Family Practice: Collateral election damageWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
My first-grade daughter, Laney, came home from school with a Scholastic News magazine about the 2012 presidential election. I was disappointed to see only two candidates mentioned throughout the literature. The front cover displayed a thought bubble above a little girl that contained photos of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the inside listed them as the candidates and the back page presented a table comparing the two. Just the two. (There were seven presidential candidates on the Ohio ballot this year.)
I thought about immediately expressing my disagreement with Scholastic’s two-party summary, but my husband, Mike, pointed out they did somewhat cover themselves with the sentence, “There are two main candidates.”
Still, the paragraph went on to say, “They both want to be president. My mom will vote for one of them.” I’m guessing that a child’s mind would take that to mean there are only two candidates and we have to vote for one of them.
I let it go, but my suspicions were confirmed a few days later when I mentioned a third-party candidate and Laney declared in confusion that she thought there were only two candidates. In Scholastic’s defense, she also thought Mike and I were both required to vote for the same candidate, which was not their doing. In any event, my child has somehow already been indoctrinated into the confines of a two-party (and for some reason one-vote-per-married-couple) system at 7 years old.
Much worse than the majority of presidential candidates being brushed aside is the amount of mud my children were inadvertently hit in the face with the past several months. They couldn’t get the mail or turn on the TV without being bombarded by millions of dollars worth of trash talk being doled out by countless adults who should know better. Based on how Mike and I are trying to raise him, I was less than thrilled to hear the term “job killer” come out of my 9-year-old’s mouth.
Our children are welcome to back any candidate they wish, but the spouting of mindless, oversimplified rhetoric is one thing that won’t be tolerated in the Szyperski house. I am disappointed enough to encounter it from the general public on a daily basis but don’t think I could stomach it from my own offspring. I would rather my children grow up to eat a bowl of M&Ms for breakfast every morning than parrot political propaganda.
I actually have less concern about the next four years than I do about the next 40. My hope is that the next generation will be the one finally fed up enough with disingenuous and ridiculously expensive politics to revamp the whole thing. Still, realizing that this is not a new phenomena in the least, I’m not holding my breath.
Of greatest disappointment to me is the invisible, overwhelming force that takes otherwise reasonable people and pits them wholeheartedly against one another for at least one out of every four years. It is a force that somehow recruits some of my most educated friends and temporarily converts them into intolerant, one-sided, “I’ve figured out the right path and half the people I know are wrong” political machines. Does it really make sense that roughly half of the U.S. population (either half) are a bunch of crazy, selfish ignoramuses?
If high levels of education and all of the free information one could ever hope for haven’t convinced us that the world isn’t exactly black and white, or red and blue, what will? What will it take for us to give up our need as individuals to be right and instead address the need for our country to be whole? I wish I knew.
What I do know is that political season after political season my children are being subjected to unnecessary bigotry on all sides. I can see Scholastic’s point in presenting the most straightforward, watered-down version of our election process to our young. However, by the time we reach adulthood we should realize that there can and should be much more to our political system than the same tired choose-A-or-B, us vs. them mentality.
With some steps in the right (no political affiliation intended) direction, my grandchildren’s Scholastic News election issue should go something like this: “There are several honest and hardworking candidates. They all want to serve us and do what is best for us as a country. My mom will vote for one but will proudly call any one of them her president.”
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.