Chide and cowardice
Or, how my kid is braver than I’ll ever be
Right now, my 14-year-old daughter is on a group chat with other teens, vehemently and passionately arguing about politics. She has her research at hand, and the strength of her convictions. She eagerly seeks out people to debate on inflammatory subjects. She is unafraid to go toe-to-toe with anyone on any issue.
I cannot imagine being able to do that.
After the events of the past month or so, my daughter has clarified her intention of career from attorney to human rights lawyer. She is furious and disgusted at her world.
I’m extremely proud that she has chosen to apply her passion for debate and research to the cause of justice for all. But when I hear her debating with friends and strangers, I get so nervous.
When I expressed that, she looked at me and said, “you need to stop worrying and trying to protect me from people with different opinions than me. I’m going to be a lawyer, and I have to be able to do this. I like doing this.”
But she’s my baby. She’s only 14. It’s difficult for me, mostly because I am so non-confrontational.
I have all different kinds of friends, and I’m grateful for the diversity in my life. But because of that, I tread carefully with what I say. I love and support all of them, and many of them face challenges and struggles I have been lucky to avoid simply by accident of birth.
I get paralyzed by political correctness. I fear offending someone by supporting someone else. I am afraid to take a stand, to “out” myself on one side of a divisive topic. I won’t even promote my candidate of choice. And I nearly never have the courage to set any post on Facebook to public as the privacy setting.
I am a coward. My kid is not.
I don’t know how this managed to happen. We talk often about where I stand on issues while at home, but I’m afraid to voice them elsewhere. For this, I am ashamed and embarrassed. If those of us with opportunity and privilege of any kind — a platform, socioeconomic advantages, a nationality, race or gender identity — do not stand up and announce our disdain and condemnation of systems that are hurting our friends, well… what kind of friends are we?
It heartens me, though, knowing this hard-working and assertive young woman will take her generation into the future with a better ability to not accept the status quo when it is clearly in need of change.
I hope there are more like her coming up through the ranks, because their courage and drive are sorely needed, and will continue to be needed, until all of our friends are safe and feel respected and supported.
If we can’t change our cowardice, may we raise the courageous.
Kathleen Palmer is an award-winning editor and journalist, marketing/communications content writer and occasional comedic actress.