May 12, 2008

Defining Childhood Moment #18

In November 1996, I was a public elementary school student learning to be a good United States citizen by having a mock presidential election. We learned tidbits about Bill Clinton and Bob Dole and then went into the little booths and selected who we wanted to be president of our great nation.

I proudly came home and told my parents that I had voted for Clinton. They told me they had voted for Dole and gave a little speech that was essentially about Republicans being better than Democrats. My parents probably don't remember giving this speech, but it was important to me. It was the first time I recall seriously thinking about politics. I learned that there were people who live solely off the government ("So paying taxes is kind of like fast offerings, that isn't bad is it?"); I learned that there are people who kill their babies before they are born ("There's no way that's legal; it's too sad."); I learned that there are people given jobs or college entrance because they were a race that was needed to meet quotas ("I didn't know anyone was racist anymore..."); I learned that there were males who wanted to marry males and females who wanted to marry females ("I don't know anyone like that, are you sure?"); I learned that some people want drug laws to be more lax ("But everyone knows drugs are bad, right?"). All sorts of things that I had never thought about before.

As my parents are fair people and rarely speak ill of anyone, I don't think this speech was as harsh as I remember it, but it seemed to me at the time that people who vote Democrat are bad people. I was ashamed. I also wondered about the prospects for eternal salvation for the next door neighbors who had an anti-Dole poster on their house. My parents had assured me that they were good people even though the mother was Jewish and the father was Unitarian or something and they didn't go to church much, so I knew they must have something going for them, but perhaps being Democrats would push them over the edge into the category of bad people.

Years down the road, the feelings of shame turned to feelings of pride. I had chosen on my own and gone against my own upbringing to choose who I personally thought was the best candidate. I was in elementary school and already establishing myself as a liberal thinker. Hooray for me!

But when I think about it seriously, I'm not kidding anyone. The reasons I remember picking Clinton over Dole are as follows:

1) He was the incumbent. I had seen President Clinton on TV several times while Dole was just some guy that I hadn't heard of until a few days before the election. I knew life was good at the time, and assumed that Clinton had something to do with that, so I didn't mind keeping him around.

2) I couldn't disassociate Bob Dole from Dole pineapples and one of the girls in our ballet carpool had once spilled Dole pineapple juice on the way to class and it was sticky and the back seat of the station wagon smelled really gross for a long time afterward. (I still can't drink pineapple juice, even though I have returned to my love of pineapple in general.) I could never vote for the horrible-smelling back seat of the station wagon.

1 comment:

Rachael said...

Once again showing we're pretty much the same person. You just make more sense than me. For as different as our families are, we had remarkably similar childhood experiances.