Tuesday, January 25, 2011

state of the union, states of mind

(Blogger says I wrote this post on Tuesday, probably because I started drafting something that day and recycled the space? But, no, no, I didn't finally post this until this afternoon)

I watched the State of the Union address Wednesday night with my daughter. She was curled up on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket, shivering and sweating, aching and thirsting. The cat sat on her feet. (She took the day off from school yesterday, slept, slept, slept, then woke to finish up a French project that was due today.)

"I can watch the speech online if you can't stand it," I said. "Look, whitehouse.gov is live streaming it." I tilted my laptop screen toward her.

I expected her to want to doze through reruns of Family Guy, but she said, "I don't mind watching it. I like the sound of politics. It's soothing."

So I turned the channel from Music Choice to Cspan, and off we went.

My daughter is a great judge of character. She can look at a person and tell within minutes whether she trusts that person or needs to take a step away and increase the span of her "personal bubble." Even when our experiences of people are different, opposite, I tend to trust her and listen whether she expresses suspicion or complete trust.

She likes Obama. I'm sure my support of Mr. Obama during both the primaries and the general election in '08 influenced her a bit the way her friends' who have conservative parents tend to support Republican or conservative candidates. But she's also old enough, smart enough, analytical enough to make up her own mind about people. When I started to lose faith over some decisions Obama was making not long into his term, she would say, "I still like him. I don't know what he's done wrong that upsets you, but it doesn't matter. I just like him."

"So many of the kids at my school just hate him. They think he's evil. I don't understand it," she said as we watched and listened. "It seems to me all he wants to do is help us to become a better country."

She often tells me she's not interested in politics at all, doesn't pay attention to current events that much. I don't watch broadcast news any more, though I think her father might. Some things, she doesn't want to know, the hard things, shootings, suicide bombers, murder-suicides.

"I don't want to know about current politics," she said just as the President began to speak. "I like knowing about politics of the past. It always makes me feel that we're doing better than they did in the past."

I snorted. "Our country's a mess, kid," I said. "We haven't learned from our mistakes, not yet."


She listened a little more, eyes squinted since she'd plucked out contacts hours earlier, was too tired to reach for her glasses, commented now and then on the things she heard:

"I don't like that the President just mentioned Facebook in a speech. What has our country come to?" my kid said. But she laughed.

Technology could be used for more important things than social networking, she said, "Like saving lives or making robots."

"The U.S. is kind of doomed," she said. "It just keeps getting worse. There's not much we can do."

Then Obama said, "At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars," and my daughter said, "Well, that sounds good!"

After Obama stated one of his favorite lines on education, "If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child – become a teacher. Your country needs you," my Girl answered him:

"No thank you! I'd rather not. I know how kids can be and I'd rather not have the responsibility."

This has turned into a more random and less composed post than I intended. I started writing it yesterday, but the day devolved into an indefinable, inexplicable abyss of forgetting. Or something.

I'll leave this as it is with only this thought: Maybe our senators, representatives, governors, mayors, President, Vice-President, speakers, justices, all elected and appointed officials who are charged with running this country for the people, maybe they should all sit down with a few intelligent 16 year olds from across the country, pick their brains, get their take on the country, the world, the universe, life. What we do now, after all, is what these beautiful young people will inherit after we're all dust and doom.

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