Monday, January 28, 2008

A Civics Lesson from My Seven Year Old

I considered live-blogging tonight's State of the Union address but, honestly, I plan on raising a rueful toast's President Bush's last State of the Union and, frankly, it's been a long 8 years. So I say good riddance to bad rubbish and will instead turn my attention to the contest to see who gets to give next year's State of the Union, a much more promising prospect than tonight's dog and pony show.

One of the big reasons that I have been exposing JT to politics this year is so that he will have memories of the 2008 presidential race. I want him to begin to view citizenship as both a privilege and a right. He knows the major candidates; he knows what they believe. He knows how I plan to cast my ballot(and why I feel the way that I do) when New Jersey participates in the Super Tuesday primary on February 5th.

He also knows that we have to wait another year to send President Bush packing. I have explained the primary election process to him and we have discussed the primaries as they have unfolded. The other day, he asked why the primaries are now and why George Bush won't be going away for several more months.

This question gave me pause. I know the answer, but how do I explain the front-loaded, costly, drawn-out American electoral landscape in terms that a 7 year old can understand?

I took a breath and prepared to wade in. But before I could offer an explanation, JT said, "Well, I guess that there are a lot of people in 50 states and if you want to be president, you should go to every one of them."

And, you know, that's a pretty good answer. My 7 year old was reminding me that elections are important and are worthy of our attention, perhaps even our drawn-out attention. American democracy is sometimes a spectacle, but it's still the greatest show on earth. I'm proud to share it with my son, just a my parents (and grandparents) shared it with me. I'm still not convinced that long, drawn-out and untidy primaries are a good thing. But I know that the alternative to our messy but free election is surely not an option.

1 comment:

J.Bro said...

It's fantastic (and, in another way, pretty sad) that he's much more knowledgable *and* interested in the process than Missy's recently-turned-18 year-old sister. I tried to explain Obama's win in South Carolina to her, but her response was, "So is the president now? Then so what?"

Or maybe she just has a longer-term view of politics than I do. Somehow, I think that's not the case.