Friday, 28 October 2016

There's No Such Thing as a 'Dance-Mom' (Or a 'Trump-Voter')

I’ve recently become a ‘dance-mom’. Whatever that means. In the past, this expression for me drummed up visions of a frantic, well-kept, uber-competitive woman wrapped up in living (or reliving) her dreams of being a prima ballerina through her daughter who grew up to have a corporate job, an eating disorder and OCD. Nonetheless, last September when I was preparing my daughter for her first dance class, I made sure to do an extra mid-day hairbrush (for BOTH of us), I bought every last item on the suggested rehearsal gear list, and I may even have run back into the house to exchange my sneakers for my spankiest pair of boots before we headed out. We arrived early (a feat in itself), and I’m embarrassed to say that I’m sure my daughter could sense my nerves even through her own excitement. I hustled her into the class, gave her my winning go-get-em smile and sat down to wait. I sat next to woman (who I noted was wearing sluppy, athletic pants and a pony tail) and we exchanged pleasantries and eventually got to talking about our mutual interest in the Bachelor series. She was nice enough, certainly not the embodiment of the stereotypical 'dance mom' I'd had in mind, but I remained convinced that, come recital day, her finely honed hair and makeup skills would make an appearance and her daughter would look just the part while my poor daughter would resemble a street performing clown.
Fast forward a few months, I'd made a few connections with other women outside the dance studio. One woman was a professor, another worked in retail. Several women stayed at home with their children, and others seemed to be making the mad dash every week to dance class from somewhere requiring a suit. Some wore make-up, others, like me, didn't. Some arrived at class looking like they'd rolled out of bed, others seemed pretty 'put-together'. It varied week-to-week. On several occasions, several of us commiserated about our fears about the dreaded 'recital makeup.' Some of us got along better than others, and, come recital day, I fudged my way through the hair and makeup component like everyone else and watched for two of the most heavenly minutes of my life while my daughter danced her first dance on stage in a ridiculous bee costume. I noted that I was not the only crying.
I learned something that day--a valuable secret that shouldn't be kept...
There's no such thing as a 'dance mom.' At least not the one I'd imagined. As far as I can tell, the only thing we really had in common was that we really loved our kids and wanted to see them do well. That's it. What a wonderful relief!
Perhaps you buy my premise... So what if I told you, there was no such thing as a 'Trump-voter'? At least not the image of the racist, bigoted, xenophobic jerk you hold in your head. Would you believe me? Because a few things have come to my attention recently. One is that a lot people are not shy to call conservative voters of America all manners of strong adjectives—racist, sexist, haters—I'm sure you could add a few to that list. Another is that people I would never in my wildest dreams have thought to back a man like that have come out in favour of him in one way or another. To say hearing these people come out in support of Donald Trump was a surprise to me is the understatement of the century. These people were compassionate, kind, and forward-thinking. They were people I believed to share the same values as me. How could they be 'Trump supporters'? This bothered me. Very much actually.
Now, I am very glad that I will not be casting a vote in the American election come November, not the least of which is that I can't stand the polarization of a two-party system. But I have realized something...if I did have to vote in that election, I would have to put a check mark beside Hillary Clinton's name. Would making that check mark make me a 'Hilliary-voter'? I suppose it would. But would it mean that mean I supported her position on partial-birth abortion? No, it would not. Would it mean I consider her political position and actions to be entirely cohesive? Nope. Would it mean I thought she was the best person to lead one of the most powerful countries in the western world? Again no. Being a 'Hilliary-voter' would tell you next to nothing about me or anything I stand for. It would not tell you anything about my values, my person-hood, or my ability to be compassionate. So, how wrong I have been to make these assumptions about 'Trump-supporters'!? What do I know about them and their values?
I think we would be fooling ourselves to think we are any different here in the great white north. Now this is going back a year or so, but it could be said that those who came out in support of Stephen Harper's government during the run up to 2015 election were on the receiving end of many of same nasty adjectives and assumptions as Trump's supporters. There were plenty hell-bent on demonizing the person-hood and values of those who dared to vote differently from them. It bothered me at the time and it bothers me now because I was of the belief that we were somehow immune to such extreme political polarization here in Canada, but we are not. Sadly we are not.
I remain passionately against polarization—whether it be political, ideological, social, or otherwise-- particularly when it is used as tool demonize one's opposition, and I have often wondered why we as a society gravitate so easily towards it. I was discussing this issue with a friend recently, and she put it this way, 'People like someone to blame, someone 'bad', so they feel like the problem is not with them.' I thought that was quite profound, and I have to say that I agree with her. Some people want to people want to blame ISIS. Others want to blame greedy corporations. People will call out 'Trump-supporters' for this, that, or the other thing. They will blame the government. They will blame the political left for their idealism or tarnish the political right with accusations of profit-over-people. People like someone to name, blame, and polarize as their opposition.

But I would like to put forth the challenge that whatever your notion of the opposition, whoever you like to blame—the evil corporations, the Big Bad Middle East, the Idealistic Left, the bigoted Trump supporter—these notions are not real. Or at least they are no more real than my ridiculous, narrow vision of a 'dance-mom.' And more than not being real, these notions are actually harmful. Just as I (ridiculously) pulled on my spanky boots to drop off my daughter for dance class, so others actually play up to these stereotypes which tend to be narrow, extremist, and baseless—not desirable qualities in the least. The problem is absolutely within ourselves and these notions we hold of our 'opponents.' If we could all just sit down outside a dance studio once a week for a year, we'd probably find we weren't in opposition at all--that we all valued family, health, security, and compassion much the same. What a wonderful relief that would be!

For Charlotte--A true moderate. Just one of your many amazing qualities. Love you.

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