A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
As my son considers going to school at Loyola in Chicago, we’ve developed a routine. I pretend to be horrified and say “Promise me you won’t come home Catholic and Republican,” and Geo replies “I promise I won’t become Catholic.”
In fact, I trust my kids to develop their own thoughtful approach to religion and politics. We tend to think along similar lines and have shared values when it comes to the big things. One of those is to examine any idea that comes along carefully packaged.
Still, I’ll admit to being irritated while listening to Wisconsin Public Radio’s show this morning on parents “party training” their kids. One guest, psychologist Christine Hamilton, maintained that it was a terrible thing to do. But I wondered, aren’t parents supposed to teach their children the things they believe most deeply?
That topic, parents teaching (or brainwashing) young children to consider themselves members of one political party or other, is a hot one on the Net this week. Someone’s making buckets of money selling baby onesies emblazoned with “Weepublican” and “My Mama’s for Obama.”
For once, the Democrats have an edge on cutesy slogans. “Mom and Me for Hillary” has a nice beat and you can sing along with it. “Romney is My Homeboy”. . . doesn’t. It’s just hard to use the name Huckabee without sounding derisive. And McCain doesn’t only rhyme with “gain.”
Anyone who’s taught kids knows that they are walking iPods loaded with the refrains of their parents’ conversations. And not just the ones we want them to have. They mimic what they hear and see. The problem is that when it comes to politics, and maybe religion too, what they hear is not usually deep and thoughtful. More often, it’s simplified. Especially with politics, it tends to be harsh and rigid, dismissive of all other ideas that don’t fit into black and white categories. Right and wrong, good and evil.
Political rhetoric isn’t the word of God handed down on stone tablets. It’s all about control, compromise, and manipulation. So shouldn’t we protect our kids from it? Better yet, teach them how to deconstruct it and figure where it fits in a greater scheme of things.
As a little kid, I eavesdroped on my parents and their friends as they watched the returns from the Nixon-Kennedy election in 1960. It was a close battle, and when it looked like things were going toward Kennedy, all the assembled Republicans grew louder. “If Kennedy gets in, we’re doomed,” they said. I believed them, and I was terrified.
Of course they were wrong. Extreme partisan statements nearly always are. Some things changed, some stayed the same, and we were not destroyed.
So I’m back onboard with Hamilton’s idea. Little kids shouldn’t be Republicans or Democrats. When we talk about how wonderful things will be with President X, how terrible things will be with President Y, we aren’t telling the truth. We are just scaring ourselves. And them.
If my kids were little now, I’d buy them both Why Mommy is a Democrat and Help, Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed. Then we’d discuss the differences between indoctrination and education and try to figure out what truths, if any, lie in among the simplifications and distortions.