Today, I’d like to talk about fishbowls….
No, I don’t mean the fishbowls that we would all split on a Thursday night at Niffers! (The thought of this disgusts me now, bless our college-age hearts.)
I mean this type of fishbowl:
We’ve all experienced the fishbowl effect. Sometimes we’re the fish, sometimes we are the cat. What has prompted me to bring up fishbowls on a blog that is about radical, open conversation and kindness? Well, if I had a flowchart that described my sister’s story, a flowchart that described my family’s story– so many aspects would come back to the fishbowl. In many ways, the fishbowl has afforded us incredible opportunities that we wouldn’t otherwise have experienced. In some ways, it has been more of a suffocating blanket of concrete than a safe place to swim.
The story of the photo of Malia Obama wearing a t-shirt of a cetain rap group has garnered a lot of attention. You can read a news account of it here: http://national.suntimes.com/national-world-news/7/72/443425/malia-obama-selfie/ I probably would have passed over the story, but my Facebook feed was chock full of links to blog posts and right-wing news sources. All of these links were blistering the Obamas. Their integrity, parenting style, and morals were not just called into question, they were persecuted! I realize that President and Mrs. Obama are held to higher standards than the average American, but their daughters were not on the ballot. They did not choose to run for office, they are just trying to figure out how to be a “normal” teenager in a very abnormal environment. Think back to when you were 16 like Malia…. Did you listen to music your parents hated? I did. I often would get in my car after Mom had driven it and would find my favorite Kilo Ali CD broken in half. I wanted a Greatful Dead car sticker because I thought the bear was cute and colorful. I didn’t know anything about their music. If I was a 16 year old girl, and I saw the offending t-shirt that the youngest Obama daughter wore in the photo, I would have wanted to buy it just because it looked cool. I wouldn’t have cared what it represented. I may be wrong, but I think it’s safe to assume that Malia thinks the same way many of us did at that age.
Having empathy for the Obama daughters is not difficult for me, and I realize that my perspective may be a bit skewed. Although my dad’s political career has mostly been confined to the great state of Georgia, I did have a little taste of a national media attack on him. In 1997, Sam Donaldson did a full-hour prime-time expose on the way my dad was running the prisons in Georgia. Dad told me not to watch it, but I was 16 (like Malia Obama), and I had a TV in my room. I sat there, my mouth agape, with tears streaming down my face for an entire hour. The portrait of the man that Mr. Donaldson was profiling was NOT MY DAD. Sure, he looked like my dad, and the interviews sounded like my dad, but it had been edited and spliced to make him look like an ignorant, redneck, monster. My daddy might have been a redneck, but he was the antithesis of an ignorant monster. I only have a small taste of what the Obama girls experience every day, and 18 years later, I still want to punch Sam Donaldson in the face.
Yes, over the years Griffin, Molly, and I have had to hear terrible things about our dad. We’ve seen people use my dad for different things, and then turn their backs on him when he needed their help. Everywhere we would go, especially in Carrollton, people knew of us as Wayne’s children. We lived in a fishbowl. The cat in the picture from above was any person around who was waiting on us to mess up so that they could spread the word! Luckily, Griffin and I made it past our mid-twenties. Our brains had time to develop fully, and we could reason through the realities of the fishbowl. We became adults who created a life outside of being “Wayne’s kid.”
Unfortunately, our Molly did not. As I have said before, (I think I’ve said it, but I continue to become more and more like my mom. Lately, that means forgetting why I walked into a room), there was no one cause of Molly’s death. Her story has so many intricate details that I am trying to pick apart through this blog. One of those details is definitely her fishbowl experience. I don’t know exactly what she was thinking, but I know what I would have been thinking. “What have I done to my family? People said my sister got cancer because Dad was a Democrat. People said my dad didn’t listen when Emily got cancer, so Griffin had a head injury. We still go to church with some of those people, what will they say about this?” Oh how I wish we had known. I wish I had told her that the fishbowl doesn’t matter. As our favorite lyricist T.Swift says, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate.” I wish I had shown Molly that you can get out of a fishbowl. I would have smashed the glass with a hammer, and raced that girl to a safer place, a fishbowl with opaque sides and a soundproof top.
Keep MollyROCK in your daily life. Open the lines of communication with your family early and often.
More than meat loves salt,
**** Special Note: When I was little my dad and I had this little dialogue almost daily:
Daddy: Who’s the smartest man in the world?
Me: My DADDY!
Daddy: What are you afraid of when you’re with him?
This is still truer than ever. While he has devoted his career to public service, he has dedicated his heart and soul to us. He dropped out of the Lieutenant Governor’s race when my brother was suffering from PTSD. He conducted media interviews from the lobby of Egleston so that he didn’t have to go far after I had major surgery. We always discuss his future steps as a family, and we wholeheartedly support him. In no way do I want this post to seem like he is being blamed. I just wanted this post to make people aware that children have ears. They hear what you say about their parents. They hear it, and it breaks them. You are free to have whatever opinion of a person you wish, but you don’t have to share the negative opinions with the person’s offspring. Also, some of you may be reading this who were the ones who said I got cancer because Dad was a Democrat. Shame on you. Shame on you. If God gave me cancer because of my Dad’s political affiliations, then I would hate to know what your parents did that made God make you mean. Cancer can be treated, meanness is forever.