I can’t say I’m feeling that engaged, although feeling slightly dislodged from the process would never prevent me from voting. That’s because I’m middle-aged and highly aware that, about fifty years before I was born, women protested, were imprisoned, tortured and even died for the ‘privilege’ of voting and having a voice. That’s how I feel, anyway. It isn’t so easy to persuade my teenage son to do the same.
If you’re going to speak publicly, at least know what you’re talking about
‘Why should I vote when I have absolutely no idea what they’re going on about?’ he said when I tried for the third time to make sure he wasn’t going to waste his first opportunity at having his say. ‘Find out what they’re going on about,’ I said, knowing full-well this was easier said than done. I’m still working on him (on and off).
Using voice and passion in order to protect a principle
Thing is, I know that my son does (kind of) know what ‘they’re going on about’, because I know that he has political opinions. How do I know this? I know it because he has been expressing them since he was a child. In the event of a perceived injustice, major world incident or media storm he has brought forth his opinion, and has asked questions whenever he desired greater understanding. For my 19-year-old son to be so disinterested in politics says more to me about ‘politics’ than it does about him, even if I don’t always agree with his opinions. But there is one incident from about five years ago that I will never forget, when my son used his voice and his passion in order to protect a principle, and for which he needed no encouragement.
The art of public speaking is saying something that’s true, real and right
It was during rehearsals for a local amateur dramatics production of ‘Oliver!’ and my lad was taking a break with some of the adults. One of them, a society stalwart and regular ‘matron’ made the comment that she disliked the practice of using black actresses for the part of Nancy. Her reasoning was that there were no black people in Victorian London, so why would they do that? For my son, then 14, this was so wrong on so many levels that he couldn’t help himself. In an adult-heavy and quite parochial environment, challenging such assumptions was usually the arena of other adults … only nobody was sticking their neck out … not all that surprising, actually, as this particular lady wasn’t the easiest to argue with and keeping quiet made for an easier life. Not my son. Already a keen performer, he decided to put his voice to further good use and tell her just how wrong she was. After a speech about how not only were there lots of African and African/Caribbean people in the UK in Dickens’ time, if you restrict ‘white’ parts to ‘white’ people, you’re just plain racist – she didn’t know what to say, and was saved by the director’s call.
Perhaps that’s the problem with politics for my lad. Perhaps it’s too full of middle-aged people saying stupid things about stuff they know little about. They don’t seem to know the rule – If you’re going to speak publicly, at least know what you’re talking about. Perhaps, for him, the art of public speaking is saying something that’s true, real and right. That’s my boy.