Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Michael's Shock

Living with me, it's not possible to grow up "unaware". My kids all have a very keen sense of ethics, far more so than I did at that age. They are all different in their levels of outrage, and each have areas they are more passionate about.

James is the most conservative of my children, which surprises many people because he's also been the most rebellious. We have rather heated discussions because of this, and it's wonderful, because he can articulate his thoughts well.

But Michael - oh Michael. Michael is my activist. Michael has an opinion on everything, and will take a stand. If there's a protest, he's involved.

Now I'm not saying the others won't speak out, they will. Alex is a pacifist but when pushed he'll show his true colours. Rhiannon is a Spitfire. Sian is more of a Hurricane... (British warplane joke, hope everone got that). My girls are not meek women. Blink. No. And Tom says his piece too.

But Michael....oh Michael.

Michael is so much like me that it scares me. Only more so, I think.

So, yesterday he came home shocked. They'd had a touring speaker visit to the school, a lesbian musician (sorry, didn't catch the name) to do a presentation to students about the Gay-Straight Alliance (read more about it here) and he was a bit concerned about the reaction some of his friends would have. He was then horrified at what actually transpired.

Michael has been taught to be tolerant of religious differences. So he has two friends who are fundamentalist Christians, and we'll call them X and Y.

X is the more extremist of the two. How they even remain friends baffles me.

But it was Y who was the problem. She could not accept this speaker. X, the usually more intolerant one, "got it". That we all have to work together, despite our differences. That there is no place for hate, especially not in our schools, and that by making an effort to understand and support one another at that age leads to a better world as students go out into it.

Y was immovable. Neither wise Michael, or newly (suddenly?) tolerant co-fundie X could get her past her prejudices, and allow the message to be heard.

Instead of shrugging and giving up, Michael came home with a little stormcloud over his head, and couldn't move on, not even at dinner. He intends to re-double his efforts to convince Y that she is the one with the problem. This is no longer a religious issue. X got it. That's what shocked him. He thought this was a black and white matter. That the religious right would be anti, but when it was much more individual that that, it rocked him to the core.

I think that's the "location" of the differences between people. Core values. This is how people with different religious beliefs, different political beliefs, and so on, can have plenty in common, can work together, can get along, and can BE FRIENDS, because deep inside their values are the same.

Michael is shocked that someone he called a friend, is unable to share his personal value. He is questioning the friendship. This is not easy stuff, especially at 16, but it's probably going to be something that he looks back on his whole life.

So I listened, didn't say much, just praised him for thinking it all through carefully, and tonight we'll tackle moral relativism.


  1. Yes. Wow. I am now analyzing, ruminating over people's idea of purity. Over my idea of purity. Wow.

    I am trying to teach my kids to be nice. You don't have to agree. You have to be patient and kind. I don't know that it's tolerance. I don't think that's tolerance although some would say it is. I think it is merely being polite and my people have not been that. But my kids will be.

    1. It is tolerance. Remember: tolerance is playing nice even when you don't approve. And that is often the basis for politeness too, so they are very closely connected. Tolerance is the attitude, politeness is the action. Kindness is what is underneath it all.

      The next level, is understanding. That's much harder. But it's doable.