Family Politics and New Babies

I keep stopping by my computer to check Facebook. We are expecting a baby in our family. My niece Rachel was due on August 20. Because of this new technology, I was able to see that she carries her babies as I did mine…right out front.

Rachel and her husband, Ryan, are well informed liberals. As of yesterday, they were posting comments about current political topics. I wanted to suggest to them that they not take their smart phones into the delivery room and be careful about taking pictures.

I am loving the fact that in my family we have people on all places on the left-right political and religious spectrums. Our getting along with this reality is a rather new phenomenon. I think our having a family reunion last year is one reason. In spite of the different ideologies, everyone genuinely likes each other.

Another reason is the existence of Facebook. Family members can write out their thoughts and have others write challenging responses, written in as polite a  manner as possible because, as I said, they like each other. On Facebook, other people can respond also, which gives family members a chance to give a bit of an attack without actually attacking the family member. It is really pretty safe.

This is so different than years ago. I remember when my family, on my dad’s side, would come together for the holidays and there would be these humungous verbal fights, lots of yelling. Of course, there had been a lot of drinking done since the initial hugs and kisses when family members first walked through the door. I remember in particular fights between my dad and his sister Eleanor. Eleanor was a die-hard Richard J. Daley Democrat. I don’t recall my Dad being all that liberal, but he must have been too liberal to suit Eleanor. Or maybe he just didn’t like Mayor Daley. Ah, the yelling! If others in the rooms had opinions, they probably were not able to get a word in edgewise. That is a common sight when arguments are mixed with liquid spirits.

On Facebook people make comments all day long. I sometimes wonder if they are doing their digital thing when they are supposed to be doing something to keep themselves employed. For the most part, I am seeing thoughtful, civil statements. The respect, I think, is really for the family member who may have spurred the conversation in the first place. Would you verbally abuse a friend of your cousin even if you thought he was an ignorant twerp?

People are bringing up sources as though they are doing a paper for their social studies or theology professor. What I love is when I see statements like, “I never thought of that,” or “You bring up a good point” or “I agree with you on this point, but have you considered…?” People seem to be hearing each other out, unlike in the discussions between my dad and his sister.  And they can’t see each other faces or fists, which helps. Ranting and name-calling is more likely expressed to the woman in the cubicle next door or to one’s spouse than to the person adding their ideas to a Facebook thread.

If you have ever watched C-span, you would know that most of our congress people are not in the halls listening to one another’s arguments. They only show up to vote. How about we turn the halls of congress over to be used as a museum or a hospital or an indoor amusement park and give our congress people I-phones to use to communicate? We could all read their comments. And maybe we could even respond.

Thanks, Rachel and Ryan, for the inspiration today. I am still watching Facebook for updates.

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