He’s not “bad.”

Picked up the kids from school today. Our daughter got in and was rather quiet, while our son bounded in, excited to head to gymnastics class at the community center. Just as they were getting their seat-belts on, our girl started crying.

“Mommy,” she exclaimed, sobbing.

“What is it? What happened?”

“Today my friends said Barack Obama is bad! They said he was bad and I said he’s not bad, that he’s good, but they said he was bad. Is he bad?”

I could feel my heart start to race.

“He’s not bad, honey. Neither is the other guy, Mitt Romney, who also wants to be President. They’re just different, with different ideas. Neither one is bad.”

She named three children who were sitting with her at lunch. Ryan, who she recently told me “loves” her but not in a “boyfriend” way (???) said, “Barack Obama is bad because he just wants to be rich.”

Second graders are not always the most fully informed segment of the population.

I responded:  “Well, that’s just not true. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are both nice people. They both just have different ideas. Romney is a nice man, just like Obama. They both have nice wives, great families, they’re good dads, they’re both good people. They just have different ideas. You’re still friends with all these kids, right?”


“And I have friends who like Romney. But we’re still friends. And I worked for Barack Obama, to help him become President when you were little. That was my choice, it doesn’t make me bad or good. It just makes me somebody who likes Barack Obama.”

She added: “There were two girls besides me who think Barack Obama is good. Summer and Harlow say he’s good. But Summer’s mom says Obama is bad. Harlow’s mom says Obama is good. Emily says Obama is bad, and that Romney is going to win!” At this point there was some moaning.

“Well, maybe he will, maybe he won’t.” I said.

“Our teacher said we could choose who we liked and have a vote. I’m just going to choose Barack Obama.”

We pulled into the parking lot at the community center. She was calm again.

I’m not sure how her class election will turn out. But it has never been more important to me that President Barack Obama wins tomorrow. My daughter is watching.


not suitable for children?

About 8 years ago, a classmate of my nephew’s told him that John Kerry–who my nephew may have expressed a preference for over President Bush–was a “baby killer,” and that he shouldn’t like him. My nephew and the classmate? They were 8 years old.

Our daughter is nearly 8 now. I just received an Obama-Biden bumper sticker in the mail, and because of what happened to my nephew, because of the fact that many students and parents know who I am at the school thanks to my involvement with the PTA, I will not put that sticker on my car. (Instead, I have a silver button that I’ve put on my ubiquitous handbag. You have to get kind of close to read it: “Greater Together. Obama 2012.” So close that if one had a negative thought about it, I’d be able see it on one’s face.)

Our children know who the President is. I’ve taken them to his local campaign offices in 2008 and this year. They’ve listened to him speak, they’ve seen pictures of him meet their three Wisconsin cousins. They think he’s a nice person. The idea that another child might yell at them if they expressed that out loud–it pains me. It pains me as much as it pained me when I was six, when a boy on the playground told me I was going to hell for not going to his church.

Which brings me to this: consider the First Lady’s posting of this picture:

A woman I know responded to the First Lady with this: “This makes me sad. Most valuable lesson in life is to teach children to think for themselves, not for us to force our beliefs.”

I’m not sure what element of the picture evokes sadness or force, but given that I have pictures of my children at campaign offices and that my brother and his wife have posted pictures of their children meeting the President at campaign events, I think it’s safe to conclude that our actions would also make her sad. That she might consider the way we raise our children to be lacking in some capacity.

That pains me a little.

Our children do think for themselves. But we’ve taught them always to think of others first. The “others” they think of? Mom and Dad. Each other. Their family. Their friends. Seems pretty standard. Teaching your child what you believe, encouraging them to practice what you practice (and preach) politically, religiously, or culturally–I’ll accept that from any parent.

The most important lesson we can give our children? Treat others kindly, by accepting that others might view the world differently and make different choices than you, and by knowing that the power you have lies in your doing, not in your believing.

Beliefs can change. Actions can’t be undone.

where’s your head?

There are two ways to function in that final stretch before a national election in the United States, it seems.

1) hold your head up

2) keep your head down

Yesterday, a PTA parent and I were laughing about Saturday Night Live spoofs of debates–namely the riff on Al Gore’s “locked box” back in 2000. “The best thing about the political season are the jokes,” I concluded, diplomatically, as I didn’t know her politics and we were standing in the middle of the school’s lobby.

She unloaded. She’s tired of all the politics, she can’t hear it anymore.

  • Her parents and in-laws–they think President Obama is “worse than Hitler.” She told me how crazy they were, and I said, “Wow, worse than Hitler?”
  • She described how they think Mitt Romney is so generous, millions upon millions to his church, and how Barack Obama hardly gave any money, or under a million (no idea about the actual number). She told me she explained to them “You realize Romney has hundreds upon hundreds of millions at his disposal, and Obama doesn’t?”
  • She told me how they believe Romney is a solid CEO who can turn this country around, just look at Bain. She said, “I work for a company Bain owns. They just shipped a ton of jobs to India! To hear that Romney wants to get tough on China? Oh my God.”
  • She decries the attack ads, “Did you see the one about the woman jogging with her baby in a stroller? She’s crying about how nothing has changed, and her baby is sad too?” She was visibly exasperated. I said, “How bad can things be, she has time to exercise!” I made her laugh. So there was that.

We took a walk around the neighborhood last night with the kids. I saw several Romney/Ryan yard signs. No Obama/Biden signs. But I know there are Obama supporters in my neighborhood, keeping their heads down.

Read last night that somebody shot a gun through the window of the Obama campaign headquarters in Denver. Saw a photo of a guy at a Romney/Ryan rally wearing a t-shirt that said, “Let’s put the White back in the White House.”

There’s good reason to keep your head down.

I know, there are jerks everywhere. I have a very, very liberal acquaintances who use language I would never use  or repeat to describe those on the Republican side of the aisle. But there’s a difference between rude and frightening.

Romney can pretend, for now, to be the same moderate Republican that won him the Governorship of Massachusetts. He can offer, for now, just enough information to sound good. It’s why his poll numbers are going up. Most people, after all, aren’t rude or frightening. Most people prefer a semblance of reason.

But do most people pay attention? Or do most people grow tired and exasperated at this time of year?

Heads up, or heads down?