Wordful Wednesday: Teaching Democracy

I don’t often talk politics on my blog because that’s what my Facebook page is for, right? I only half joke. This is the space I dedicate to raising my children and nurturing my marriage. But today is different. Because today my family went protesting.

This is because today in my home state of Michigan some divisive legislation was passed which is being called ‘Right to Work’. The home of the UAW and bedrock of the organized union movement has just passed a law giving workers the right to opt out of paying union dues, though they still benefit from the bargaining that the union does on their behalf.

Now we are not union members but many family, friends and acquaintances of ours happen to be proud union members. But as much as we disagree with this legislation it is the democratic process that had us bundling up our children and walking to the Capitol on this gray and snowy afternoon.

We’ve all seen the old Schoolhouse Rock “I’m Just a Bill” right? (Has it been a minute, watch it HERE.)

Well that is what we have been taught about making laws.

That they include a lot of discussion and debate. That there are votes by our elected officials after they consult with their constituents and decide what is best for their district. That once out of committee and voted upon there is often compromise and give and take and then the final result is a law that a majority of the lawmakers agree upon.

Sure, that’s an idealistic way of approaching the polarized and ugly nature of politics today. But that is where I want to begin teaching Ella and Izzie about laws, politics and our lawmakers.

Throughout the election season we talked about who President Obama is, who Mitt Romney is and what they were arguing about (she didn’t think they were talking very nicely to each other during one of the debates). She went with us to vote, and was quite excited about it. And now, when asked who the President is she says Mrs. Obama. Apparently my daughter is quite the feminist (and loves Michelle’s fancy dresses).

So when there is something regarding politics, usually something Michael and I are discussing, that makes Cedella say “What are you talking about guys?” if it can be easily broken down and explained I will try to explain it to her.

And now there’s the Right-to-Work battle happening and it struck me.

This is a teachable moment.

Maybe even more so than going to the polls.

Because voting is quite natural and easy and fast.

Standing up for justice and truth is not always easy and is certainly not fast.

Because justice and rule of law was clearly subverted in our state this past week.

A law was introduced on the house floor, without debate, without committee hearings and without public input or forum. And it was passed without allowing the opposing lawmakers to debate or to negotiate the finer points of the law.

Hell, they didn’t even have a copy of the law until just before they were asked to vote.

The protestors who were at Capitol last Thursday, teachers and nurses and plumbers and auto workers, were kept out of the chambers by lobbyists who filled the public seats. And some were even pepper sprayed.

This is not democracy and this is not the way that laws are made in a transparent and open society.

In fact I would call it secrecy and lies. Or worse. Bullying.

And that is where the teachable moment lies. In the First Amendment.

“…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Because the bottom line is that if we don’t like what our government is doing we have, written into the first amendment of the Bill of Rights the provision to peacefully protest and air our grievances.

So what better way to teach that than to attend one of the largest rallies in Michigan’s history?

I was awoken this morning by the sounds of helicopters circling overhead and muffled shouts and chanting. Turns out, as the state Congress convened to vote these on the bills, over 10,000 amassed on the Capitol lawns.

So Michael and I decided it was absolutely necessary for us to go and bring the girls. We want them to see that we don’t just complain or argue about things we don’t like, we work to change them.

And we want them to know that they can stand up for what they believe in. Even if it’s not the majority way of thinking. And that they can stand up with others that need a voice, to protect and defend justice.

We want our little radicals to be informed and active citizens, not ones that sit idly by while our rights and values are trampled on.

They are becoming quite the little protestors. This is Cedella’s 3rd protest. Isora’s 1st…at 8 months old. And neither cried or complained the entire time we were there.

We witnessed history today. Who else can say they saw this many troopers and police on the lawn of their state Capitol?

And thankfully we weren’t in this crowd when the pepper spray started flowing again today. Or when some protestors tore down a tent erected by the pro-right-to-work camp.

We even met Lansing’s mayor (and defeated gubernatorial candidate) Virg Bernero. Who was all smiles and handshakes when he saw the lady with the babies.

Perhaps in spite of all my pointed (though brief) discussions about what was happening with Ella she was still able to find something magical and exciting about the protest. Mounted police. Nothing like horses to get a little princess all swoony.

Later in the evening, during the news, Cedella kept saying “Look, that’s the parade we went to”. And I know that in some small way she gets it.

Today we were a part of something. And though the outcome may not be the one we’d like we were heard. And we will keep fighting to stand up for our rights. Because over time she may not remember today, but she won’t forget that protesting is just a normal part of being a citizen.

So that’s my political rant for the day. Thanks for reading 😉




  1. Kasey says:

    LOVE this! I want to be one of your daughters! 😉

  2. Teresha says:

    It’s never too early to teach our little ones about democracy and engage them in civil disobedience! I was listening to the report on NPR and thought of you, so happy to see you in the middle of it. You rock!
    Teresha recently posted..Walgreens Launches Green Household and Personal Care Products Line

  3. You guys are the coolest. That is all.
    Leslie Arends recently posted..Party of Four

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge