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Progressive Voice: Families Can Help Revitalize Democracy

by Progressive Voice May 17, 2018 at 3:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Arlington Blue Families parents

The cloud that passed over this country on Nov. 8, 2016 has brought with it a decidedly silver lining in the form of an energized progressive movement.

Nowhere is this energy more indispensable than with parents and their children who are coming of age in the Age of Trump.

Family is where moral and civic values first are learned. The core progressive values of empathy, tolerance, openness to new ideas and reason are under assault from our own federal government, and we parents can resist this attack through this easy three-step program.

Step one: Let’s talk values!

We can teach progressive values by connecting what our kids are experiencing in their day-to-day lives with the daily news. This, in turn, can encourage our children to be smarter news consumers. For example:

  • The latest #MeToo moment can lead to a discussion of how our children interact with their peers, from cyber bullying to dating.
  • Recent extreme weather and the current administration’s denial of climate change can spark a discussion of scientific evidence and facts as a basis for making decisions.
  • The criticisms of immigrants can lead to a discussion of your own family’s heritage and the diverse backgrounds of your children’s friends.

If you don’t already have a paper or online newspaper subscription, get one. Encourage your kids to interrupt their Minecraft YouTube videos long enough to consume 20 minutes of genuine news each day. Just about any news event can be turned into an age-appropriate teachable moment at the dinner table. Such discussions create a safe space for debate, disagreement and critical thinking.

Step two: Let’s get engaged!

Being a good citizen is a proactive commitment, not a passive privilege. Now that we’ve started a dinner table conversation and connected national events to our core values and everyday lives, it’s time to look outward and model civic engagement.

We’re in the DC metro area, and every weekend a protest is likely to be a short Metro or Uber ride away. We still remember the pro-choice rallies that our parents took us to when we were kids.

Nothing inspires engagement quite like seeing thousands of people in the streets demanding change. We hope that decades from now, our own kids look back the same way on the Women’s March, March for Our Lives and Climate March.

But all the protests in the world won’t matter if we don’t vote, and it is never too early to show your kids that their votes count. We want people with progressive values to be elected to help put those very progressive values in place. So take kids into the voting booth with you, and not just for presidential elections. In Arlington, we have primaries every spring and important elections every November.

Read about the third step after the jump.

Step three: Let’s volunteer!

Progressives believe in the political process. We believe in shoe leather, and we believe in listening to people. Volunteering is a hands-on way of teaching kids how to have an impact on issues that matter to them, and how to build and maintain a community.

Progressives also believe civic activism can be family-friendly and fun. Arlington Democrats’ Blue Families is one such initiative, focused on making sure that busy parents and their kids can still find time for civic action in a relaxed, social setting.

In addition to attending energizing rallies and marches, we host parties where parents and kids can write post cards, make phone calls and send text messages to voters to support progressives candidates — with a stop at the local ice cream joint as a reward for a job well done.

As parents know, kids best learn by doing. A family afternoon of civic action will stay with your kids long after they have wolfed down that giant soft serve cone.

Parents involved with Arlington Blue Families provided ideas and content for this column.

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