Why we’re doin what we’re doin

by Shawn-

Why we’re doin what we’re doin…


Being a mother is political, end of story.  From the moment we get up in the morning until we go to bed, our choices and actions have small impacts on the community beyond the umbrella of our families…  What we serve the kids for breakfast?  Is it organic milk, local fruit, are we drinking fair trade coffee?  How we shop, where we spend our money, where we can’t afford to spend these are micro decisions which are being played out in a much larger global arena.  Do we drive the kids to school, take the bus, do our kids go to public school?  Do we listen to the radio in the car? Are we talking about the news with our kids? Do we go to the gym, do we talk with our kids about body image? Do we work, telecommute, what media does our family consume?  How we frame our personal lives is the context for our political conversations and represent us as loudly as any bumper sticker on the back of the minivan. 


We are a target demographic and are advertised to accordingly, media outlets and political parties will buy time to get in front of us and gain our loyalty.  We are subdivided into smaller blocks, queer moms, moms of color, working moms, stay at homes, subsets which may not even be situations by choice, but there we are, and what we say as these people matters.  Even our most intimate decisions, to have children, to be married are the fundamental issues of political parties.


Looking back at my childhood I can not remember a time when my family wasn’t politically active.  Politics wasn’t just dinner conversation or something on t.v., it was a fundamental part of who we were.  Some of it had to do with being a child of the 60’s, not a flower child, but a person born in the most auspicious year of modern politics, 1968.   A year of revolutions in Europe, war in Vietnam, and the killings of MLK and Bobbie Kennedy. 


My parents, my father in particular did not sit by idly, but wrote letters, and were active in campus politics in an era where that meant something.  His passion for involvement led him to two political campaigns of his own, one for county commissioner and the other for state senate and while he didn’t win either of the seats, it was for me, a crash course in sociology and a view of the machine 1st hand.  By the time he ran for office, he and my mom had split very amicably.  She wrote him a letter of endorsement which was printed in the Denver Post shortly after he announced his candidacy and printed 400 buttons that I designed. 


My “every-other-weekend” and “one-half-of-summer” visits with him were filled with pancake breakfasts at the union hall, parade marches and going door to door with brochures, walking precincts.  The front porch campaigning resonate with me still, having an election as an ice breaker, we were often immediately engaged in interesting discussions with complete strangers, sure some folks were busy or wary, some anxious for an argument, but others, many others were ready to talk.  Having a personal connection to a politician means something to people, beyond giving a face to an autonomous action, it is that moment, like voting, where we have direct influence on the process, someone is listening and has the ability to affect the changes we desire.


Our house was a neighborhood caucus meeting place and in 9th grade I listened enwrapped while folks on our block discussed things they wanted to see on the ballot- to watch ordinary people creating these things was incredibly empowering.  To see these things happen in our home confirmed that politics wasn’t a career move for my dad, but a conviction in the power of democracy in action.  He has always engaged me in these discussions, not just as a parent educating a child, but as a concerned comrade.  Pointing out that my rights might just get taken away if I didn’t stand up for them, he took me to my 1st ERA march, I roller skated while he ran beside me.


My mom has been active as well, but in a more John-Q public arena, she votes, has the occasional yard sign, donates to her party and occasionally volunteers. Her impact on my political upbringing was in no way less significant than my father’s.  She also engaged my conversations and endless questions, she has led through example.  As a mother now, I look for ways to share these lessons with my children, I want them to ask questions, to have opinions different from mine, to see things that are broken and look for ways to make a change.  I hope this blog will be one of those outlets. 


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