“Obama never should have taken the soldiers out of Iraq.”
So opined my neighbor’s au pair, over dinner last week.
“Obama let the Iraq people down, because he promised that the US would protect their freedom,” she continued.
My neighbor choked on her caesar salad, fighting back the urge to scream “Stop watching Fox News!“
Swallowing a crouton whole, she opened her mouth to change the subject just as her 10 year old piped in, “Do you think Obama is a bad president? My mom voted for him.”
My poor neighbor. She loves her Au Pair, who is kind to their two kids, conscientious as a household member, and genuinely interested in being ‘part of the family.” That means her au pair loves to be part of the family conversations.
The problem for my neighbor is that she and her spouse are well-informed citizens with strong political views. For them it’s hard to know which part of this situation is more upsetting: Someone being factually incorrect (see note) or someone advocating a contrary view on ‘freedom’ might be accomplished.
When holidays like Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, and 4th of July come around, it gives us a chance as parents to talk with our families about our country, our culture, our history, our interpretations of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, taxes, and any one of a long list of politicizable topics that Emily Post has long warned us not to discuss in polite company.
We need to have these conversations in our families so that we can teach our children about being engaged citizens. These conversations are hard to have in general, and even more so when you want to include your Au Pair.
Our au pairs come from countries with their own politics, and the positions they hold at home may not map well onto the American political geography. For example, being a “Liberal” in the UK is not the same as being a ‘liberal’ here in the USA.
Our Au Pairs sometimes have limited experience with politics themselves. Their ideas may be new to them, and they might hold onto them so tightly that it’s hard to question the ideas without triggering defensiveness.
Au Pairs may also have a skewed and/or inaccurate understanding of American History. And, like my neighbor’s au pair, s/he may only get “news” from untrustworthy sources.
And, Au Pairs are living in your home. It’s not like you can hit the mute button if they say something annoying, or like they can just dismiss you without seeming rude.
So how do you manage it?
Do you try to have open conversations about politics in your family? Do you try to include your au pair?
Have you found ways to talk about tough national and international issues with your au pair?
note: What’s factually incorrect is the claim that “Obama took the soldiers out”. The agreement to withdraw US troops from Iraq was negotiated and signed by George Bush in 2008.
Image: by Thomas Hawk