Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Being Radical, Being Traditional

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When David and I decided to have a child together, we both were politicized in a new way: an intensely personal and traditional way. The experience of raising a child made me more aware of the importance of taking one's ethics deeply into one's day-to-day life choices. I had a home birth, breastfed my son for three and a half years, and chose to unschool/homeschool him.

The funny thing for me was realizing that what I defined as radical parenting was exactly what our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had done. What I began to realize is that contemporary culture had taken away experiences that had naturally belonged to women--often in the name of convenience and modernity. These moments which had previously belonged to real people (and to their friends and communities) were now too often controlled by corporate medicine. It seemed like a radical act just to remember our past and learn lessons from our grandmothers.

In 2005, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured the theme of Food Culture USA. Suddenly, it became clear to me that those traditional-radical decisions I made regarding parenting had their parallels in all aspects of my life. I had been assuming that those decisions were entirely private, but it now became clear to me that these radical traditions were my personal source of power in the public world.

I had long since absorbed from my hobby-farmer grandmother that dietary fiber is at the heart of moral fiber. Now at the booths on the National Mall, I was realizing how many other people had learned this same lesson and played out its truth way beyond where my own mind had taken me.


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2 comments:

C Meir said...

You subversive! I'm telling the culture police where you live...

WENDY BANDURSKI-MILLER (nee Callard) said...

That same thought has occurred to me many times..... Seems to me a scary thought that home schooling, good fresh home cooking, making family central to your life is considered RADICAL....and even worse..... not mainstream...seems mainstream took a wrong turn....

But then i guess what is traditional IS radical....in a contemporary western world..... i think i might be radical too :)

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