Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nora for President

I am not a political person. 

I know a lot of people think that's kind of a cop-out these days. It's not that I don't have opinions on political matters or decisions - I have opinions, I vote in elections, I somewhat pay attention to what's happening in the world around me (= I mostly listen when my husband spews off bits and pieces of updates on current events and headlines and tweets, at least until my eyes glaze over and I start thinking instead of how delicious an ice cream cake would be right about now......), BUT, I typically refrain from making any big political statements on social media or in public or in private, or, ever. I feel like four years in Berkeley just kind of drained every ounce of any bit of political activism out of me.... there were more than enough other people around me on that campus and in that city who were really good at it and could cause more of a scene than I could ever DREAM of.

This will probably be the first - and only - vaguely political post I'll ever write. So if you're into that, I'm sorry. You can return to Facebook or Twitter or just about anywhere else on the internet after you're done reading this and I'm sure you'll get your fill of it. 
Or, if you're like me, and you're not into that, then - you're welcome! 

So here's my big statement.... ready?

You know that "you must be at least 35 years old to run for president" rule? 
I think we need to change it. I think we should change it to only allow presidential candidates under the age of 10. If you're too old to order from the kids' menu, then you're past your prime and too old to run this country responsibly. (...and since we mentioned it, why MUST you be a kid to order from the kids' menu, anyway? who are THEY to decide who can or can't eat a child-sized portion of food? isn't this some form of discrimination? agism? that's a thing, right??...and what if I just really want to color while I'm waiting for my dinner? ....I digress. This post has apparently ignited my long-dormant inner-activist.)

How does this make any sense? I'll tell you how. It's very simple.

I'm constantly reminded by my six-year-old just how EASY it can be to be a good person. Just a decent human being that knows right from wrong. Kids understand morality at the most basic level and in the simplest terms; it's honestly shocking how we - as a society of so-called "grown-ups" - can screw it up so royally.


Over the last few months, I've introduced Nora to the "American Girl" series of books that I read as a kid. If you're not familiar (I feel sorry for you!!), the 'original' American Girls were five 9-10 year-old fictional girls that each grew up in a different era in American history. There was a doll for each girl, and each one had a series of books that told their stories. (Note there are now like a billion American Girl dolls you can buy.... apparently tons of different 'modern' books now... I've completely lost track and choose to just shield Nora from the billion newer dolls and book available... she seems quite content with my hand-me-down doll and books, and these things are freaking expensive.) I had Kirsten, who was a Swedish immigrant living in the midwest in the mid-1800s. We have all six of Kirsten's books, which we read first. I forgot how intense parts of these stories were - and the fact that I read them when I was 10 or 11... after learning at least a little about some of these parts of American history in school - unlike Nora, at 6 years old, who is now scarred for life that Kirsten's best friend Marta dies of cholera on the boat ride to America from Sweden, about 15 pages into the first book. She still asks when Marta's coming back. (At her age, I realize I was already an Oregon Trail veteran and cholera was no big deal - no worse than your entire family dying of dysentery or snake bites.) I also had a couple of books from each of the other girls/dolls. Lately, we've been reading some of Addy's stories - Addy is a former slave living in Philadelphia at the end of the Civil War. Again - some pretty heavy topics come up throughout these books - slavery, racism, discrimination, war - and for Nora, this is really her first introduction to this period in American history. At the very end of each of these fictional books is a section called "A Peek Into the Past" - a few pages about what everyday life was like in America during the times in which the story is set, with actual photos, and historical facts, figures, and events. Nora always wants to read this part and always has a thousand questions. At the end of the most recent book, which is set just after the end of the Civil War, it talked about segregation, 'separate but equal', Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights movement, and voting rights. Nora was in disbelief. She couldn't get over the idea that people would be treated unfairly (much less enslaved) just because they had a different skin color or looked differently. She said very matter-of-factly and without even thinking: "That doesn't make sense, because - people can't choose what color skin they have, they're just born with it." I don't know if I've ever had a prouder moment as a parent.

When we got to the mention of voting, we talked for a minute about how for a very long time, only white men were allowed to vote. Then after the Civil War, (some) black people were also able to vote, and years later, women were finally allowed to vote. (I understand this gets much more complex, but again, she's six - so had to stick to the key points.) She had the hardest time comprehending how this made sense, and I couldn't decide if I felt heartbroken trying to explain that this was our country's actual history, or if, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I felt my heart fill with love and hope for the fact that she, as a first grader, knows at her core that this is not how people should be treated and that there's something inherently wrong with this way of thinking. She knows that human beings are human beings and should be treated with fairness, kindness, and respect. And she, and millions of kids just like her, are our future. 

I am hopeful. 

Oh, and..... disregard the crown in her self-portrait.... she hasn't yet learned that presidents don't get to wear a crown. Or maybe she actually wants to be a monarch.... this may change my outlook a bit.

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