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December 09, 2020

what my protest looks like

In recent months, scratch that, in recent years, I’ve felt the nagging responsibility that I should be doing more about the things I believe in and support. Of course, I vote, call/write my representatives, and donate money to a variety of organizations. More often, though, I get mad at myself for not having thousands of followers on Instagram or Twitter that I can influence with a picture or short quote. I get mad that I haven’t donated blood or delivered food to a family in need. Especially during the pandemic, when I know that staying home and isolated with my family will keep my neighbors and community safe, I am mad that there are people that won’t listen, and I can’t do anything about it.

As someone who is interested in science, believes in science, and is learned in the science of human behavior, I know that people are inherently good, and that there are more good people out there than bad (or shall I say resistant). Psychologists spend careers and lifetimes looking at exactly why human behaviors deviate during the life-course from inherent prosocial behavior to egocentrism, with many theorists suggesting that degrees of separation contribute to societal disconnectedness. I feel, however, that a growing sense of anger in the world contributes greatly to this feeling. I can see a clear divide between the haves and have-nots; I am one of the haves, and that too contributes to my guilt and anger with myself. “What can I do?” I ask myself. 

Well, I have come to realize that my main and great contribution to this world will be my two children. Much of what I can’t do is because I am spending all of my time (not an exaggeration) making sure that my children, not only not become brutes, but that they become true leaders, caretakers, moral citizens of society and the world at large. My protest involves speaking to them about the color of skin and the invention of race by European settlers of the North American continent. I talk with them about culture, gender, socioeconomic status, inclusion, exclusion, love, emotions, the importance of vaccinations, when to say “no” and when to say “yes,” giving, sharing, caring for all animals, the environment, recycling, not wasting, and emotions like empathy, sympathy, pride, shame, anger, sadness, frustration, overwhelm, happiness, and love. And, it doesn't stop there because everything relates to everything else and there is very often no black-and-white answer. For instance, gender equality doesn’t necessarily mean equality in numbers (look at the influx of new right-leaning Congresswomen that will not defend a woman’s right to choose). Gender equality means upholding the unassailable rights that are fundamentally yoked with biological gender and our elected identities (this was a true conversation I had with my four-year-old) …and he got it! I read scientific articles on child development and have in fact devoted my second career to the subject of raising good human beings, because I am passionate about people and our propensities to enact moral deeds. I believe that is in large part a consequence of parenting, and regard family policy measures as fundamental in nurturing moral citizens.

My protest is small, but no less important in my eyes. I voted from abroad for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and I will continue to call/write my representatives in my state of Kansas. I will one day join a march again, and one day I hope to hands-on influence policy. In the meantime, I will continue my protest. I will continue to exemplify open-mindedness, self-critique, and a heart full of love for all. I will continue to teach my children these values, and the incalculable consequences of single decisions made on a daily basis. My protest doesn’t get a lot of likes (in fact the two people involved usually don’t like it), nor views, nor public awareness. Therefore, I say thank you to all of you who are influencing through posts, videos, and leadership action. Thank you to the policy makers, actually making fair and just policy. Thank you to the doctors and nurses who everyday battle a virus that is denied by too many. Thank you to the donors and philanthropists that underwrite positive action. And just to let you know, along with all the work being done on the front lines, in the government halls, and on the streets, there is work being done in my home as well, in the hopes that my protest will help make this world a better place.


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