raw, and just the mere sight of parents can be painful. Their
whines that we have so much free time, or that we don’t have to deal with
troublesome children, can hurt, and show a lack of understanding. We might be
indignant that we would like to have a little less free time, and that we would
be grateful for troublesome children to deal with. But as we go along, we
realise that maybe their complaints are cries of frustration, a search for
understanding. And we certainly share this with parents.
So my resolution for today is to
try not to create or accentuate new divisions in an attempt to downplay or
divert other, perhaps more problematic (to me) divisions elsewhere others.