Your girl diary rarely gets serious or crosses into topical material that she does not consider to be poilite dinner conversation (ie. religion or politics). But I am really pissed off about something and I need to vent about it or I might not be able to resist the urge to throw down with a certain pair of local parents, next time I bump into them in the supermarket. And since I don't need the jail time and they don't need the mulitple injuries, I am going to use the forum that I have at my disposal to get this off my chest. Lucky you.
I was having dinner with my son the other night and he mentioned to me that he is not welcome at a certain friend's house because of his religious and political views. Nearly choking on my burrito, I asked for a repeat of that - Teenager say what? As he gave me the details, I sat with my mouth hanging open, shaking my head in disbelief. But more than anything else, my heart hurt.
He explained to me that there had been occasions where he had been having dinner over this friend's house around the time of the election and he had shared his hopes for the election outcome and his reasons why. This seemed to visibly agitate his friend's dad and mom. Things got uncomfortable and there was a palpable tension in the air.
On several occasions this family took my son to youth rallies at their religious gathering place. From what I can gather, the purpose of doing this was to pedal their beliefs to all the guests that were brought by the members. True to his nature, my boy held his ground and debated with the "salesmen" at the event and ultimately, had a good time.
You might ask why I even allowed these people to take him to such an event, but I have raised my kids to be open minded, to seek to understand other people's views and to try very hard not to judge them as a result. I certainly would NEVER tolerate shunning anyone because of their religious or political beliefs. Of course there are radical examples where common sense dictates that you should avoid someone, like if they are involved in hate speech or crimes against humanity. But 99.99% of the time, tolerance is the only answer.
The real heartbreaker of this is that my son is a good kid. He's kind, loving and a trusted confidant to his friends. He cares about and nurtures his friendships in a way that makes me very proud. All of his actions make it clear to anyone looking that he values harmony in the world and in his personal relationships.
Even more shocking to me is that he is being shunned by adults. He has always had an incredible ability to talk to adults, ever since he was a little boy. On many occasions I've had parents stop me and tell me how much they like him, how well mannered he is and how pleased they are that their children are friends with him. So this was a bodyblow that I never saw coming.
OK, that's not completely true. I knew that these people were narrow thinkers and on the handful of times that I met the father, I thought he was an ice-cold douchebag. I got a very weird vibe from him, like he was looking down his nose at me. But I chalked that up to my own paranoia and I let it go. I rationalized that he was just one of those people that had a face that looked like someone just waved a fresh turd under their nose. Now I know that my suspicion was dead on. I'm not crazy. Hooray! (at least not about this)
The boy is not without fault here because he ignored my advice to keep his views on these things to himself. While I want him to be tolerant of others, I also do not want him shouting his beliefs from the rooftops or worse, hard selling them to others. On more than one occasion, I have had to pull him out of a conversation by his ear and correct him. He may be open to spirited debate about these topics, but he can't count on the openmindedness of his audience. I have warned him that people often have deep and heartfelt opinions on these topics and it can be difficult for them to separate their emotions from the discussion.
I am hoping that this all blows over at some point, but I need to prepare myself and my son for the possibility that it wont. This is a heartbreaking life lesson for him, but it's a lesson just the same. Hopefully he will think twice about discussing these topics in the future and will preserve the harmony while he is just a neighborhood kid.
Once he gets to college, I plan to load him with all the philosophy, theologly and political science that his little brain can hold. He was born to talk about this stuff, but like the great Johnny Carson once said - "Know your audience . . .". The assholes in this sleepy little 'burb ain't it.
As for me, I will resist the urge to kick this kid's dad in the junk the next time I see him. And I won't dig out the "see you next tuesday" when I see his mom, though I will REEEEAAALLLLY want to. I will let the universe give them theirs. It always does. At least that's my belief.