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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Election Day. It Takes a Village...

Differently abled events
The General Election is this Tuesday and the bubs' mom just told me that Bubs 1 learned about the word "vote" last week. He learned the concept while watching a cartoon. The program had the characters voting on weather to play on the slide or on the swings. Perhaps not the most pressing issue to me, but likely one for a 4-year old. Not only that, but the cartoon's characters ended up voting on the swings, because all of them could use the multiple swings at the same time where only one at a time could use a slide. It was a message about community over individualism.
I was wondering when Bubs 1 (and Bubs 2) would be ready for me to teach them about the little-discussed issues invisibly prevalent in American society. Issues like systematic racism, which perpetuates disproportionate percentages of minority and working-class cultures without college degrees and therefore earning a lower-than-meaningful wage. Issues that question why these same populations are over represented inside our prisons. Or on other issues, such as corporate greed, which exploits low-wage earners, prevents class mobility and has a hand in creating poverty. I hope to soon (relatively) discuss these issues with both bubs. I want to discuss how power operates below the surface in our society and somehow manages to influence many of us to buy into their discourse of "work hard and all can achieve the dream."

These issues are important because as we get ready to choose a president it's these very issues that influence, or affect, public policy.
Walking for a cause
As you've witnessed, my blog posts move all over the place. It's gone from what books Bubs 1 loves to read to threading in stories about me and how it relates to both bubs to just plain old political rambling. At the end of the day, it's all an artifact for both bubs to enjoy later on in their lives.They'll certainly learn more about their dad, as well as their past.

Bubs 1 donating canned food
Moving on with this post's discussion: I want to take one example of a term that is packed with assumptions. Many people seem to hold onto a belief that "hard work" will make you successful. I put this term in quotes, because there are multiple understandings of what it actually means. My hope is to teach both bubs how to identify the misleading assumptions in words, like "hard work." I hope that both bubs will soon understand that hard work doesn't promote the same successes. This is not to promote working less hard, but rather understanding that words are used loosely in our society. For example, just as someone may be working hard in school inside a grand university library, somebody else may be working just as hard inside their two bedroom apartment as they study for a test, but also have to babysit their younger siblings while their mother works a second job at night. In this instance (and there are many of these instances in our society), simply working hard may not deliver the same outcomes. These extrinsic forces, beyond one's control, are rarely mentioned when discussing "hard work" in our society. It's assumed to believe that we all begin on a level playing field. There are other examples of "working hard" around us too.

At a local Hurricane Sandy relief center
When I was a middle school student, I remember my father leaving the home. He moved to the next state where there was a job waiting for him. This job moved him up in class status. He spent the previous few years taking classes to earn his education while my mother worked a secretary job at a not-so-nearby high school. Years later, I remember talking with my father about "working hard." I listened to him talk about how he had to "pull (himself) up by (his) boot straps" and get serious about getting himself an education. He was referring to that period of his life when he returned to college.

I realized that he neglected to mention the fact that he had a wife who worked full-time and carried the family health insurance. He also didn't mention that he had a job, which allowed him the luxury of making his own schedule and even allowed him to work less than full time. His hard work is not questioned, but his further comments on how everybody should just simply "work harder" to achieve their goals lacks understanding of culture in our society.

My father's individual-minded account of his hard work reminds me of former Gov Mitt Romney's recent campaign. All throughout his presidential campaign, he repeated a story about an honor roll school student. He said that he wouldn't share credit with a school-bus driver for a student achieving the honor roll in school. To me, it seems that Romney doesn't grasp the working class culture very much. This is enough for me to question why he's even chosen to represent a very large nation with a large working class population. Many of us do not have the luxury to drive our kids to school, work part-time hours or have a spouse who can carry the family insurance in order to complete a college degree. It's an ideology of individualism over community. 

Resting before the community run

So in 12 more years I'm hoping that Bubs 1's first voting experience will be one where he is well informed on not the candidates, but rather the unspoken party ideologies represented. I hope he decides to vote for the candidate who's social location reflects that of the "many" and not the "few," because there's a disconnect between the two cultures. For example, Romney tended to expose his own culture gap routinely throughout his campaigning. His class status does not reflect the majority of American society. Instead, he likely has experience in promoting low-wage jobs and economic hardship on families with the businesses that he folded and models designed to operate others "more efficiently." Although our congressional institution generally produces richer individuals when they leave office (than when they entered office), I hope Bubs 1 (and Bubs 2, for that matter) chooses the party ideology that more closely reflects the cultures of the working class. The true character of a nation can be measured by how it treats its poor, according to former judge Hugo Black. This is how I hope both bubs look at the situation too, because simply pulling up your own bootstraps doesn't necessarily guarantee equality.
Bubs 1's first official run

At the starting line

Maybe there is more time for both bubs to absorb all of this as they head down their own paths. For now, both bubs' mom and I can actively participate them in community efforts like bringing canned food for those who cannot afford, running in local runs/races to support nearby community centers and walking for differently-abled individuals who get labeled in our society.

All of the pics in this blog post are of  Bubs 1 interacting in his community. His mom and I will promote community over individualism, which will hopefully plant a seed. We know that Bubs 2 is watching and hopefully he will learn this valuable lesson as well.

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