From the Mouths of Babes
Last night I got an email from Vice President Joe Biden, asking for my support over the next four years. OK, so maybe it was a form letter, sent to everyone on the White House's email list, anyone who has ever donated money to the Democratic Party, or signed a petition, or posted "Yes We Can!" on Facebook. But it was still pretty nice to see "Vice President Joe Biden" in my inbox. Yeah, I'm so cool that the Vice President of the United States sends me emails. You think he reads my blog?
Yesterday I dragged my daughter to the One Million Moms For Gun Control Rally at City Hall. Hey, she had no school. And it was Martin Luther King Day. And I, like hundreds of other mommies, saw this as the perfect opportunity to teach my child about important concepts like non-violent protest, working to change the laws you don't agree with, and standing in a large crowd in the cold waving a homemade sign.
Me: "We are going to a rally in the park."
Maya: "Whats that?"
Me: "Its when a bunch of people all get together to talk about how they don't like a rule and they want it to change. This one is a lot of mommies who don't want people to have guns. They meet and talk and sometimes they hold up signs."
Maya: "Can I make a sign?"
She did a pretty good job, don't you think?
We rode the ferry into Manhattan. And on the 15 minute trip, while munching on Ritz crackers, this conversation happened.
Me: "The important thing is that we live in a country where you are allowed to say that you do not like the laws and that you want them to change. There are places in the world where you would be hurt or even killed just for saying what you feel."
Maya: " Like Martin Luther King."
Me: "That's right. He was killed by someone who did not agree with what he was trying to do. And that was not ok. What did Martin Luther King want?"
Maya: "He wanted all people to be treated fair."
Me: "Yes. No matter what they looked like."
Maya: "We learned about Rosa Parks too. She was very tired and wanted to sit in the front of the bus where she wasn't supposed to. And she got arrested."
Who says kids don't learn anything in NYC public schools?
We then went on to discuss how important it was to speak up if you think things are not fair. "Like if one of your friends is being mean. It is ok to tell them that you do not like what they are doing."
The walk from the ferry to the park was longer than I had thought and we missed most of the rally. Which was fine because by the time we got there Maya was cold and tired and we had run out of hot chocolate. So we took a taxi home and watched part of the Inauguration on TV. Which, of course, led to me explaining what an inauguration was. And how important Barack Obama's presidency was. I told Maya that he was the first black president, and that there had never been a woman president and that maybe she could be the first.
"I don't want to be President, mommy. Too much work."
Mr. Obama, my five year old feels your pain.
During the inauguration coverage they broke for a local news update during which they showed footage from the rally we had gone to.
"Look Maya, that's where we were!"
"Who are those other people? They weren't there."
"Those are the people who want more guns. They had their own meeting."
Maya watched an NRA supporter yell into a microphone. A little boy was holding a sign that said "Let my parents protect me."
"Mama what does his sign say?"
I told her.
Then "Mama I think they are right. We should have guns."
"Maya, you are a poopy head!"
No I didn't say that. But I wanted to. Just like I am sure all those NRA folks want to say to all of us gun rights people. Leave our guns alone you poopy heads! But instead I just asked her "Why?"
"Because I want everyone to get what they want."
"I agree. That would be great. But what they want and what me and those other mommies we saw today want are not the same thing."
"Then they should compromise."
My five year old is a genius!
Me: "Yes, they should. And many of them want to. Many people are saying how about we just get rid of the really big dangerous guns. And we make sure only safe people have the other ones."
Maya: "I want that!"
Me: "But some of the other people don't want to compromise. They just want what they want."
Maya: "Then they are mean."
My five year old gets it! Just compromise. Don't be mean. How hard is that?
President Obama said a lot of important things in his speech yesterday. He spoke about climate change, and the economy, and became the first president to mention the rights of gays in an inaugural address. But what stood out the most for me is this:
"We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall."
In other words, stop talking and do something.
I sincerely hope he does. So does my five year old.
And, as you can see, she knows an awful lot about politics.