There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed. Ernest Hemingway
Above: Hemingway’s writing studio in Key West, FL. Christmas morning, 2005
The first presidential debate was this week and it reminded me of what I dislike about politics, and more specifically, human interaction.
What’s coming is a hard sentence for me to write, it’s creating tension in me, speaking my thoughts, especially when they aren’t overwhelming positive. But since the purpose of writing is to explore our feelings, our humanity, here it goes…
I think we are all hypocrites.
I know I am.
And I wonder if we accepted we are all hypocrites would we get on better?
By saying we are all hypocrites I don’t mean we aren’t nice, kind, well-intentioned, etc. A great many of us are. It just means that I don’t believe we can always do as we say, and I can’t help but wonder, if we entered into our interpersonal exchanges with a better acceptance of that impossibility, in ourselves and in others, would our relations improve?
I don’t know, but I wanted to ask.
Okay, here’s what’s happened this week that has gotten me wondering this…
After the first presidential debate, I logged into Facebook to see how one particular person responded. Let’s call her Debbie. She is a rabid fan of a particular candidate. She gladly admits this. That’s cool. I have no problem with that. As expected she made a lot of comments during the debate, 14 to be exact.
The problem I have is this comment she made, directed at her opposing candidate…
“How about children with disabilities. Not disabled kids.”
Cue the wavy time warp sensation as I was immediately transported back to the summer of 2005 and the moment just after I had just received a call from Debbie, a call that became one of the most distressing of my mothering career.
Our family, along with another family, frequently got together with Debbie’s family as we had the evening prior to the call. That evening, while the adults were inside talking, the kids were outside playing. (Teddy was 14, Meg was 10, Debbie’s boys were 12 and 5, and our other friend’s daughter was 8)
Suddenly the kids came in to report that the five-year old had fallen off the swing, and as this was said, he held up his swelling arm.
Turned out Ted had been pushing him in the swing and as the kids were laughing and playing, the energy level increased, as did the height at which Ted pushed the swing.
And then he fell off.
I felt horrible. Terrible. Upset. Responsible.
A little boy was hurt and although there was no malice on Ted’s part, he was the one pushing the swing.
And Ted felt horrible. Terrible. Upset. Responsible.
I can’t recall how the night ended. Did we stay or did we go? I don’t know. All I remember was the next day’s call from Debbie.
Her son’s arm was broken.
The “I’m so sorrys” started spewing from me.
I felt horrible. Terrible. Upset. Responsible.
I offered to pay the medical bills. Anything. I felt out of control and wanted to do something to help, but I could do nothing to undo what had happened. Nothing.
Then she said the words that sent an emotional spear sent straight through me…
“We don’t feel comfortable having our son around Ted, so we will not be able to get together with you anymore.”
I received her comment with only an “Okay.” I said no more.
And when we hung up, I sat down on the curb (I was at work and took the call outside) stunned and full of tears.
I understood her upset, I really did, but at the same time I felt complete rejection for my son, and for me.
The gathering of three families became a gathering of two, with our family left out.
Over time I have, for the most part, let it go. She is what she is and it is up to me to accept that. Our husbands are professors at the same university and Neal goes to their house for poker night each month. Occasionally Debbie comes into the gym I work at and we will exchange superficial niceties.
But when she used one candidate’s wording about disabilities as a slam (and then completely ignored that her candidate used the very same language) she not only let her hypocrisy show, she really crossed a line with me.
She may purport to be this great crusader against social injustice, but I know that call, and I thought, don’t go there. For when you had the opportunity to show and model compassion to an autistic child, excuse me, a “child with autism” as you care so much to say, you walked away.
This morning, as I thought about hypocrisy an idea came to me, an image, a replay of that hurtful phone conversation. I imagined her calling to say that it was clearly necessary when we got together in the future that the adults stay with the kids while they are playing. “We need to be there to guide Ted, and help him and the other kids when the excitement level begins to escalate.”
Imagine such a conversation. Imagine us all evolving beyond hypocrisy…