Right now, the US is embattled in a very contentious presidential debate. I’m not going to use this sacred space to delve into politics, but the national dialogue (much of which is completely irrelevant to who is best qualified to be President), is making me want to reflect on a few things that I love most about you.
- I love your intellectual curiosity, your power of observation, and the way you always try to look at things from different angles. Please don’t lose that. When you turn 18 and you’re able to vote, work hard to understand party platforms and candidate’s world views. Read/watch Fox News and MSNBC (or whatever the equivalent is in 13 years when you’re old enough to vote) and everything in between. Read papers published in other countries so you understand how outsiders looking in are evaluating our nation's choices. Don’t boil your party allegiance down to something that can be summed up on a bumper sticker. Be more critical than that. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “A well-informed electorate is a prerequisite for democracy.” Be informed, or sit on the sidelines. (My preference is the former, but I'm increasingly on board with a school of thought that rebuts the idea that it's everyone's duty to vote regardless of how well informed they are.)
- I love your thoughtfulness. So much of our national dialogue right now is divisive and hate-centric. There’s an “anti-political correctness” wave underway, which I understand. I think people who say that we have gotten too sensitive, too soft, and too careful, have a point. I think the never ending stream of apologies for words that were said spontaneously without any real animus behind them are unnecessary, foolish, and mostly insincere. The nomenclature we use is so crafted that in many cases, it is no longer real. That said, words matter. Let me say that again: words matter. You don’t even always know or appreciate how much they matter in the moment, but there’s always someone listening. Even when you think they’re not, someone is listening. If it’s not something you’d say in front of me or Mama, chances are it’s not something you should really say at all. Be kind with your words. For example, I don’t think it matters much if you say “African-American” or “black”, as long as the intentions of your words are kind. I think it’s fine to say “Merry Christmas” as long as you say “thank you” if someone wishes you a “Happy Hanukkah” or don't hiss at someone who chooses to say "Happy Holidays". Or if there’s just one kid in class who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, don’t make him feel like an outsider, and instead, ask thoughtful questions backed by genuine interest about his family traditions. In other words, don't worry about being "politically correct", but do worry about being thoughtful and kind.
- I love your respectfulness. Granted, you’re five, so you can be a disrespectful little punk, but at your core, you understand the concept of respect. You’re being raised in a house with four strong, smart women. You will respect women for the rest of your life. This is non-negotiable. This isn’t to say that you can never make comments about women's appearance or even make the occasional joke, but you will understand that women are people with brains and dignity, and you will never, ever purposefully try to take that away. Male entitlement is a real thing, and it manifests itself in ways that range from benign to horrific, violent, and illegal. Making the wrong choices on this one is often times easier than making the right one. I’m not asking you to be perfect on this front, but I am asking you to be strong.
- I love the way you think big. One of the saddest things about this election is that so much of it is based on “which candidate do people dislike more”. I can’t tell you how much that reality depresses me. How did we get to a place where that was going to be the deciding factor in who sat in the most powerful office in the country? Think big. Be heroic.
I’ve probably alienated a lot of people with how vocal I've been in this election. I think one candidate is extremely flawed but, at the end of the day, highly capable and a proven public servant. In some ways, the mere fact that she’s sitting on top of the ticket is hugely inspiring, but in other ways, I regularly find myself lamenting “couldn’t someone else that could capture the nation’s imagination break this particular glass ceiling so that we could all revel in the sheer historical magnitude?” And I’ve been extremely critical of the other candidate -- not because he didn't pay taxes or he is "politically incorrect" but rather because, as someone who studied history in college, I’ve seen this play before: he’s preyed on fear, ran a political campaign based on “otherness”, dismissed the importance of having policy positions on important issues, regularly and vocally dismissed how important intellectual curiosity and thoughtfulness is to running the country, and bullied countless people in very public ways.
So many days I think to myself, I’m going to disengage from the political conversation… there’s just no upside. People are so entrenched in their beliefs – myself included – that there is no “changing minds” so what’s the point in engaging in a dialogue? Really all we’re doing is reinforcing the beliefs and passions of people who already agree with us. But then I look at you, and your sisters, and our family, and I think, for all of the reasons I’ve listed out above, this one is too important. The world is going to try to dull the edges of everything that is so special about you, and it is my sincerest hope that it fails spectacularly.
I love you buddy.