Wednesday, October 29, 2008

History in the making

There will come a day--it's far off for now, since Jonas can't even talk--but the day will come when he wants to know what was the big news when he was born, "way back in 2008". I'm already looking forward to this conversation. I probably spend a little too much time daydreaming about it. Will we be sitting at the kitchen table, where so many important conversations took place with each of my parents? Or perhaps in the car on a long journey somewhere? Only time will tell. But what I've got to figure out in the meantime is how to communicate the historical impact of the 2008 election season.

Jonas was born during a heated democratic primary in which both a woman and an African American man were vying for the Democratic nomination for President. Hillary Clinton was the front-runner and Barak Obama was gaining momentum. This was ground breaking. Two days after Jonas turned six months old, the Democratic party selected Sen. Barack Obama as their presidential nominee. Another historic moment. The next day Republican nominee Sen. John McCain chose Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. She is the first woman to ever run on the Republican's presidential ticket. It would appear that we have truly turned a corner in American politics.

Although he doesn't understand what we're saying, Jonas often overhears conversations about the implications of this incredibly important election. That Jonas's father will even engage with me in these conversations is an historic change in and of itself. Jonas, however, is such a passionate and expressive guy that I expect he'll have an opinion about politics-- indeed about anything and everything!--when he grows up. And this is fine by me. In fact, it's what I hope for.

There's a quote out there, of course, now I can't find it, but it speaks to the success of a democracy being predicated upon an informed citizenry. I believe strongly in this notion, and you can be sure that Jonas will grow up feeling the effects of my conviction on this point. I would go one step further and add that the basic tenets of being a good citizen, and by that I mean informed and involved, are learned in the home.

It's all about dialog, modeling responsible citizen behavior, and respect for varying opinions. I don't expect, nor do I want, our son to think just like me, or just like his father. I expect him to arrive at his own conclusions, just be able to defend them. I dream of spirited conversations among our family. I intend to make voting day a family holiday. Voting is a privilege for many, a right for us in America, and our duty. I can't wait to go to our polling station with Jonas is tow so that I can point out our democracy in action.

Now, don't think that I'm going to impart some rosy notion about our democracy being infallible or in some perfect state. Our nation is confronted by a myriad problems that involve corruption of our democratic processes, distrust of those in government and an apathetic population that throws away its right to cast a vote. But, what I am going to convey is that it starts with you, one individual. Don't be waiting for someone else to take action. There will always be someone else who will act. The question is will it be in our best interest, or the best interest of our school, town, our state, our nation? If you leave it up to someone else, you will likely be disappointed.

For now, since Jonas can't walk, talk, or legally vote, he'll have to tag along with me. His civic engagement officially kicked off a few weeks ago with the arrival of my Obama yard sign. I ripped into the box with giddy delight and marched the fam outside to stick it in the yard. This is my very first yard sign. Next week will bring the second civic act, the trip to the polling station. After that it's time for bed. Staying up late to watch the election coverage and calming the nerves with several glasses of wine are saved for adults. You'll get your chance... in 2026.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully said Liz!

Joseph Vinciquerra said...

This might be best post ever! Except for the whole thing about the historical significance of me simply engaging in conversation... I resemble that remark.

Anonymous said...

very well said, Liz! I feel the same way. When I think that my son may be born right before we inaugurate the first black president I just get so excited and teary eyed!! I so hope this will happen. I'm scared about Ohio...we always mess things up.
Oh, and thanks for the last email, I'll have to go to Motherhood and try some on since you can't return them if you order them online if they don't work out.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful thoughts, Liz- and how true! I'm really excited to follow the election from Rome. This is great writing- Jonas is a lucky boy. Joe too! Keep up your dedication and patriotism.

LOve Mom

andrew mathay. said...

liz, an absolutely fantastic post.
jonas is being borne into a time when the very fate of the nation is in the hands of its citizens. an absolutely historic event that i feel absolutely privileged to take place in. on this notion, i feel almost proud that i've voted in the way in which i voted. to think, that the way in which one voted will effect the fantastic being you brought into this world. it almost makes me wish to cry. something to live for beyond one's own being and self. it's barely comprehensible.

i think about all of you all the time. i am proud and extremely humbled that i am in the midst of something so great that you and joe brought into this world, and that i voted for him and what the future might carry.

i love all of you.