When my first daughter was born, I remember thinking I’d teach her how to speak up. I quickly realized that she didn’t need my lessons. As soon as she learned to talk, she did just fine. I just had to relate and be her mom of her. I nurtured, set boundaries and made sure she learned how to play and have friends. I figured the rest would come and, sure enough, it did.
This past fall upon receiving the assignment to choose a fiction book to read, she began arguing with her language arts teacher. How does anyone know, for certain, what’s true or not, what’s fiction, nonfiction or just plain propaganda? I was mortified as she described the scene to me. I was thinking about reputation. She was a freshman, not even a month in. It was still September.
“Fair. Do. The. Assignment,” I told her.
This past Tuesday the world celebrated International Women’s Day. Women don’t typically hold positions of public power. It’s more often we become mothers, give life and raise it up. Childbirth is painful and to unknown degrees, a self-sacrificing event. A woman can get caught up in the service of it all. I’ve certainly had my moments.
But there are two components to Catholic social teaching: charity and justice. A person can give, but we are also called to pursue needed change, to act.
Love is action. Jesus taught me that. He got the whole Roman Empire after him.
The idea of public love probably freaks most of us out. In Minnesota we lay on thick with
niceness and strive to maintain its effect. Public love involves a good deal of tension. It agitates. I learned this running for office. I also learned people like to have their opinions. But opinions don’t change the world, public love does. We spend so much time having opinions about things that don’t change anything. It would be awesome if collectively, we could develop a much sharper focus on those things that do.
Really good public love is about a commitment to the essentials: the autonomy of the individual, self-control, self-discipline and self-direction. It’s also about putting the infrastructure in place to support it: Housing, jobs, transportation, education.
Freedom is important because it allows the autonomous person self-direction, to practice being who we’re meant to be. Possibilities here on earth are endless, but only come with our insistence. I think a problem Americans have is that we have so many freedoms we don’t know what to do with them.
Ukraine. It’s hard to believe that goodness and freedom don’t always win. We are holden, to the Ukrainian people, as is our freedom. We are fighting a monster, and they are the front line.
Ukraine is about the size of Texas with nearly twice the amount of people. I’m inclined to believe that if democracy survives this, it’s destined to prevail. I hope.
Putin is not to be messed with, a real powder keg. I won’t let anyone speak. I shudder to think how quickly he’d do away with my daughter, her friends de ella, me — all of us.
Gratitude is fast becoming my best friend. I try to live each day more earnestly now, because we really don’t know what’s around the corner.
News. Propaganda. Fiction. Nonfiction. Truth… When she was younger, I wanted my daughter to speak up. Now I want more. I want her to speak her truth about her. Connecting feeling to thought is incredibly powerful. Feelings come and go, we can lead with our thoughts. Think about it, or maybe you have. My daughter thought about it and she stuck to the assignment, or I wonder, did she submit to her mother’s insistence on her? I appreciate silence, as long as it doesn’t come with a cost, and as a parent?
I savor bedtime. It never felt right to send them to bed without stories. Every night I would reach for the fiction. I wouldn’t have it any other way, although I hope along
the way, I’ve taught them the importance of discernment.
— Anne Buckvold is a member of the Times Writers’ Group. She is a social worker, organizer and artist who lives in St. Cloud with her family de ella. Her column by Ella appears on the second Thursday of the month.