Thursday, November 17, 2011

Make A Choice & Use Your Voice

Russell Simmons, Alec Baldwin and Jay-Z are just a few of the celebrities that have taken to the streets (or Twitter) in response to the Occupy Movement.  This is one of the great things about our country.  You can find your own voice and express it, at whatever volume you choose- but know- there may be repercussions.

Do you remember the first opinion you had on a hot topic?  This got me thinking about mine…

My father grew up in a strict Roman Catholic household.  Church was attended religiously, and quizzes on the sermon content quickly followed.  My Aunt, the eldest of six, became a nun and my father spent a short time in the seminary, but left after they withheld his Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition.

When he married my mother, a non-Catholic, his parents said they would “love Protestant grandchildren just as much”.  They raised us as Catholics, but I use that term loosely.  My father took us to church on holidays but slept through the mass while my mom stayed at home wrapping last minute Christmas gifts or hiding Easter eggs.  Really, we were fair-weather Catholics.

To my mother’s credit, she did take our religious education classes seriously.  We were Baptized, received our first Holy Communion, and started the preparation to be confirmed.  That’s when sin stepped in.

During a lesson on the topic of abortion, my brother revealed that there were circumstances in which he was (gasp) pro-choice.  I wasn’t in the classroom at the time, but I’m sure you could have heard a crucifix drop.  Hours later, my mother got a call from the church questioning how her son was raised as such in a Catholic household, and suggesting that he attend one-on-one classes.

Long story short, my parents gave their son the option to move forward, and he declined.  Anticipating I would receive the same resistance for my own views, I withdrew as well.  Neither of us was confirmed.

Looking back now, I am thankful for how my parents handled the situation.  They encouraged us to have voices, and (usually) respected us when we did.  I’m hoping to practice the same in my own family.

Our society is so quick to discriminate and condemn those who do not fit our ideal.  Be it out of prejudice, ignorance, or simple fear of change, these are debilitating habits that halt communication, education and progression- not only of individuals, but of us all. 

We live in a country where, like it or not, celebrities have the utmost impact on society.  Yet so few of them are willing to use their political or ethical voices for fear their careers will suffer.  Justified or not, Brett Ratner losing his gig to produce this year’s Oscars is only the most recent example.

Whether as a parent, teacher, friend, role model- or even a stranger- I hope you find it in your heart to open doors rather than close them.  Otherwise, you’ll never know which “choice” you may have taken away from you.

Right now, my daughter’s voices are soft, sweet and innocent.  I hope they grow to maintain that beauty, but find the strength to be bold when they want to be.  Now I just have to figure out how to encourage that.