Thursday, August 18, 2005

Family Outing

Last night The Wife, The Boy, The Girl and I loaded the stroller into the trunk and drove downtown for a candlelight peace vigil, in support of those who have lost family in Iraq.

There’s something remarkably cleansing about a peace vigil, especially when the whole family participates. We got there early (it was on a huge lawn), so The Boy got to play leapfrog and run around a tree while the activists gathered.

It was the usual assortment, so I was glad we were there. It’s important to me that the kids see that the world includes men with long hair and women with short; teenagers with too-black hair, too-white skin, and too many piercings; and Mom and Dad. And that we’re all on the same side.

I want them to understand, as they grow up, that they have a right to have a say in the world. And to appreciate that family values are the values your family holds; if that means an outlook more blue than red, then so be it. And if some people think that a family like that doesn’t exist, or isn’t really a family, or doesn’t really have values, then those people are just wrong.

Justice is a value.

In fact, blue values have a long history in my family. My great-grandmother spread the word about birth control (such as it was) at the turn of the 20th century in her rural Midwestern town. My grandfather was in a union for his entire working life, and he voted loyally Democratic to the end. My grandmother got a job outside the house in the 1950's, with grandpa’s (initially lukewarm) support. My mother broke with family expectations by going to college – unheard of, at the time, for a girl. (Her winning argument: I want to marry a doctor – where else am I going to meet one? In the Midwest in the early 1960's, that was pretty clever. She still cackles over that one.)

We don’t beat people over the head, or pick fights with extended family at Thanksgiving, or hold personal grudges over politics. We base our sense of justice on a belief, backed up in the courtesies of daily life, that there but for the grace of God go I. To call that amoral is a slander.

To Iraq, but for the grace of God, goes The Boy. So we went to the vigil.

The Boy asked, as we started to pack for the trip, why we were going. I tried to explain that some people are fighting, and getting hurt, and we want them to stop. When we got home, he asked if the fighting had stopped yet.

Parenting isn’t for sissies.