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Lessons learned from an Englishman in New York • Brooklyn Paper

Lessons learned from an Englishman in New York

I listen more closely to hushed voices, which is why I heard him.

“My mom isn’t really a Trump supporter,” I heard him explain to his friend, a frequent visitor to our home. “She just doesn’t like all this hate and anger toward him.”

To be fair, I could be remembering the exact verbiage wrong. But that was the gist: “No worries. There wasn’t a ‘Trump Republican’ in our midst. There was just some doddering middle-aged hippie who wasn’t a fan of all this name-calling.”

I smiled in the living room, happy that my ears were still working well enough to tune in to that low frequency, and excited that my son has picked up a thing or two by living with me. Yay! My values have come across!

I don’t give a damn who’s president. I’ve been defending the loudmouth-elect in my uber-liberal neighborhood since he was elected, trying to calm everyone down with the notion that there are poor and warring and deported peoples under every last one of our presidents. My own beloved Roosevelts put the Japanese in internment camps. We all make mistakes, thinking something is right at the time that proves wrong in the end.

My children get me. Not to say they always like it, that I’m always stopping to say hi and talk to neighbors instead of moving along with them wherever we’re meant to go. Not that my writing a column about them and our life is always such fun. But it’s what I do, for better or for worse. I try to understand people, and relationships (my own most of all) and it means I don’t have one specific Party Agenda except love.

I think fighting is a dumb waste of time. We spend so much time fighting that we never even have time to discuss solving the problems over which we fight.

We think we have vastly different notions of you and me, them and us. Except, the thing is, we really don’t.

My favorite line in a song ever, a line that put to rest years and years of childhood sleeplessness (“the Holocaust Hangover” one Jungian therapist suggested), was a Sting line. It was some song about the Russians, and why the Cold War, then raging, was unlikely to turn hot because “the Russians love their children too.” (Well, at least he hoped they did).

They felt love. Maybe not for us, but they felt love for their own. I got it, and it made sense. So maybe even though all the newspaper headlines were screaming “WAR!” and all the movies being made were about the horrible ashen aftermath of said war, we were all going to be okay.

And when I say we, I really mean I, cause I was mostly worried about me surviving, let’s face it. The only reason we get so caught up in the news and all the things going on is because of our own fears. Sure, we want to help other people.

Believe me, I want (in theory) to help other people. But it’s really subconsciously about me and those folks I’d text to tell where the lifeboat is.

My son got it right. I don’t divide The Good Ones from The Bad Ones in terms of political party or the candidate people back.

I don’t divide them by race or religion or even by what neighborhood they live in (although I have my prejudices). I guess I pretty much rule out the people I want on my lifeboat in terms of their levels of anger and hate.

Those are the people who scare me.

As someone once smartly said in an interview I did for Advertising Age — “it’s a psychographic, not a demographic.”

Brilliant! They weren’t trying to reach African-American women between the ages of 34 and 54, they were trying to reach a person who thought a certain way, who had certain values.

It’s funny. During the last presidential election, I ended up with some friends at their weekend house upstate.

It was a lovely place, and their friends and children were delightful.

They were generous and kind to us. And then it came out: the whole last one of them was voting for Trump.

My kids were scared. They know I don’t back down and, at the time, I thought the lovely Hills was the answer.

But I wasn’t mad. I didn’t think they were more or less nice, generous, or smart than I thought they were before that information.

I was interested to hear their reasoning, as they were interested in hearing mine. People have their opinions. Within reason, we must let them.

It reminded me that I live in a free country and that I shouldn’t be so quick to judge who’s who, cause we are all highly complex and simple at the same time. It reminded me that people I like can have different opinions, and we can still laugh and enjoy life together.

We can get along just so long as we share the most important values of love and community.

And that takes practice.

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.

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