*Mild spoilers ahead
Recently we watched season four of House of Cards. Once again a true pleasure. Repulsive as the behaviour of the main characters Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) can be, the makers of the series do an impressive job at attractively and intriguingly presenting some of the darker aspects of human nature. And it scares the hell out of me to read in reviews that the series is actually not that far from reality.
But that aside. What will most stick with me from this series is the scene with Claire Underwood and Hannah Conway (Dominique McElligott) in the White House. The scene in which Claire Underwood, is pretending to be nice (or that is how I see it), by complementing Hannah Conway on the behaviour of her son.
It wasn’t the false compliment that struck me (and isn’t that something we so often do, saying something nice when we don’t mean, just to be polite).
It was the Claire Underwood’s simple answer – actually a question – when Hannah Conway asked, ‘Do you ever regret not having children?’
Claire answered with a straight face, and countered with, ‘Do you ever regret having them?’
Masterful. So simple and so effective. I wished I could have come up with similar answers earlier in life.
Don’t get me wrong. It is not my intention to express an opinion on whether or not having children is better. And yes I realize, it is not always a choice, to have or not have children. And that it, even if you regret having them, it is inappropriate and almost impossible to admit that regret. And yes, I realise that even Claire Underwood, like many more women who have chosen not to have children, is not entirely free from an internal struggle in this respect.
What I thought was so brilliant about the scene is how by simply countering the question, she manages to challenge the norm. And that, with such a simple action, you can make others aware (and uncomfortable judging by the expression on Hannah Conway’s face) of how impertinent it can be to question someone else’s choices based on your own convictions and beliefs of what is right and wrong, and what is the norm according to you.
It reveals how uneasy it can be to be questioned about the choices we make, how annoying it can be to be asked repeatedly for an explanation, especially if your choices are different from what is seen as the standard. And how difficult it is to understand one another, when just reasoning from your own perspective.
And it exposes how often we don’t take the time to reflect on important decisions and acts in our lives. How often we are caught up in doing the things we think we are expected to do, or do them in fear of being different and excluded. With the result that we restrict ourselves in exploring other ways to live and organise our life.
What struck me about the scene is that by just simply questioning each other’s choices from our own, known perspective, and by sticking to what we think works and is the norm, we keep ourselves stuck where we are, and keep on creating more of the same.
I don’t deny that there is a lot of which we can be proud. That said, together we also create outcomes we will not be able to look back on with pride.
In the case of Claire Underwood and Hannah Conway, it was about children. In many other cases, it is about choices that affect how we live together and care for each other and the environment in which we live. It is about the possibilities of living our lives in a way that might provide all of us – and not only a few – more chances to live a peaceful life, feel nurtured and experience more freedom and support to live the life we want to live.
To be continued…