Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 32: Political Timeline

Mom (Present me): Okay girls, I guess this was inevitable. It’s time to talk about politics.

Bloom (High school me): What’s wrong with talking about politics?

Libra (College me): Were we avoiding the subject? We’re all reasonable people here.

Lark (20s me): Sure, but I get it, there’s only so much we can gripe about how big companies are allowed to screw us over.

Bloom (confused): Huh? I know there are bad managers, but if something really serious happens — that’s what the courts are for, right?

Lark (deadpan): Hah.

Mom: Okay girls, let’s pause. My politics have changed quite a lot over my lifetime, and I think it’s valuable for us to examine how that happened. We’ll probably do it again once your older sisters are around too.

Libra: Should we just go topic by topic, or…

Mom: We’ll go chronologically, talking about our worldview at a high level without getting too deep on any single issue. I don’t want us to get lost in the weeds — it feels more important to observe how our beliefs changed over time.

Bloom: I guess I’ll start then, though if I’m honest I don’t really know how important politics really is. I mean, I know it’s a big deal to politicians, but most people just live their lives, right? Everyone is doing their best, and thanks to past leaders, we live in a modern society that provides for our needs. Like I said, there are some “bad apples” so to speak, but the police find them and the courts bring them to justice. The main thing we need to be concerned with is living our lives and meeting our goals.

Lark (appalled): My goodness, did I actually believe that at one point?

Mom: I think so. It was a long time ago; I don’t remember my exact positions on many issues. But we grew up like a lot of the white suburban upper-middle class: In a racially and socially homogeneous culture. We come from a conservative-leaning neoliberal household in a wealthy white suburb, and we more-or-less absorbed the values of our surroundings. We believed that things like just society and equal opportunity already existed.

Lark: It’s not exactly difficult to find examples of government or corporate malfeasance. Thinking that way is almost embarrassing.

Bloom (upset): Hey!

Mom: Not exactly difficult for *you*, Lark. In addition to being a good deal younger than you, Bloom was building her worldview in the late 90s — before a lot of pivotal events in our lives, but also before we had access to high speed Internet. She didn’t have nearly as much information available to her.

Lark: Okay, that’s fair. But I know Libra did, so you must have a different worldview, right Libra?

Libra (uneasy): I mean, a little bit, sure. My view of the government changed for sure — A lot of things the Republicans did in the wake of 9/11 just made things worse, after all. But I think the biggest change in our worldview was abandoning the belief that to have a good life, you have to reach certain milestones at certain times.

Lark (annoyed): Hang on, that’s not that different! You had access to vast amounts of information with the Internet; what were you doing with it!?

Libra (equally annoyed): Uh, playing video games? You’re not that much older than me! Don’t you remember?

Lark (reflective): I… Huh. I did play a lot of video games, didn’t I? And I spent all sorts of time learning trivia or speculating on business ideas or just falling down bizarre Internet rabbit holes.

Mom: Right, we were never really that politically engaged. We had easy access to information, but even if we wanted to grow politically, we didn’t really know what to look for. Notably, the thing that really changed Libra’s worldview was an event that affected her purely on a personal level. Right Libra?

Libra (quiet): Yeah… My depression. I thought my life was coming apart because I wasn’t able to find a girlfriend, because then I wouldn’t be getting married before leaving college, and my entire future would be off track.

Lark (conciliatory): I really learned that lesson the hard way, didn’t I.

Mom: It was less us outgrowing our old belief and more smashing headlong into that belief and shattering it to pieces. That’s an ongoing theme throughout our life — our beliefs shift radically in response to things that happen to us.

Lark: For me that was starting my career and being exploited at my first job. I know we’ve talked about this before, but that’s where my belief in a just world really started to crumble. I started to realize some people don’t want the world to be a better place — these days there are enough resources for everyone to have enough, but some people genuinely don’t want everyone to have enough. That’s not a consequence of scarcity, it’s a conscious choice by people in power.

Mom: And so my politics started to drift leftward, a trend that continues to this day. For example, you still believe that Republicans are the main obstacle to progress, and that electing good Democrats is enough to keep our society moving forward.

Lark (surprised): Wait, you don’t believe that anymore?

Mom: Oh goodness no.

Lark: So wait, what happened?

Mom: I don’t want to tell your older sister’s story…

Bloom (agitated): But she’s not here yet! Why do this at all if we’re not going to examine our entire history!?

Lark: And what does this have to do with men being assholes? That’s how we got on this topic to begin with, right?

Mom: I didn’t say men were assholes. We did this to illustrate that our views change most radically in response to major changes in our life. There was a major change in my life that caused a big shift somewhat recently.

Libra: Gender transition.

Mom: Exactly. And I’ve seen things none of you have yet, like watching a woman’s career get dismantled by a powerful man or a determined mob, or watched unqualified or hostile men rise to positions of prominence despite women speaking up against them.

Lark: You mentioned that before, but there are always a few really bad apples. That’s not new.

Mom: It’s not about bad apples. It’s about a bad system that allows men like that to flourish. It’s a system that allows good intentioned men to do lots of harm simply by working in their own interests or following their own judgment, since they can effortlessly draw influence away from the women in the room without even noticing it’s happening.

Lark (uneasy): I know I was living as a man back then, but I did my best not to feed into that system! I think that’s worth something.

Libra: Are we still talking about our political timeline?

Bloom (tired): My head is starting to hurt.

Mom: Okay… Okay. I think this is important, but I understand it’s a lot to take in. Why don’t we all take a break for now and we’ll wrap this up after a while.

Bloom (relieved): Yes please.