They are always listening. I know it's true because I still recall the off-the-cuff utterances my parents made about the issues of their day. Good-hearted people, sometimes frustrated by the changing landscape, their remarks left an imprint on this child of the '60s.
Years ago, when the girls were very young, my husband reeled me in one day when I shared with him just a juicy tidbit of "innocent" gossip - within the girls' earshot. Now, I recognize on a deeper level there's nothing ever innocent about gossip. He reminded me on that occasion - quite emphatically - that anything I had to say could wait, because they were always listening. It turned out that taking those extra moments showed me just how unimportant it was to pass along the information. Still, all the time, I have to remind myself that what was true when they were 2, remains even more important as they get older.
Lately, it's evident that my attempts at instilling noble values, when the girls are teed up for a lecture at the dinner table, or captive for a long car ride, are far less interesting and arguably less important than those scattered, off-the-cuff utterances. Recently, I was taken completely off guard when our oldest called me out directly on what I thought was merely an innocent, off-the-cuff remark, commenting on our current political maelstrom. At that moment I was reminded that it's not my lectures that will be my legacy.
Today marks the 11th year of the day after 9/11. What followed the shock of the tragedy was a cementing of our country, and realization that we all are first, and I dare say foremost, Americans. On 9/11 death was indiscriminate. We lost Democrats, Republicans, immigrants, Muslims, Mormons and Christians, all labels devoid of meaning on the day after. Because what we really lost were people who were loved, and are still missed every day.
On that day and the days that followed, Americans were glued to the unfolding story, and an unparalleled unity borne of tragedy enveloped our county. While I pray that the scene is never repeated here, or in any place in this world, when we tell ourselves we must never to forget, perhaps it remains worthwhile to remember as well that we have the ability to unite as a nation. And that the power of the love for those we lost is a force that remains palpable, even 11 years later.
As these elections close in, I will remember there is a day after. There is nothing more important than rational political discourse during an election year. There is nothing more destructive than irrational personal diatribes. Just as we tend to abhor personal attacks on candidates, I need - we need - to avoid personal attacks. It doesn't matter what political side you weigh in on, it seems too easy these days to allow political disagreement to devolve into personal vitriol. Instantly recognizable when you hear it, or see it (just like how a wise judge once described pornography), sarcastic and spiteful accusations add little to our political landscape, and often detract from meaningful dialog. Moral superiority falls in the same category. Judgment divides us just as readily, and perhaps more smoothly, as do outright personal attacks. Something even a 12-year-old can recognize, and recoil from, with ease.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member and practices real estate and natural resources law in her spare time. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.