The dark side and the light, in sleepovers, Star Wars and politics

It can be utterly hilarious to eavesdrop on little kids’ conversations. Last night, for the first time, each of the boys had a friend sleep over, and not five minutes in I heard,

“H, anus is the scientific word for butthole.”

This morning, H and O had an indecipherable conversation that involved banter like…

“You are a woman, a woman!”
“Come down, woman!”

Meanwhile, the news broke that J and W stayed up until 11 playing Scrabble and now have grand plans to write a book about the “bestest” worst grammar possible.

There were zero qualms about sharing beds but enormous strategy involved in who would change into pajamas where. And what did happen to the toothpaste cap when it fell down the sink drain? And just how many brownies can little boys eat?

I think my favorite thing was watching the big boys play so nicely with the little ones. I’m not going to go so far as to say tender, but they were totally welcoming: “Oh yes, play light sabers with us, but beware because we will beat the tar out of you just the same as we will each other.”

I’ve witnessed this sort of caring interaction even more than usual lately because of all the school holiday concerts, parties and times of togetherness. In each I’ve seen so much difference –race, creed, age- literally hold hands and celebrate the varied beauty we all have. It gives me hope.

Which I need and appreciate because if one’s only hope barometer were American politics, you’d see little beyond imminent destruction and horror.

The fear, lies, and loathing being spouted so carelessly by every single person running for the Republican presidential nomination as well as by way too many of the Americans who support them are grotesque. Isolationist. Short-sighted. Just plain mean.

The whole spectacle is mortifying. And disillusioning. And sad.

It is completely antithetical to the true ideals of this country, to what we should be striving for, to what we need to be teaching and modeling for our kids, to the variegated populace that calls America home.

I find myself deeply confused by the judgmental hate out there. Truly, I don’t understand. When people scream about banning Muslims from entering our country, are they actively ignoring/disavowing the many wonderful Muslim families currently in our communities? Or the acts of terrorism perpetrated here by white supremacists and extremist Christians? Do they choose not to look toward the Middle East and see what happens when two sides dig their heels in and teach nothing but hate generation after generation?

I think so, because if they're aware of fundamentalist Muslim acts of violence, then surely they've not missed the news that (white) Dylann Roof shot up a black church and a (white) lunatic religious fanatic shot up a Planned Parenthood or the on-loop massacres between Jews and Muslims in Israel and its neighbors.

Can’t we agree that ALL such acts are horrifying? Despicable? Worthy of seething disdain? The problem is fundamentalism of all stripes. Peace lies in the middle, in that gray space of nuance and the willingness to accept difference and, at the least, simply deal with it.

I’m not talking about relativism which is a horror in its own right. Not everything is OK. Not even close. And I, too, am sick of crazy, ISIS-supporting Muslims, like all sane people are. Including the majority of Muslims worldwide, by the way.

In the U.S., we have many freedoms, of religion and speech to name a couple important ones, and I’m nearly stark-raving mad over all the selective kindness and acceptance going on right now. You can dislike something and still just kinda keep that to yourself if it's not endangering the country. Hypocrisy is ugly, people. It's tiring and often offensive.

Also, it’s OK to want to ban an entire religious group but it’s not OK to put any restrictions on guns? Nope. That is not only statistical ignorance but also bigotry, plain and simple. The people who want to both ban Muslims and welcome guns everywhere are myopic, choosing to see only see what they know and/or prefer. And the way that’s taking shape in the Republican presidential-contender realm is gun-obsessed, Christian whiteness, as far as the eyes can see. #notrepresentative

Do you think I want to pay so much in taxes? I do not. But I do it because A) it’s the law and B) it’s for the greater good. Everyone should be able to drive on paved roads and have access to public schools and transportation, bridges that don’t collapse, police- and firemen who come in times of need.

That’s civics, people. Which is part of our country’s democracy. As is welcoming people in need and whose diverse backgrounds make us stronger, richer, more interesting, better (or even people like Melania Trump who, as far as I can tell, is lovely but adds nothing other than lovely wife'iness to the U.S.). As in restricting gun purchases in the same way we do driver’s licenses.

When kids don’t grow up valuing and celebrating diversity of all sorts, it’s only the adults who are to blame. Parents, teachers, politicians, public figures. Their behavior is what kids watch and emulate. It’s a job, y’all. A big one. But it’s so empowering because it means we can teach away from hate and small-mindedness. Towards global community and appreciation. There is plenty of room for conservatism in there. 

I enjoyed three separate holiday concerts at the kids’ school during the past two weeks. During each, Jewish kids sang Kwanzaa songs, and Muslim kids sang Christmas songs, and white kids sang African hymns, and everyone sang Winter songs. Their voices ranged from shaky to angelic, their hands from jazzy to tightly clasped around one another’s.

And it was magnificent. It moved me to tears both because of the hope and beauty within but also because I’m not so naïve to realize that it’s not somewhat a bubble. It’s not the norm, and my heart hurts for that fact.

Today, after the boys’ buddies left (and we realized just how sleep-deprived and insane the kids we had to spend the rest of the day with were), the four of us went to see Star Wars. Jack wore his Jedi pants and brought a light saber, and both wore a Darth Vader shirt. Tom and I were as excited as were they.

Oliver focused, as usual, solely on his food

Oliver focused, as usual, solely on his food

As the opening rolled, I got goose bumps and sat a little taller in my chair. I reached for Ol’s hand and held it tight.

And during the two-plus hours of the film (quite good; not amazing; infinitely better than the horrific three prequels), I thought about how very much like the real world Star Wars actually is, minus the intergalactic magic and such. Except the best values and the best team really does come out on top.

It deals with the same concepts of evil and good, fear and tolerance. It values loyalty over sameness, ability over gender or racial likeness. There are real life lessons in there, and one is left with hope.

We can have that in real life too. We simply need to choose the light and cast the dark aside.