Political Education

Political Education

People inherit most everything about themselves from their parents. Genetically, we get what we get from the people who spawned us and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it. But what about the nurture side of the equation? Specifically, what about the political aspect of nurture?

I am a Democrat. I never met my maternal grandmother but according to my mom and aunt, she was a “dyed in the wool Republican.” She also died in 1957, and I find it hard to believe that she would have stuck with the the Republican party. My grandmother was deeply suspicious of organized religion. So would a woman who thought religion was for the weak have stuck with a party that embraced Christianity to such a high degree?

My mother cared so little about politics that she never voted. All my siblings inherited my mother’s disinterest in politics until me. I drove my poor family crazy with all my newspaper reading and CNN watching. After I found the news shows on PBS, my father threatened to disown me. He was (and still is) a devout Christian and has voted Republican in every election (except 2016) since he was old enough to vote. Then here comes his youngest daughter, talking about equal pay and affirmative action and environmental protections. One Christmas, we got into an argument so loud and angry that my mom sent us to separate ends of the house until we calmed down enough to talk civil to one another. Needless to say, we didn’t speak to each other for a week.

And then I had a child of my own and one of my greatest worries was we wouldn’t agree about politics. What I hadn’t considered was my devotion to C-SPAN. If I was awake then C-SPAN was on somewhere in the apartment. Older son grew up watching televised debates in the Senate and House of Representatives. He watched White House press briefings in their entireties. He amazed a group of our friends by seeing George W. Bush’s Press Secretary on TV and knowing his name (Ari Fleisher). Older son was 7 at the time.

Did I brainwash my son? I don’t know. What I hope happened was that after literally hearing both sides of the ongoing debate between Republicans and Democrats, he decided that Democrats tended to align with what he thought was right and just and fair for the majority of people affected by government policy.

The fact of the matter is, we’re both parents and humans and we believe what we believe. Whether we like it or not,  we generally end up imbuing our kids with those beliefs. What matters more than Republican or Democrat is if we are teaching our kids to consider the source of the information they are basing their political decisions on. If everything you see and hear and read agrees with what you already think and feel, it might be time to search out (reputable) new voices. If both my kids take those two lessons with them into adulthood, I think I will have done a pretty good job on the political front. Oh, and they had damn well better vote.

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