Pinkish Green

construction paper scrapsBy Sarah at ProgressiveKid

I’ve been called many things in my life, including “leftie,” “bleeding heart liberal,” and a personal favorite, “animal lover.” I never minded being called any of these things and never understood, frankly, why the person saying them seemed to think they were insults, which has on occasion led to my replying, “Thank you,” followed by a silence mildly uncomfortable for all parties involved.

Just recently, however, the name calling occurred again with a different result: I was surprised. It was not that the names themselves were unfamiliar. To the contrary, they were some of the old, recognizable, and not altogether unwelcome names leveled on many prior occasions. What was surprising this time was the context of the name calling.

The context I’m referring to is my noncommercial website for kids, Kids’ Rock (http://www.progressivekid.com/kidsrock). This is a site my business partner and I, who both have educational publishing backgrounds, designed to help kids develop self-awareness and empathy. We were not trying to draw a line in the sand between political ideologies. In fact, we wanted to bridge the gap perceived in this nation between right and left, blue and red, conservative and liberal and to identify and work toward the vision thoughtful and compassionate people on both “sides” have for kids and the world: that of a more peaceful, more healthy planet where kids can grow to be more aware, responsible, and fully developed individuals. Specifically, we urge kids to develop the following attitudes and values:

  • love & protect living things
  • act on principle
  • strive to be self-aware
  • live healthfully
  • honor difference
  • challenge gender roles
  • think creatively

Given what I believed was the widely appealing nature of this list of values, I was puzzled when two social network taggers responded to the site with the following comments:

  • “You have to start indoctrinating little socialists when they’re young.”
  • “If you are trying to make your kids liberal kooks, this page is for you.”

It hadn’t occurred to me that these seven values might be considered liberally kooky and socialist. I even believed that some of them at least were rather conservative, such as “act on principle.” My elementary school textbooks encouraged such behavior under the guise that it was patriotic and democratic and, somehow, essentially American. Or “love and protect living things.” We are continually reminded by conservative Christians that it is our failure to protect living things, specifically fetuses and the terminally ill, that lies at the heart of our society’s moral corruption. And hadn’t people of many different political ideologies volunteered to rescue humans and dogs from rooftops in New Orleans or from the debris of tsunamis in Indonesia?

When, I wondered, did “think creatively” become a call to revolution of the red hue? Wasn’t it just an hour ago when thinking creatively (a.k.a. “thinking outside the box”) was the standard protocol for meetings in corporate offices across the country? Had corporate America become liberally kooky without my realizing it? Is it just the liberals nowadays, I wondered, who think that being self-aware is a good idea? And do conservatives think that trying to live in a healthy way is, like yoga perhaps, too eastern, which can oddly translate into Chinese and then, slippery slopily, into communist?

I put myself into downward dog (animal lover, see above) and meditated on the topsy turvyness of everything. And with all the blood rushing to my head and the upside-down view, I was eventually able to make some sense out of the muddle.

I first looked for the meaning behind each of the seven values:

  • Love & protect living things: Care about and for life.
  • Act on principle: Care enough about life and living things to participate actively in planetary concerns and to take purposeful action, even if it is personally risky.
  • Strive to be self-aware: Look within to understand your own humanness and to challenge yourself to grow and change.
  • Live healthfully: Care enough about your own body and your life to, well, care for it.
  • Honor difference: Recognize and respect the humanity in everyone.
  • Challenge gender roles: Perceive the difference between biology and societal influences and challenge the false restrictions imposed on our lives that limit our potential.
  • Think creatively: Consider new ways of doing things and embrace the change that results.

At the heart of all life is change—that idea came to me somewhat clearly, despite the unsettling numbness creeping up my arms and legs. From the moment life begins, it begins to change, and its beginning is itself a change. Throughout our lives, we grow, physically and emotionally, transforming from helpless to self-directed. We experience losses and joys, each one a change to the condition that preceded it. It was becoming harder to breathe because the pose, perhaps improperly executed, was constricting my airway, but despite this or perhaps because of it, I soon had my vision: Each of the seven values was about accepting and welcoming life and the change that characterizes it. Each was life affirming.

Although the reviewers had mislabeled my values, their comments were quite possibly an accurate reflection of their own beliefs, most likely that life with its attendant unpredictability is to be controlled and squelched, that change is to be avoided and feared, that anything life affirming is to be derided and, if possible, muzzled.

As I collapsed onto the mat, I understood that it was not that conservatives were attacking the values examined on our site. It wasn’t about left or right. The reviewers’ comments reflected a clash between people who value and defend life, in all its complicated forms and manifestations, and people who distrust it, devalue it, and negate it. We are always talking about ideology in terms of color: You’re either in a red state or a blue state. You’re either a red, maybe a pinko, or you’re red, white, and true blue. I can use color to describe this clash too. It is, I believe, quite clearly the difference between a complete absence of color—what happens when life is drained away—and the color green, the color of life.

©2007 ProgressiveKid. May not be reprinted or redisplayed without permission.

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