ignorance is by no means bliss

In recent years I went through the process of becoming my youngest son’s legal guardian. And while an incredibly skilled and gifted individual, as a young man with a few special, special needs, it’s important that another be involved in his personal, financial, and possible medical decisions going forward.

Noting that it’s slightly varied state-by-state, allow me to briefly describe what we experienced, which I believe to be comparable to other state processes. It took months, was a mountain of either actual or online paperwork, included visits and/or records of most every physician ever involved in his care, took multiple in-person appointments with the courthouse, attorneys, etc., interviews, and a few hundreds of dollars. Last but not least, once approved and all requirements were met, I had to attend an all-day class to be officially certified as his legal guardian. I had to do all this, as his mom.

To be clear, if any other would have desired to be my kid’s legal guardian, their process would have been almost, exactly the same.

Let that sit in for a moment. The 18 years I spent shaping, teaching, guiding, directing, disciplining, enjoying, investing in, caring for, feeding, funding, blessing, etc. — granted, all imperfectly so, as outside of heaven, there is no perfect parent — counted for absolutely zero. Zilch. Nada.

I can remember talking with a respected attorney early on in the process. More stupefied than offended, I questioned the credulity of what we were required to do. The legal process, the laws crafted and actions dictated by the governing authorities, were embraced and enacted in order to protect all wards from any potential abuse of care. Some who become the legal guardian of another take gross advantage of their role.

That scenario has continued to prompt extensive pause in me. It’s made me think about how law is crafted and how government proceeds.

Let me humbly rephrase. 

It’s made me think about who and what we prioritize when law is crafted and government proceeds.

How spurious to assume that as an active, engaged and pretty decent parent to my kid over the entire course of his life that I still needed one more course. How vacuous to disregard our family history so sweetly and diligently built in those previous 18 years. But I am not the one prioritized by the law nor government. The chosen priority of the law and government — and no doubt an understandable concern — but their chosen priority allowed them to ignore me.

That’s the tension here, friends. When we stand and cheer or tweet or whatever for singular sides of any debate, are we humble enough… insightful enough… shrewd enough to recognize how our passionate position often ignores someone else?

That’s my question: who are we justifying ignoring?

Who are we suggesting as a result of this law, what happens to them is lesser?

Who or what in our priorities, are we saying does not matter?

If we are going to stand behind the mantra and virtue that all lives really do matter, then we need to wrestle with who each of us is ignoring in the passions and positions we hold so conspicuously dear.

Before my guardianship experience, I remember sitting with a speaker, a little frustrated with his teaching, because he justified tailering his teaching to 70% of his audience. He gently but firmly said I needed to recognize I was in the other 30%. He then equated what he perceived as a lesser percentage with no need to pay attention to them. No need, dare I say, to respect or work to understand either.

Let me suggest that a wise and civic society does not ignore the 30%. With absolutely every issue facing our politically polarized and thus paralyzed public — from here to Afghanistan — we can’t ignore the others; we can’t count them as lesser. Unfortunately, though, to justify that ignorance, we often go further, demonizing different perspective and experience instead. Sorry, friends, but that feels even more foolish to me. Actually, inaccurate and unfair, too. Demonization is most often used to embolden our own position as opposed to wisely wrestle with all who are affected by what we’ve chosen to believe. 

Wisdom thus compels us to compassionately wrestle with the different. Wisdom makes us refrain from equating percentage with lesser. And wisdom requires us to not allow priorities to justify who and what we’ve chosen to ignore.

Ignorance is not bliss, my friends. It’s not wisdom either.