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Democracy Begins Within the Family

By Jennifer Bews

Democracy. It begins within our families. Dorothy Dinnerstein, an American philosopher, once highlighted that an important purpose of our families is to make sure we know, value and even love people we don’t agree with. Coming to realize that accepting and even loving difference, she said, is crucial for the future of humanity.

This concept can be challenging when coming to the dinner table with differing political, religious, or economic views. It is often the reason it’s difficult to show up for dinner with the opposing opinions of people who you may never otherwise have known or let alone been sitting down for a meal with. But these micro interactions can have global effects. 

Our children are watching and soaking in how spirited arguments are settled, and how we listen and learn from each other. It allows our children to see and understand that there are differing views which then encourages them to find their own voices and proves that diversity strengthens family and political systems.

Family dinners are also a time for children to see equality put into action. Who is making and cleaning up the nightly meals? Who is involved in the public and private spheres? Which family members are celebrated for their contributions, and which are rarely mentioned? We can’t underestimate the importance of the smallest of actions. When everyone is empowered inside the home, we’re also empowered outside the home. As Gloria Steinem, an articulate journalist and activist, pointed out, success is not a zero-sum game, and we all benefit from the differing examples of success in our own diverse natures. Allowing one another to be just as we are is the key to a brighter, more equitable future. It’s time we all show up to dinner and allow others to do the same.

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