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My Life and "The Seventeen Traditions"

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It’s not like his books on making the lives of the two parties who compose our two-party dictatorship miserable. It does not solely involve a charge to fight a good fight against those that discourage a democracy of more choices and more voices. It isn’t even about consumer safety. The Seventeen Traditions by Ralph Nader is a book that all should read and then use as a foundation for assessing one’s past life and re-imagining one’s future.

As I turn twenty today, I am fully aware of the fact that I am leaving adolescence officially and embarking into mature adulthood. Although the college student label has a way of extending childhood from 18 to 22 (not necessarily in a good way), my reaction to my birthday is more of a reaction to the elapsing of time---the fact that I am going from 19 to 20. It is not that I am afraid I will now have to mature.

During the last moments of my teenage years, I find it worthwhile to look at each of Ralph’s traditions and comment on the role each of his traditions have played in my life so far.

I. The Tradition of Listening

Ralph’s mother told him, “The more you talk, the less you will have to say. The more you listen, the more sensible will be what you say.”

I cannot say that anyone in my family ever put the importance of listening to me like that. Anytime I was scolded for not listening it was based on the thought of respecting parents and authority. I never really got that point until I started to see how other families had problems with listening like I did.

Listening, unfortunately, was never important to me in my years at home. I often consumed my time with instant messaging, video games, music, movies, and Internet web surfing of various sites (usually news sites and movie sites). The lack of attention to listening in one’s home only became worse with the invention of blogging.

While I did not uphold the tradition of listening in the way I should have at home, at school I found it to be a useful tool. In high school, I developed a sense of when to speak and when not to speak. I would choose whether or not to push the conversation forward or just let it go. I would choose when to speak up so that the conversation could become more pointed and more provocative than the personal responses students were giving (or lack of personal responses). My mind engaged and I was listening to what was said to truly question what peers in my class really were thinking.

Now, when I go to political organization meetings and even forums for open discussion, I wait to see where I can inject my brand of political and social opinion. It isn’t so much that I have views that are different from other people but that people are offering opinions that don’t really ever go far enough. To go deep beneath the surface of American politics, philosophy, social constructs, economics, etc. is imperative if we wish for a better future.

II. The Tradition of the Family Table

“The family table was an ideal place to teach us manners and respect.”

This fact was obvious in my home. Whenever I and my brother were at the table, we could always expect our mother to address on matters of manners and respect. I was always being told to chew my food, use my napkin, wipe my face, and hold my silverware correctly. Enjoying my food was of number one importance to me and oftentimes I just wouldn’t think about the way my indulgence looked to other people.

In contrast to Ralph’s family, my mother was always asking us what we wanted to eat. In the beginning of my life, I ate what was on the table and was not afforded that question. But later on I was always asked. In many cases, I was hesitant to answer because I did not feel it was my job to choose. I usually responded, “Whatever you’ve got is fine.”

For my mother, it was not easy for her to make meals. As a teacher, she was very much dedicated to her job and would not get home until 4:30 or 5 pm often. My father was never home until after 5 pm. My father always expected my mother to have something ready to eat. And my mother just couldn’t always whip up that special family meal for us all to eat at 5:30 (our regular eating time).

That said, the story goes that during the summers and Christmastime I was always grateful to have my grandparents or grandma around to cook. She has always had a fondness for cooking and special recipes. There are many family favorites that are mainstays for home cooking. Meals were always complete with her in our household. Until she moved from Florida to a house in our neighborhood, she was the cook.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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