I laughed myself to tears the first time my husband changed our daughter’s diaper. There he was, a wonderful father, with our little daughter on the bed, an open diaper…. and no supplies. Suddenly my husband was like a doctor performing surgery.
“Diaper and wipes, please, [nurse,]” he said with an outstretched hand.
I couldn’t help laughing. He looked at me, disgruntled and bewildered.
“Why are you laughing? I need help!”
It was true. He did need help. He needed help learning how to become an expert diaper-changer. Luckily my husband realized his only course of action was to learn, so he closed up the diaper, gathered the supplies, and tried again. I was, and am, quite proud of him.
I doubt anyone would describe diaper changing as fun, but you can get pretty good at it. As I change diapers multiple times a day, I can’t help but notice a parallel to politics.
Talking to some of my friends, I get the sense that many of them smell the political diapers, but would rather change a real diaper than engage in a political discussion. It’s totally understandable. But, I suspect that if we were a little better prepared, a little more ready to get involved, we could get pretty good at it too.
Okay, so in politics, what is a dirty diaper? In my mind, it’s pretty much any problem we face as a society. We can address these problems by breaking down what every expert parent knows you need before changing a dirty diaper; a changing pad, wet wipes, and a clean diaper. Pretty straightforward for most diaper changes.
1 – A changing pad protects your surface from getting stained, contains the mess, and keeps the baby comfortable. Political translation: when issues arise in our society, we need to provide a safe environment to figure out what’s wrong without creating lasting stains or harm, keep comments and feedback contained to the issue, and help everyone feel their voice is valuable and worth hearing.
What might that look like? Probably two years ago now, I attended a town hall meeting where the community discussed a proposed increase in taxes to finance a new library. Several people came with prepared remarks in support of the library. Others stood up to voice concerns about how the money would be spent. It was a good discussion. The coolest thing, though, was that everyone respected the comments of one another. That’s important. And I’m sure you witness examples within your own communities. It’s not too hard to find local civility.
It might be a little more difficult in the cyber world, but that still shouldn’t scare us. It might take time to build up our own safe environment. It will never come by shutting out opposing voices, but by modeling the behavior that creates a safe environment.
2 – Wet wipes clean up the mess. Some issues are messy. Sometimes it’s not a simple discussion about how much to spend on the library and it’s something far more emotional and polarizing. Still, there is a way to defuse some of those emotions blocking our view of the real problem. Bad feelings are good at alerting us to the problem, just like a crying baby reminds us that she might need a change. But if those bad feelings linger, solutions are harder to come by.
In the real world, I’ve seen this often in my individual discussions. When a friend is prepared with a wet wipe, she can help me clear away my knee-jerk emotions about messy issues. She doesn’t dismiss my feelings, but works with me to help me discover what’s truly underneath, and what really matters. Getting to that point makes it easier for me to move forward and identify constructive ways to be a part of the solution.
3 – Finally, with the bad feelings wiped away, we’re ready for a clean diaper. And not just any diaper. For my kids, I need to have a good, strong, sturdy diaper that prevents leaks. Diapers in this little analogy are like solutions, legislative or community-based, that help address the problem. For the messiest issues facing our society today, we definitely need the experience of people from all sides contributing to the solutions. This will lead to strong, sturdy answers to our problems that prevent future leaks. As I look back at the kind of diapers my mom used for her children, I guarantee that whoever is making diapers nowadays definitely consulted a lot of moms to make adjustments that really work. No more sticky tape!!
Just like my husband, it may take us a minute to realize what we need to do, but we can’t ignore the growing number of diapers filling up. These are real issues affecting real people and we definitely shouldn’t leave the solutions to politicians alone. There is only one course of action. So many political diapers haven’t been changed in a while. We all know what happens when you leave a diaper full too long. “Stuff” gets everywhere.
I can’t emphasize enough just how much politics needs a regular smell test. Is it chocolate or… ? Anyway, I digress. Let’s go change some political diapers!