I frequently wonder what other people talk about. I mean, when regular people sit around the dinner table, or drink coffee while packing snack bags for their kids, what is the nature of the discussion going round. I imagine that most people- partners, spouses, siblings and parents – talk about the kids, work, the goings on of the day. Don’t forget to pull out the chicken that has been marinating overnight. Jimmy has scouts and I’ve got to be at the shelter until 9. Typical, work-a-day things. They are, no doubt, of grave importance because otherwise the chicken will go bad, Jimmy will be forgotten at school and sent to foster care, and there will be frantic calls to the police when I’m not home by 7.
These things, as important as they are, well, they aren’t very filling though. I mean, it’s just like looking at your google calendar versus reading Paulo Coehlo’s newest book. One gives you information and the other gives you inspiration. I am afraid, perhaps, our daily interactions with other human beings leaves us feeling a bit flat and quite honestly, contributes to our national Brain Death.
I have a few good friends that I speak with on a regular basis. We discuss all sorts of things. I know their views on things that are important to me like gay marriage, the death penalty, and having your kids wear matching outfits on class trips. I know what they think about hippies and Occupy Wall Street. And I know what my husband thinks about these things too because we discuss them. Yes, we do. Like, for real. We talk not only about the fact that Yacob has an ear infection (poor munchkin) but that he, dearest spouse, thinks that “revolutions start like the Occupy protests” to which I reply “you mean with no sense of direction or leadership? Tell me, which successful revolution was started like that?” He is currently reading a book called “God is for dummies” or “The God Myth” yet we discuss whether we’d be okay with our kids being taught the Sufi tradition, if they have to be taught a religion at all. I know what his take is on gay marriage (pro), the death penalty (against) and matching outfits (what the fuck? on a field trip?)
I watched a GOP debate with my father. He said “Americans think with their stomachs, not with their brains” and I think this is true. I am sorry to tell you but it’s clear we do not encourage each other to be smarter, better, wiser, more knowledgeable. We tell each other it’s okay when we don’t know things or if we just regurgitate what we’ve heard on Morning Joe or some other show that features talking heads, you know, talking. It’s rude to look at someone askance when you try to discuss the pepper spray incident and they say “yeah, I don’t follow the news.” You can’t say “are you fucking even alive” when you talk about oh, I don’t know, Troy Davis and they’ve never heard of him. But oh lord, I admit I don’t know who Hugh Jackman is and the ladies jump all over me. (Disclaimer, I now know he was the guy who plays Wolverine. So leave me alone.) I can’t tell you if Khloe is the fat Kardashian or the one who was married more than 10 days. But I know about the Udall Amendment’s defeat and now so do the people in my household. These things are important. Yes, it’s important that I share with my cousins my new Mac Red lipstick purchase and that we dish about the latest Indian flick (I never watch them, I don’t even understand Bollywood). But its tit for tat. Listen to my political and social ramblings and writings in exchange.
I am shocked sometimes when I ask people well, what does your X think about Y and they say “I don’t know.” And by ‘X’ I mean mother, father, brother, sister, best friend, wife, husband, people at your book club or regularly scheduled events. By “Y” I mean things like I’ve mentioned before and not like what’s their favorite ice cream flavor. What the fuck else do you people talk about if not about the world we live in and life in general? What do you talk about if not how your work affects the way you see things and how you function in the world? Whatever do you say if not why do you think the state should kill people and what do you think is the best answer for redeveloping our economy?
Look, not everyone is a rocket scientist or even a criminal defense lawyer. Most people go to work, do their shift and then come home and are not – wait, what was I called once – oh right, elitist assholes like me. But it makes me wonder why thinking about things makes me an elitist. Is this country not made of people who work hard and are still obligated to make decisions on how we function as a nation? How do we do that if we don’t think about issues with each other, if we don’t talk about them. Here’s the bigger (and really, more insidious) question – how do we get people to come around to our way of thinking if we don’t talk to them about it?
A lot of people think of liberals as scary monsters who are coming to take their paychecks and make them abort their babies. But if we walk amongst them as their own kind, in churches and school and at breakfast, we can change minds on the things that we hold so dear. We can talk to those people we already know, who love us and trust us and we can tell them “you know, it’s not right to allow the state to kill people, what do you think about that?” and then go from there. It’s not okay if people don’t know about things. It’s really just not.
If someone took pity on me and told me who Hugh Jackman was, you can do the same for someone who has never heard of Vladimir Putin.