For a culture that tries to pride itself on being free, open, multicultural, multiracial, and diverse, we sure can be a damnably judgmental lot. From religion to parenting, education to housekeeping, no matter who you are or what you do or how you do it, there seems to be somebody out there who is ready to make a judgement on it…usually a negative one.
The story I mentioned yesterday about the little boy who escaped his home in Lansing was full of judgmental comments. I even saw some among my friends, although some of those were retracted later. The foster mother slept in until 9 am! The six-year-old boy was in diapers! An autistic child got out of the house! All of these were obvious reasons to damn the mother, call in CPS (again!), remove the child (ALL the children!) immediately. None of these people knew this family. None of them knew her circumstances. Yet all of them were ready to rip her family apart and destroy her life over these things.
Is it any wonder that so many of us constantly second guess our actions, our entire lives? Particularly when it comes to parenting, where all it takes is one judgmental asshole to start a chain reaction that can rip an entire family to shreds and ruin lives, is it any wonder that some of us who live in the cultural borderlands constantly worry over whether we will be next? How dare she homeschool her disabled children! How can she not have her 5-year-old potty trained? How can those children survive emotionally in that pagan household? How can they live in such a dirty, messy house? How dare they keep their yard that way? How dare they smoke and drink when they have children? How can a blind parent possibly care for a child, much less six?
I started out wanting to shout, “You don’t know me! You can’t judge me until you have lived my life!” I have some more work to do before I truly get there. I still have the fear in me, the fear that somebody else’s judgement of me will lead to government involvement, to my family being destroyed. My husband thinks it’s an unreasonable fear, but I’ve seen it hit too close to home. I’m like a woman who personally knew that little girl on the evening news that had horrible things happen to her; it can’t help but color the way I think. Maybe it’s part of what colors my politics. As long as the government has the power to take my children away because of how I choose to live my life, I don’t feel free and safe. Anytime I think of the government having the power to do something, I try to imagine what could happen to me if somebody who didn’t like me or my lifestyle had that power. I don’t want anybody to have that kind of power over others. I don’t want any of us to have to senselessly live in fear, to have to constantly second-guess our actions based not on what is best for ourselves, but on what others might think.
And when I go out into public spaces, I don’t judge those I see. I stare at all the incredible diversity on display before me, and I wonder what it is like to live behind all those other sets of eyes.