My 4-year-old Daughter ‘S Guide to Life After the Election
Coffee. That’s it — I’ll make some coffee and plunge ahead.
I’m writing this on Monday morning, early, the day before the election… the calm before the storm. And I’m feeling the battle fatigue as an ache in my hips and lower back, where I’ve recently begun carrying my stress. Like a whole lot of people, I’ve been following this election more closely than any other in my life, a process that began, for me, in the last days of George Bush’s first term. My daughter was born early on the morning Bush overtook Kerry to win reelection. In the ensuing years, her father has been called a traitor for criticizing his government, has seen the city he loves drown from corruption and neglect, has watched his industry enter a dangerous new era. She turned four today, woke this morning bright-eyed and bouncy and
celebrated with a piece of apple pie. And because she’s one of the smartest people I know, on her birthday I will take a page from her book. My 4-year-old has a positive outlook on life, and were she in my shoes she would likely be looking at all the amazing things that have happened during the long years of this campaign. History was made on the Democratic ticket as the nomination came down to an African American and a woman. On the Republican side, a war hero and career public servant finally got a shot at the crown with a woman as his running mate. This is a big deal, and the relative ease with which the American people have accepted anything other than a seasoned white male in this contest is invigorating. The people are paying attention, engaged in a way like I’ve never seen. We’ve watched debates and attended rallies. We’re doing our own research in newspapers and on websites. We’re demanding fact-checks from — and on — our media. And we’re voting in record numbers. Early voting and ease of registration has opened up the process to leagues of new voters. And as young idealists find their footing, veteran politicos are reassessing their positions and changing the battle lines — this is the most exciting time in American politics since the Civil War. If you’re one who believes that this country belongs to the people, you have to feel good about that. My 4-year old has two big brothers, both of whom love her but who sometimes don’t treat her the way she wants to be treated. And she doesn’t stand for one bit of it. My little girl stands her ground when her brothers try to trick or bully her, and she lets them know they have no right to do that. Following her example, I will say that, dogma aside, I am an American even though I do not regularly go to church, do not hunt, enjoy big cities, went to college, read the New York Times and have accepted evolution into my life as the best possible explanation for how life on planet earth happened. And I insist it is possible to love this country and criticize it at the same time. And yet, after her scuffles with her brothers, my daughter is quick to administer hugs and mend fences — they’re in the same family, after all. And so, after the dust from this election has settled, however the outcome, I will extend my hand to those across the political aisle and invite them to join me in the hard work of rebuilding this country after eight years of solid decline. We are all Americans, and this country needs us to stay informed, stay vigilant and remain involved in the political process, now and forever. One more thing: My little girl is pristine and pure. At four years old, her conscience is clear, her view untarnished. Her potential right now is unlimited, and with her mix of fire and smarts, I have no doubt that her life will be bountiful and bright. In that same vein, I have faith in America and Americans, our abilities to address the problems in our country and the world, to overcome with hard work and smart solutions. Just like my babygirl, we have everything we need right here: diligence, innovation, cooperation, motivation. We can and will forge a better future from the ashes of the last eight years. We will do it for my little girl and her brothers and everyone else in the next generation, who should not have to pay for our sins. We will do it because we are Americans, and rising to the occasion is in our national DNA. It’s what my daughter would do. Happy birthday, Rosie. Daddy loves you.
To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at Clarey at firstname.lastname@example.org.