Before you read this post, take a look at this article about “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.”
I was one of those who left. Packed up, headed out. Across the country. Away from my hometown, which was more suburban than rural, but I am a late Boomer. It’s kind of what we did.
It absolutely exposed me to people who were different than I. It opened up my view of the world and shaped how I think.
My older daughter recently moved far from home to attend college; from a bluer-than-blue state to one that’s red, red, red. The transition, particularly during the last election, was challenging. Ultimately, she realized that her being there is not only opening her eyes to those who may think differently than she does, but it’s also exposing rural kids from a conservative state to the likes of a liberally-minded girl. It’s a recipe that promotes recognition and appreciation of each other. She cleverly tells people that she doesn’t really believe in politics because she finds that everyone is more open to talking about what matters when labels are put aside.
When I told my husband about the Vox article, he asked, “What was your biggest take-away?” It only took a moment for me to dig up my answer.
That we sort our kids, long before they even know who they are, what they believe, or what they want to do when they grow up. We heap our resources on those who we see as having potential, those who might change the world — and that most of those kids never go back home to change that world, to make life better in their hometown.
As a parent and a teacher, this gives me pause. I understand that we have limited resources; I get that we are all stretched thin. I also understand the tendency to want to get the “biggest bang for your buck,” to put it crudely. When you see that kid who seems to shine brighter at an earlier age, you want to support them with everything. The others, who either seem content and happy where they are — or who concern us the most — we let slide or we use our energies to keep them close, to keep them safe. None of that surprises me.
It’s the link to the great political divisions we now see that makes me step back. The political divide has never been greater — at least not in my lifetime. Discourse has deteriorated; open minds have closed, on both sides. Something has to change. Somehow, we need to get to know the other — break down walls, not build them. Support our kids so that they move out of their comfort zones and explore the world. Let them know that they can take the best of the best and bring it back home, if they want, to make life better for themselves and those they love; make friends and build alliances across the wide spectrum of who we are.
How do we do THAT?