Maybe it's not so obvious here, but among those who actually know me in real life, it's possibly been conspicuous that I have shied away from making any posts of a political nature in any internet forum over the past several months. I purposefully avoid politics and refuse to engage - especially on The FacePlace - because I don't believe it's possible to have a rational conversation in that forum where both sides and opinions are heard and respected, where it's okay to agree to disagree.  I find it highly doubtful that anyone has ever successfully used a Facebook post to sway the opinion of all their five hundred friends to their side, but I do know that it's super easy to alienate a lot of people you care about because you spent two thoughtless minutes typing and hit send.  No, no.  Facebook isn't a forum for political speech.  Facebook is for being funny on the internet.

I also completely avoid TV news.  Partially because I hate political pundits with a red, hot, fiery passion, and partially because we've limited screens in our house this year and I refuse to waste what little TV time I have on stuff I don't enjoy.  But that doesn't mean we don't pay attention to politics in our house.  We've pointedly let The Shortlings see us being politically involved and I often take them to vote with me because I want them to understand that in this country, we have a voice and this is one way we make it heard. 

We definitely have political leanings in our house despite my dislike of the two party system and refusal to identify myself as any one of them.  It's not possible for my kids not to pick up on that.  So I know that often what they think is colored by what they see me say and do.  I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.  But here's what I do make every effort to encourage: individual thinking and healthy respect of others.

The Dormouse has chosen the side of one political candidate or another and developed an opinion, however random, over the past few years.  We've never told her she was wrong, but I've always shared my personal opinion with her when she's wanted to know it.  During this election however, she took developing an opinion more seriously and decided she needed to know how she would vote if she could... on all the issues.  She wanted to know not only who was running, from school board to president, but also all the questions on the ballot.  I explained the pro and con views and she came up with an opinion on each thing from the rather complicated gambling initiative to whether the state should be able to borrow money to build a library.  Her opinions didn't always match what I think, but that wasn't the point.  Plus, where it really matters, I thought she came up with a bright, informed, fair decision. Isn't it funny how when people agree with us, we automatically tend to think those people are more intelligent than others?  Coincidence, I guess.

We also had many a discussion about whether The Dormouse would vote for one presidential candidate or the other... you know... if she could vote.  

The Caterpillar voiced her wizened opinion that when she turns eighteen, she will vote for Barack Obama.  I tried to explain that when she was eighteen, she'd be voting for entirely different candidates, but it was lost on her.  Next election cycle, maybe.

The Dormouse was a little more reticent about throwing her support behind a single person and quipped, "On one hand, it would be really cool if someone my same religion could be the President.  One the other hand, I think Mitt Romney's an idiot." 

This one knocked me back a step. 

"Oh honey," I said and took a deep breath, "He's not an idiot. He is a very smart man and he's completely qualified to be the President.  He wants the best for this country, just like Barack Obama wants the best for this country.  But they have two different ideas about how to make than happen, which is why there's even gonna be an election in the first place.  What's cool about this country is we all get to vote for the person we think is the best man for the job and then the person who gets the most votes, is the one who is chosen.  We all get to decide and then it's his job to do what's best for all Americans, no matter what our race, religion, personal opinions or how we voted.  I happen to think one person is more qualified to be the President, so I'll be voting for him, regardless of what his religion is, or what his family is like or what he looks like.  But either way, we respect all the people who are running and all the opinions - even when we don't agree with them." 

She agreed with me that that was the best way to handle it and then we went off to an event at church we had scheduled.  

Which, I think, was my only mistake in that discussion.

Over the past several weeks, people - adults, who should know better - have said such hateful and unkind things to and in front of my kid that I want to move to Australia.  She's come home from school asking me if it's really true that one of the candidates kills babies and what it means that one candidate will be spending time in hell.  That night, at an activity that was about collecting food for the homeless, she and I both heard a load of vitriolic, one sided speech from adults who should know better than to talk that way at all, much less in front of kids.  It's not that I haven't heard exactly the same nonsense over the past several months; it's that I expected better from these people.  Or at least I expected them to curtail it at a youth activity.

So I have a new rule:  don't go to church on election day.

I'm not unhappy with the results of most of the election items that affect me in my area, but I am downright livid about the behavior of people leading up to the election in front of their children.  In front of my children.  

It's time for that to change.

Look, I know that "idiot" comment didn't come out of nowhere.  She probably developed that opinion based on something she heard her parents (or some other adult she spends time with, but probablymostlikelyme) say.  I take responsibility for that.  That's not okay.  I had a long discussion with The Dormouse in the car on the way home from that activity and we talked about whether it was appropriate to talk about other people in that way. We both agreed it wasn't.  We talked some more about opinions and how it's okay to disagree but it's not okay to be mean an hateful and while we were talking, I instituted a new rule.  I never referred to a political candidate or an elected official using his last name only.  I always called him Mr. Romney, or President Obama or Senator or whatever the appropriate title was.   It may seem stupid but I feel like just that tiny adjustment in my speech - not because I was trying to be disrespectful before, but rather just because I'm lazy - made a huge difference in me meaning what I was saying about respecting all our elected officials and political actives. 

In our church, we tend to refer to people as "Brother" or "Sister" in order to remind us that we're all a part of one big human family (at least that's why I put up with it; I'm generally a first names only type of person).  A long time ago, a friend of mine was having a lot of trouble getting along with his boss and so he made the adjustment of talking about this man as "Brother Jones" -- not to his face or anything, not to piss him off, just when he was talking about the man to us.  He said it helped him remember that the man was a human being and someone for whom he should show love.  I don't know if it did anything to change the relationship, but it did change my friend and it made an impression on me.

Now that this election is over, I'm ready for the political contempt and acrimony to be over for awhile.  I'm nowhere near na├»ve enough to believe that's true, but a girl can dream can't she?  And I can make a difference for me and my family.

Here's the political acceptance/concession speech I wish I'd heard this week.