In my neighborhood, Diana Kline is making headlines. A slightly sad, overweight and middle-aged woman, Kline spends her days standing in front of our local elementary school. She holds a picture of a deformed fetus and shouts about murdered babies.
At first, I thought she was looking for a date or running for president.
Apparently she believes that children, those little beings who eat the contents of their noses and write letters to Santa Claus, are the perfect audience for a complex topic like abortion.
Cue hysterical parents and “breaking news” coverage.
Most of the kids have no idea what she’s talking about. They’d probably ignore the outbursts and quickly forget the entire incident if their reactive parents didn’t jump in front of news cameras and yell about being “shocked, outraged and demanding action.” A few of them even called the police to have Kline arrested.
I worked my way through college, in part, as a counselor at a woman’s health center. I held hundreds of hands and dried many tears as women endured what was, without a doubt, the most difficult moment of their lives. I arrived at work each morning to taunts, jeers, and threats from “pro-life” activists who seemed to live outside our clinic’s doors.
They, like Diana, made a mockery of their movement.
You see, I was raised in a family filled with strong women. Irish. Catholic. Adamantly against abortion. From an early age, I heard many well-reasoned arguments about the sanctity of life and why each and every pregnancy is a gift from God.
When one of my best friends got pregnant in high school, I came to my own conclusions and believe then, as I do now, that women need a safe and legal choice.
I have nothing but respect for thoughtful people who have come to different conclusions and conduct themselves with grace and dignity; and nothing but contempt for those who use this issue as an excuse to grandstand, spread misogyny, commit violent crimes, and control the rights of women.
Just because we are disgusted by Kline, doesn’t mean we need to match her bad behavior with our own.
Let’s not forget that she has every right to stand in front of that elementary school and shout out her views. She is protected under the First Amendment.
Besides, sometimes the best thing we can do for our side, is let the other side keep talking.
It’s unfortunate that some parents see it differently. Instead of displaying their own brand of grace and dignity, in one news clip, a father is seen shouting back at Kline and calling her a moron. I wish he’d stop. He looks and sounds as ridiculous as she does.
Many parents say they are livid that their children can see these disturbing images and hear a crazy woman’s uncensored ramblings. Why? A few moms and dads lament how difficult this is to explain to children. So what?
Talk about our country, freedom of speech, women’s rights, mental health, religious extremism and about a dozen other timely subjects that kids of all ages can comprehend. Who cares if it’s difficult? Children take their cues from us. If parents dismiss this incident and ignore the inane ramblings of people who don’t deserve our attention, our kids will do the same. If we sit together at the dinner table and talk about it, they will see there is much to learn from unpleasant interactions with people like Kline.
It’s really not a bad way to spend some time between coloring books and bedtime stories.
We live in a wonderful society where people can protest, and celebrate, all kinds of things. Focus on that. If we lack effective skills as parents to explain what’s happening, even when it’s difficult and uncomfortable, let’s not blame Diana Kline.
We should model tolerant behavior and not just support a person’s right to express themselves when we agree with them.
Pretty soon, Kline will move on. She will take her posters and taunts and find a new audience. If we talk about it with our kids and discuss what she represents, they’ll never forget the really important lessons.
That we’re stronger as a result – because it means we’re all free.