Thursday, November 10, 2016

Talking to the kids

"Well, you called it." My first e-mail of the day, from a dear friend who is the most hooked of political junkies.

I called it. Yeah, maybe. But when I woke up yesterday and confronted the headlines I realized I hadn't truly expected to be right. I went to bed expecting my existential dread to return to a low boil in the morning. I woke up to discover there was a level of heat I'd lost touch with.

I was still trying to put it all into manageable perspective, when the younger daughter (newly 18) came into the kitchen, in tears, with two questions: "What happens now?" and "How can anyone listen to what comes out of that man's mouth and still put him in charge?"

Difficult questions both. I did the fatherly thing and dodged them.

I said I wasn't sure yet of the data, but I suspected most Americans did not vote. The data that was in said very clearly that the majority of those who did vote, did not vote for that man. Also: Americans have a longer and more complicated and indeed more painful history with Ms. Rodham-Clinton than the one my daughter's Facebook feed was presenting.

All this was to say that most Americans, including many who did vote for that man, were better-than-okay people.

I also said that political arguments are usually driven to polarities that simplify life in unhelpful ways. Before she was born there was a moment when I woke up to discover that Canada might, in a few days' time, not be Canada any more. The thought caused me a great deal of anxiety, until I heard someone on the radio say, "Political theory and argument exists in a realm way beyond our back-yards, and our passions expand to meet those borders. It's important to return our gaze to the window that looks onto our back-yards, and to take confident steps into the immediate neighborhood, and reconnect with the people of our communities, to keep our passions in check, and to keep our shared sense of humanity sustained and healthy."

"So make sure you have a good breakfast," I said. "Be kind to yourself. And make a point of being kind to someone else. Every day's a gift."

I was tempted to go full Kung-Fu Panda . . .

. . . but of course there's also this exchange. So it goes.

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