When does my opinion get counted?

Published 11:04 am Friday, July 10, 2015

by Mary Ann Clark

I’m all dressed up and have nowhere to go; and Lord knows, I love a party.

I keep waiting for someone, or some nationally recognized group or even the media to throw me the biggest party you’ve ever seen; to shower me with praise. To tell me what a great job I’m doing “being myself and living my life my way. You’re great just the way you are and girl, you just keep on flying your flag!”

I’m guessing the invitation got lost in the mail.

Somewhere in the beautiful fabric of this nation we have given way to the idea that anything goes. It’s funny… I believe our founding fathers kind of felt that way, too. They created this genius document called the Constitution. This document gives us the right to actually do all of these things that people are all but demanding a parade for these days; or the choice not to. It gives us the choice of free speech; or not. It gives us the right to bear arms; or not. It give us the right to worship the way we choose; or not. It’s also fixed a lot of problems in this country. It’s overturned slavery, segregation, the non-existence of voting rights for women or African-Americans. This document has been amended over time to reflect these issues.

What’s interesting and pretty disturbing to me is the fact that we are now showering people with praise and justification for making poor life choices; choices they did or did not make because it didn’t “feel good.” See in my house growing up, there weren’t a lot of “choices.”

There were rules. (1) You will respect your mother and father; (2) You will do as you are told; (3) You will go to church; (4) You will attend school and do the very best you can; (5) You will be clear, in that we are in control of the money, the discipline, the fun, the friends, the exposure, and the participation in every single thing you do until you turn 18 years old; (6) You will cut the grass and stack wood. (I guess a little manual labor never really hurt anyone.) Oh, and when you do turn 18 years old, you can gladly make your own decisions just make sure you are 100 percent self-sufficient in every way — otherwise rules 1-6 will still apply. As a result of rules 1-6, along with a whole bunch of other ones, we were loved, we laughed and we never went to bed hungry; we developed a set of core values that continue to guide us today.

Were they perfect? No. But I find myself today, as a result of Rules 1-6, able to support my family, educate my children, know the value of hard work, hold my tongue when necessary, have faith in God and know right from wrong. Again, the Constitution gives us all the right to make our own rules in our own homes within the confines of the law.

I just checked the mailbox and the invite still hasn’t come; nor have the local TV stations called to interview me.

This country has some serious thinking to do. Now, first let me be clear. I do not approve of homosexuality, transgender assignment, government handouts for those who choose not to work, gay marriage, racial extremism of any kind or violence. Because I do not approve of someone’s life choices does by no means indicate that I “hate” it. I do not hate you because you are married to another man. I do not hate you because you are violent or lazy. I don’t like coffee ice cream either, but I don’t hate you because that’s all that’s in your freezer. I have very dear friends from all walks of life. People I would go to hell and back for if they needed it; Gay, Straight, Black, White, Rich, Poor, Atheists and Christians alike. Many folks may call what I’ve just described above as “labeling.” Here’s an interesting concept: it’s funny to me how we like to pick and choose our labels. We label ourselves with Louis Vuitton or Lily Pulitzer; John Deere or Chevrolet and practically beg people to notice. But if someone labels us based on our actions or opinions, then, folks, now we have ourselves a problem.

Ahh, now your cake is being served and we are all very intent on eating it. I was going to have my cake and eat it, too at this party, but I guess I’m not going and my shoes are starting to pinch my feet.

I go back to our Constitution. It gives us the right to choose what to believe in — or not. Have you ever really given any thought to that? Nowhere in that Constitution does it say: “There shall be agreement in thought and acceptance of any and all behavior no matter your core values.”

This country is offering praise to almost everyone right now. We’re dishing out “Atta-Boys” to everyone with a cause. I would like to issue a thank you raising your children in a two-parent house hold — even when staying married can be tough sometimes. Thank you for giving your children a spiritual foundation. Thank you for biting your tongue. Thank you for working until April of the calendar year to pay the taxes (or a portion there of) for the people that opt out of working. Thank you instilling manners and respect in the children you will be turning out into this world in a few years. Thank you for teaching your children to walk away and not fight. Thank you for teaching your children that life won’t always “go their way” and that you can learn just as much from being picked on, failing a test or losing a championship ballgame as you can being the coolest kid in school, being a Straight A student or winning that same ballgame. Thank you for teaching them that even though you may not always agree with someone’s choices, you will be kind and respectful and an overall decent human being. Thank you for teaching them that their behavior in facing adversity builds their true character and will be the lessons they remember the most.

Chances are at no time in the near future will I get an “Atta-Girl” for any of the things I have just listed above. (Insert Selfie-High Five here…..)

Here’s the deal folks… You don’t GET TO DECIDE my opinion nor do I get to decide yours. What I believe to be a great concept is actually talking about it, asking questions and trying to learn from someone who is different in some way than I. My opinions are not just randomly selected out of air. They are based on experiences. Real life ones. I’m a 40-something college-educated woman that has worked in the private sector for over 20 years. I have seen racism first hand, and it is purely wrong. I have witnessed harassment, intolerance, ignorance, laziness, emotional incompetence and just sheer stupidity. I have also witnessed all of the goodness life has to offer: generosity, thoughtfulness, joy, pain, love and kindness. None of those things materialized because a person was black, white, gay, straight, northern, southern or any other label you can put on them. They materialized because of who YOU decided to be at that very moment. A good person. An American.

I’m going to give this invitation thing another day or two to show up and then I’m going to have my own little party. You’re welcome to join me.

Mary Ann Clark is a Capron resident, and her email address is mclark@luckstone.com.