Feeling patriotic with Gray – Courtesy Jenna von Oy
Celebrity blogger Jenna von Oy is a new mama!
Best known for her roles as Six on Blossom and Stevie on The Parkers, von Oy is also a musician who has released two albums and is set to publish a book, The Betweeners.
In her latest blog, von Oy hopes to teach her daughter that every voice can make a difference.
I grew up in a family where politics were never discussed. We didn’t sit at the dinner table and debate health care reform over meatloaf and mashed potatoes, or scour the Sunday papers for the latest update on the Gulf War. That isn’t to say my parents didn’t mark their ballots come election time, take an interest in the world around them, or feel a sense of pride for their country. They did all of those things and still do.
They’ve just never been passionate about politics in a way that makes their blood boil; they’ve always kept those opinions to themselves. I don’t recall us tuning into CNN for the State of the Union address or waiting with bated breath as presidential election results rolled in, so we could celebrate and/or mourn. In fact, until a few years ago, I probably couldn’t have told you whether my parents considered themselves Democrats or Republicans.
Mind you, I’m not suggesting this was unwise on their part. They chose to keep politics out of their household and our childhood, and I don’t fault them for it. I hope you won’t either. In fact, I suppose it allowed us to forge our own paths, with no preconceived notions.
I tell you all of this to set the stage. My true introduction to politics wasn’t until I was well into my teenage years, and it was namely by way of self-discovery. I began asking questions and feeling the weight of my civic duty. I learned that I have a voice and it can be heard loudly, via my vote.
I cannot wait to introduce my daughter to this crucial concept. I can’t wait to tell her that one vote can make a huge difference and that standing behind her convictions is of the utmost importance. Politics will not be kept behind closed doors in our house. Truthfully, I don’t mind if her vote doesn’t swing the same direction as mine, so long as she believes whole-heartedly in her choices!
As much of America has, I’ve spent some time over the last few months watching the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and debates. In the days and weeks following those events, I became acutely aware of the prodigious number of arguments plaguing Facebook and Twitter. I rarely post anything regarding politics, and now I know why!
I also think I might better understand my parents’ reluctance to share their stance with friends and family. There was a hail of unprompted catty diatribes, as well as an onslaught of denunciation, from both sides of the political spectrum. I cringed as I witnessed friends tear friends apart with words. Bullying isn’t just a country wide epidemic in our schools; it has been cast into the Internet with reckless abandon.
Let’s be frank, politics has a way of stirring the pot like no other subject matter, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. But social media has become a political warzone, and I’m not a fan! I worry that we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture, which I’d like to believe is: we are all working toward a better future for our children, regardless of which candidate we may choose to cast our vote for.
I understand we might not always agree on the same structure for that progress, but do we really need to berate one another about it? Isn’t it possible to retain our points of view without slandering one another in the process? I’m calling for an anti-bullying rally; a vocal cease-fire, if you will!
I am exhaustively discouraged by the ongoing blame game; I am disillusioned by the acrimonious manner in which some people defend the party to which they belong. I may spark some controversy here, but I believe that freedom of speech comes with inherent responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to tactfully allow others their freedom of speech in return.
Please don’t misunderstand me — I’m certainly not suggesting anyone be denied the right to speak their mind if they oppose something or someone — that’s the whole point of the liberty to begin with! Lord knows I don’t like to hold back on my own views either. ABSOLUTELY voice your opinions. DEFINITELY disagree if you happen to disagree.
That said, I propose exercising freedom of speech without a barrage of insults. I’m nominating a dialogue that doesn’t revolve around attacking and browbeating one another; I wonder if we can’t strive for communication rooted in honor and reverence, despite our differing beliefs. That’s what I hope to teach my daughter — in spades. Talk about working toward a more perfect union!
In discussing this issue, I’m reminded of September 11th, 2001. After waking up to heartbreaking news images of the twin towers falling, I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. I lived alone at the time, and I was stunned, numb, and delirious with worry. I’d spent my childhood traveling back and forth to New York. I had — and still have — a ton of friends and family there.
Unable to reach anyone by phone, I felt desperate for human contact and needed to get out of the confines of my house. I longed to do something normal, in spite of the pain in my heart. The only thing I could think of, trivial though it may have been, was to head over to my local Starbucks for a cup of coffee.
Part of me wonders how I could contemplate a high-maintenance latte in the midst of such devastation. In truth, I probably didn’t even taste the coffee … I was craving community more than caffeine.
On my way in, I saw a woman walking back to her car with her two children. There were obvious differences between us; we were clearly from different cultural backgrounds, weren’t even close to the same age, and led drastically different family lives (considering my single status at the time). But we connected on a deeper level, as she looked at me solemnly and asked the simplest question, “How are you today?” “I’ve been better,” I answered honestly. “It’s a tough day. You?” “Me too,” she replied.
We stood there in the parking lot for a minute and stared at one another, then wished each other the best. And we meant it. In all of the 17 years I spent living in Los Angeles, there are very few moments that resonate with me as poignantly as that one did.
Everywhere I went that afternoon, people were extending heartfelt common courtesies and kindnesses. The world reached out to one another across lines that were previously immovable. That day, we set aside our diversities, and banded together. It was a phenomenal display of love, support, and patriotism.
I only wish we could accomplish that same sentiment without being prompted by mass destruction. The cliché is true … Together we conquer, divided we fall.
You’re likely questioning what all of this has to do with motherhood … Well, the political scene isn’t the only forum for nastiness. Parenting certainly isn’t exempt. Lately, the media seems to be ripe with criticism for mothers and fathers alike. We’ve become a society that’s adept at putting labels on everything — those who breastfeed, those who don’t, attachment parents, helicopter parents … the list goes on and on.
I am sure I’m guilty of adding my own acerbic commentary from time to time as well; it’s hard to avoid getting caught up in it all! We tear each other down, forgetting that it takes a village. Sure, there are some methods of childrearing I agree with more than others, but I appreciate that we all have our own ideas and methods. In the end, we are all works in progress, and we are all members of the same club … parenthood.
You may notice that I’ve refrained from mentioning my political affiliations in this blog post. While I’m INCREDIBLY proud to stand behind my political party and its candidate, I don’t want that affiliation to be the message here. I didn’t want you to feel like I was turning this into a pulpit for my own legislative agenda, and I hope the spirit with which this post was written will shine through.
I suspect that, by the mere mention of the word “politics,” I’ve ripped open a giant can of worms. But I’m giving the benefit of the doubt, and offering up a challenge here — please hear me out.
Let’s prove social media wrong on this one account. Let’s demonstrate that an entire comment section on PEOPLE.com can be devoted to kindness and respect toward one another. Let’s band together, as mothers (or non-mothers for that matter!), and take a stand against bullying in this Internet arena.
I won’t pretend we can change the world but, as I plan to teach my daughter, let’s show that each voice can make a difference. Let’s prove that the village can support one another, even in the face of a discussion about politics and parenting! Here’s hoping we can all play nice …
Message from the pups – Courtesy Jenna von Oy
Until next time,
– Jenna von Oy
P.S. Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday November 6th, 2012! Make your opinion heard in the best platform possible!