Friday, March 25, 2011

Missing Grandpa

We would arrive at my grandparents' house late on a Friday night -- usually 10:00 -- when I was a kid, overtired from the long drive south. My parents were not the coddling types. Rather than carry me into the house and place me gently in bed, they would wake me up, make me walk inside to greet my grandparents properly. Then, rather than let me go to bed, they would plunk me down at the table with the adults, where I would wait for the signal that I could finally go to bed. Forgotten -- seen and not heard -- I would wake up enough (having given up on ever going to bed), to hear my mom and her dad, my grandpa, already deep in a political discussion. There'd be "hollerin'", as Grandpa put it, and pounding on the table. "Now, Dad", Mom would say, "it isn't quite like that", and she'd launch into her counter-argument. And the two would argue back and forth. Grandma would shake her head, and when voices got raised too high, she'd leave the room or change the subject -- and it would finally be time to go to bed.
By today's standards I should have felt traumatized by these conversations. But I relished these arguments. They weren't yelling, in my view; they were discussing political topics. There was no name-calling; there were no hurt feelings. It was a full-on discussion, and I loved it. I still do.
As I grew up, I learned that politics was off-limits; that it was considered impolite to discuss politics with anybody any time, anywhere. Getting animated and excited about your view was low-brow, unacceptable. We were allowed to discuss anything -- gossip, the weather, anything at all -- other than anything that really matters -- like religion and politics. I have had friends come right out and tell me they don't want to talk to me about anything substantial -- but otherwise we can be friends. What? What kind of a friendship can we have if we can't discuss or argue over anything meaningful? If only your choice of lunch or the weather next week are possible topics?
The idea that Americans should discuss nothing of importance is one hundred percent wrong and has led us all to today -- where overheard discussions center on the latest android, the weather, celebrity's mishaps, Justin Bieber's haircut. What is the point of free speech in the United States of America if we are not allowed to discuss sensitive topics, according to our peers? The United States was founded on the idea that we should and must discuss ideas freely, openly, and loudly. We are not supposed to be subdued, polite company, but inquisitive, challenging, loud and boisterous company. We Americans need to cut out labeling each other "mean" for disagreeing and we need to get back to hollerin'.

1 comment:

  1. I'll holler with you...I'm all about that! Guess I'm a little low-brow but I'm not too worried.