One of the reasons I love history, research, music, and various other arts and crafts is because they fuel my natural sense of curiosity. I am definitely the type of person that walks away from a documentary, movie, book, or even a conversation and instantly jumps on the internet because I want to learn more about some obscure person, place, or event. I even process my knitting and crochet this way. For example, I am currently working on the “Bohemian Oasis” blanket pattern for my daughter as a gift. I actually memorized the pattern by first processing the reason why certain crochet stitches came in the order they did–for example, a slip stitch coming right after a double chain, or two single chains between five double chains. (If you’re curious as well, the slip stitch seems to form an anchor from which to begin three single chains. And, the two single chains form the corners!)
This natural curiosity also ties in well with my job, where I am often called upon to research, comment, and provide recommendations on highly technical issues or policy documents.
And, as much as I love digging my teeth into some obscure fact or point of policy…it drives my family nuts. Because, this means that when something of importance doesn’t feel right, I challenge and question it, even if it involves them and escalating the issue to the executive level.
The last two days in particular have been challenging when it comes to questioning things that other folks seemingly accept as the status quo. First, I am dealing with an aging parent who resides in a nursing home for a variety of reasons, including a severe degenerative disease and mental illness. The combination of these two issues makes dealing with both my parent and the nursing home trying sometimes. Not, that the nursing home is bad. They’re really not. But, I don’t take it well when they call me on the phone and tell me things that I know to be blatantly incorrect. And, then there is the public education system. My son started school and I received some papers that contained language that demanded that I discuss certain curriculum-related things with my child, sign the document proving that I had these discussions, and then have him return the document to the school. And, if I didn’t do these things the document claimed they could prevent my child from participating in the state-mandated curriculum. HOGWASH!
I immediately fired off an email to the school informing them that (a) they could not dictate what conversations I have with my child; (b) I did not need to prove to them what I do with my family in my home and on my time; and most importantly (c) they absolutely had no grounds to restrict my child the ability to participate in state-mandated education simply because I refused to sign their silly “parent/student” contract. (I used much more professional language, of course, in my email.) The upshot of all of this was I was right – and the school backed down with barely a whimper. But, I know my son was annoyed with me, because he had the teacher asking him for the document and the principal pulled him out of class to clarify something with him. (It wasn’t a big deal – and the principal was kind, but 13 year olds are easily embarrassed.)
This brings me to the point of this blog entry. People get away with a lot today. They lie. They spew twisted facts to serve their own bigoted and racist schemes. They take the lazy and easy way out by making unsubstantiated bold allegations (I like to call those UBAs-oobahs 😊) in the hopes that no one will challenge them. And, the sad part is, most people don’t challenge it. At least not the small stuff. If someone in authority–a nurse, doctor, teacher, executive, politician, columnist or news anchor, or bureaucrat–makes a statement, everyone tends to assume that this person is correct. And, often, even when something doesn’t feel correct or accurate, nothing is done about it, because the person on the receiving end of the statement doesn’t want to “make waves” or thinks it is just a small matter, and they have ‘bigger things to worry about.’ Or, sometimes they’re afraid that that person that issued the statement wields tremendous authority and can retaliate, making things difficult.
Guess what. Those small things quickly snowball into big things because no one does anything about it. A school district gets away with issuing non-binding so-called “contracts”, threatening to pull a child from a curriculum because no one challenges it. A nursing home starts billing the family for services the family is not financially obligated for. One has to ask–what else are they getting away with because no one is standing up to them?
Worse yet, we sometimes fuel this seemingly innocent behavior because it makes for a good show. People watch endless hours of ‘reality’ TV with people doing outrageous things and making outrageous statements and see no issues with it. This is how the abnormal suddenly becomes normal. The next time someone does or says something outrageous, it doesn’t quite feel as bad as the first time they did it.
If decency, fairness, and fact are important to you, practice questioning and challenging everything. And, teach your children the same. Do not accept any part of any statement as “ok”. Don’t tell yourself, “This is a small matter and I have bigger things to worry about.” If we all did a better job of challenging authority with the small stuff, we may not have as many people getting away with the big stuff.