After a few years, I switched gears and moved into real estate, where I kept abreast of the industry-specific trends and how they related to the world at large, but I never again subscribed to a newspaper, listened to news on the radio or TV, nor listened to talk radio. It's as if I was just burnt out on information from the media.Over the years, I've gotten the occasional bug to take a whole morning and read the Tribune cover-to-cover or get sucked into a 20/20 episode, but I have literally made it a point NOT to suck up information if it's at all humanly possible.
Fast forward to a pair of impressionable young minds living in my own household. Yes, I've kept up with most issues over the years by default of conversation from my girlfriend, parents, and friends, which then motivates me to look up specific points or data on the topics just so I can talk on point. But I don't read about or get involved with politics, local, national, or world issues, unless I'm hit over the head with it or unless a headline from the Redeye sparks my attention.
Traditionally, I'm not a big activist for anything. I hold a lot of opinions and am not afraid at all to share them, but nine times out of ten, when sharing opinions, it initiates debate that usually sheds light on new perspectives or facts that I hadn't previously considered, which thereby alters my opinions. You see I rarely jump on board a major issue train unless I'm fully educated on the topic, and I am not fully educated on most things, unless, like Marriage Equality, they specifically pertain to me or someone I know.
The gay marriage issue was a no-brainer for me, since I've been in a committed relationship with my girlfriend for the past fourteen years. We have two kids together, we jointly own property and investments, and we're considered 'married' by everyone we know, even those that politically may not agree with Marriage Equality. Marriage Equality needed to be legislated, in my opinion.
I had no plans on getting involved, though, in the fight. The invitation came from friends. First it was the invite from a neighbor to the Marriage Equality fundraiser at a local bar I'd been wanting to try out. Then it was the request from another friend who is also a gay parent, that urged me to take my girls out of school and join her in a day-trip to the Illinois capital city to participate in the March on Springfield and rally in support of Marriage Equality.
After we got home late that evening, I realized that I had exposed my kids to standing up for something bigger than themselves. I had shown them the example of how to make a difference and be part of a solution. No matter what happened with the issue, and I honestly had no clear indication of how it would play out, I knew I wanted my kids to be educated on things that matter from here on out.
The bill passed and we're now planning a wedding for late summer, in which our kids will take part. The issue was pretty much of a non-issue for our girls. They never understood why we couldn't get married anyway, as they are being raised in a time period, and in a geographical location and community where kids don't see a problem with kids having 2 moms instead of a mom and dad. They're also around lots of adults who mostly feel the same way, but even if they didn't, are uber-PC and wouldn't say anything otherwise to make our kids feel bad about having 2 moms. It's just the way it is. My oldest even gave a current-events speech at school on the Illinois Marriage Equality issue, one in which I drilled her in preparation for all sorts of protests or at least debate she may encounter with the issue. She got nothing.
Conversely, we're heading to Dallas in March for a gay wedding, or actually just a reception, as the guys had to get married in another state, since Texas legislation prohibits marriage equality. My girls don't understand why their moms can get married here, but our good friends can't get married in Texas.
"It doesn't make any sense," my 5-year-old logically stated.
Nope. It doesn't. My 10-year-old had a bit of an answer for her little sister, in that it was a state-by-state decision. She had learned this from her research on Illinois gay marriage. What she hadn't learned, though, was that the issue was still in the forefront of US history, being hashed out state by state, since it was passed here. I had seen the Facebook posts and headline updates on yahoo, but I'd never once thought to share the information with my kids. I'd never once thought that it might be important to them, or that it would affect people we know.
I realized that I hadn't kept my promise of educating myself and my kids further on issues that not only affect us, but on issues that simply have a clear side for us to stand on. While it's great that my daughter was able to fill in the blanks for my little one, as she can seek out issues and news on her own now, it became apparent to me that I need to start taking a more active role in the news and issues of our day, so that I can not only be knowledgeable myself, but also so that I can help answer questions and/or debate issues with my very-informed children, and be knowledgeable enough to help them form their own opinions.
So, today is the day I draw a line in the sand regarding what's important. Today, I vow to pull myself up by my bootstraps and get back on that horse. Today is the day I pull my head out of the sand and get up to speed on what's going on in this world. I can't promise I'll debate the issues or even have an interest in much of what I learn, but I do promise to be aware from this day forward.
Any suggestions on where to start?