I have a picture in my office of myself at three or four years of age, swinging on the playground swing set that was created for public enjoyment in the small town that I grew up in. I honestly cannot remember this moment, but I look rather content. No one is trying to take the swing away from me, no one is saying I’m not swinging correctly, and I am not clinging on as though I will never get to swing again. I am just enjoying the moment (probably looking at my parent who is taking the picture thinking . . . why the pic? Come swing with me!).
I share this anecdote because the idea of a public playground is for everyone to enjoy their time, no matter how short or long. We don’t get to take the playground home with us, but we can enjoy it just the same when we show up at the park. I am not sure what playgrounds are like today, but in the eighties it wasn’t polite to play on a particular structure for too long if someone else wanted to play, and they were waiting. However, you did wait because you were taught you could get your turn if you did. Often you would go with friends or family, but sometimes you would meet kids you didn’t know and wouldn’t see again once you left, but you got along because you all had the same goal – to have fun; however, there were understood rules of the playground (and if not followed, babysitters or parents taught them on the spot).
In other words, we learned to get along, and we also learned that most kids wanted the same thing, to play, to be amused and simply be happy feeling the wind on our faces as we pumped our legs on the swing reaching ever higher or feeling our stomachs rise ever so slightly into our chests as we slid down the slippery, steep slide.
The news occurring this summer, particularly this month, but I must include Orlando, Florida, has been devastating to say the least. People and bloggers that don’t usually discuss or share thoughts on current events have been shaking their heads and saying a few words in disbelief and sadness.
It wasn’t until I received an email from a subscriber to the newsletter on Friday, that I realized the tensions are high and everyone’s nerves are raw and more exposed than usual. In an effort to offer solace and ideas to ponder as we all search for ways in which to help, not widen the divide, I wanted to share a few words today.
Here on TSLL blog the only political stance I think my readers know without a second thought that I will write about with fervent passion is equality, my focus has primarily been with regards for women, but it will and has always been equality for every human being regardless of their race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age or gender.
An errant assumption was made based on what I wrote in this past week’s newsletter that I had chosen to not comment on events that happened two weeks ago and did comment on events that had happened in the current week instead as a way to share my political views. I describe it as errant because that was not my intention at all. I cannot express my appreciation enough for another reader who emailed me seeking clarification as to why I had included and why I had not included certain details and events so she could further understand without jumping to assumptions.
In response, as it is a weekly newsletter, I shared that I try to focus solely on that particular week if it happens to spark my commentary for the letter from the editor. And as for the event I was alluding to (I will admit, I should have been more clear), it was the memorial service in Dallas, Texas, in which both leaders, former and current from both major political parties, spoke eloquently not only about the five officers killed but the tragic loss of two black men’s lives leading up to the events in Dallas (see President Obama’s speech transcript here and video of former President George W. Bush, Mayor Mike Rawlings, Texas Senator John Cornyn and Dallas police chief David Brown here).
I encourage you to read New York Times columnist Charles Blow’s editorial on just these events, titled “A Week from Hell” as he shares his idea of how we, as a nation, can move forward with grace so that we can work together to mend the pain that is clearly apparent. As well, on Charlie Rose’s The Week, Blow clearly and tactfully explained the context behind the term #BlackLivesMatter that has been the cause for much discussion (watch it here between 17:19-20:30). The key quote about this topic is below:
“All lives matter as a concept is the ultimate goal, but if you live in a society where both the criminal justice system and the policing system seems to suggest by the data that it values some lives less than others, than it is both morally right and appropriate to point out the lives that are valued less.” —Charles Blow
Sadly, there was more tragedy in Nice, France, last Thursday and while the motivations are unclear, one of the lessons, as I was hearing multiple versions of the events on July 14th as they were becoming known from some who knew and many who did not know what had happened, is that context matters. Before we jump to conclusions about the motivations, the events leading up to any news event, it is imperative that we, the consumers of news, wait until we have all of the facts before we rush to judgment. And even then, why judge? Can we not simply share our sympathies, express our love and compassion for those who had lost loved ones? And then ask how can I improve the situation? How can I do my part so something, anything nearly half as hurtful never happens again?
The final event, which wasn’t on the level of tragedy as the above two mentioned current events, but did make news and prompted much discussion on my IG feed was Jennifer Aniston’s letter posted on The Huffington Post, titled “For the Record“. You may be wondering, How is this even comparable? Well, actually quite a bit if I could draw your attention back to the metaphor of the playground.
If you read through the comments here, you will see pain experienced by readers on every side of the aisle when it comes to women and the expectations society holds above her head (and may I remind, we make up society, so we therefore have every capability of changing what is not working). Pain experienced solely because at a particular moment or point in their life, they were not living the life “approved” of by society. From a mother who has four lovely children whom she adores, to a woman who is blissfully married and has chosen not to have children to the single women who are loving their life without a mate. What I found most disheartening was that these hurtful comments and snide remarks didn’t come from the media or men, but other women. My immediate response was “Can’t we all just get along?”.
Historically, as Rebecca Traister of All The Single Women reminds there was a clear survival reason for women to compete for the few jobs that were available, as well as for husbands because, due to laws, most women weren’t able to financially be secure on their own. To be sure, that is not to say that competing in the past was helpful or a good thing, but there at least was more understanding as to why it occurred. Now? The more women who earn roles in prominent positions in any profession, the more awareness and possibilities there will be for other women. The more understanding and acknowledgment that there is more than one way to live life in order to find contentment, and the more we practice this uplifting and supportive behavior, the more we model it, the further we get ahead not only for all women, but for society as a whole.
On the playground, we become quickly aware that pushing and shoving and name-calling does not garner us more friendships but rather the exact opposite. And while bullying begins in childhood, it sadly can continue into adulthood by people who are hurt and have never been shown how to express in a healthy way their pain and seek help. As the saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people”. Bullying is a child’s behavior that reveals a glaring ignorance of someone’s inability to get along and the existence of a buried hurt and insecurity.
It will take time for improvement and positive change to take place in scenarios that involve deep division and distrust, all of which are prevalent in each of the events mentioned here. But it takes compassionate, consciously aware and understanding people like I know we all are and can be to determine how to successfully move forward.
Before we assume we know, ask questions to clarify. Before we jump to the worse case scenario, gather up all the details to ensure we have the full context of the situation. And before we unintentionally make the situation worse, know that on both sides of any situation there are people. Human beings. To borrow Charles Blow’s closing line, “See every person as fully human, deserving every day to make it home to the people he loves.”
I would venture to guess that we all want to play on a playground (a.k.a. live in a world) that is fun, makes us smile and allows us to feel alive as the wind whips through our hair and our worries are non-existent. And I do believe it is possible. I believe we can make our adult lives a playground if we each do our part, clearly communicate, be thoughtful of one another, appreciate our differences and seek out help when we don’t understand how to get along.