February 9th, 2005

Paytriotism

As we were walking through the parking lot at Skylar's school today, she found one of those "Support Our Troops" magnets and excitedly asked to put it on our car. Kim firmly said, "No." This led to an intense discussion about why this seemingly innocent symbol might inspire parental objections. At one point Skylar suggested covering the words with another message. "There's nothing wrong with the words," I assured her. "The problem is that most people who have these magnets on their cars are trying to show that they also support the President's decisions."

Once we arrived at AJ's for our regular Wednesday fare -- we take Skylar there after every ballet class, since they end so late -- the conversation resumed. Between Kim's discomfort at being under the weather and my discomfort at discussing button-pushing topics in a potentially hostile environment, we were totally drained afterward. Though it pains us to say anything good about "43," the Bean was sufficiently worried about getting in trouble for criticizing the President that I had to soften my stance.

I explained to her A) that it's all right to disagree with the President, as long as you do so respectfully; B) that President Bush is confident enough that he's doing the right thing that he probably wouldn't be bothered by respectful criticism of his decisions; and C) that, were we to meet him, we would surely be able to find some common ground, just as we do with our fundamentalist neighbors across the street. "I could talk to him about baseball. He loves baseball. Or we could talk about our families." I told Skylar about the President's daughters. Kim chimed in with an interesting commentary on their appearance at the Republican Convention, arguing that it could be read as a wholesale endorsement of his policies or a subtle critique. She didn't use those words, of course, but the point was no less sophisticated for being translated into language that Skylar understands. And then I added that, even though we disagree so strenuously with most of the President's decisions, there are things we can admire about him, such as the fact that he loves his family and overcame his alcohol problem for their sake. I've used that line before, not entirely sure whether it's justifiable. But it seems to work for Skylar.

As I thought about this difficult exchange later, I was once again pleased that Skylar has learned to couple her own version of the family critique -- "President Bush tries to help his friends make more money instead of helping everyone" -- with a silver lining -- "I still think he's handsome. I could tell him that if I met him." Navigating the present political landscape is hard. Having a brilliant six-year-old daughter who remains astonishingly pure of heart makes it exponentially harder. I keep wondering whether I've crossed the line into the land of detrimental deception in my attempt to preserve Skylar's idealism. The thing is, though, that I'm doing it as much for myself as for her. I want to believe that, were I to meet the President, I could tell him what troubles me about his policy decisions and still talk amiably about the relative merits of Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens over a plate of barbecue. It's not much of a dream, I realize, but it's the one that keeps me off a more destructive path. And that's a price I'm still willing to pay.
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