I wanted to write about the American election, but every time I started writing I felt inadequate to the task. What do I know about politics and presidents really? I know what each candidate says he’d like to accomplish, but we all know it’s not as simple as just wanting something. There are a lot of hoops to jump through to get anything done. And doesn’t it seem like if something does change that it tends to screw up something for someone else? Is there even a path that leads to all Americans being happy with the outcome?
So I asked my daughter, who is 9, “Emily, who should be president?” She said, without hesitation, “Barack Obama.” I asked her why he should be president and she said, “Because he’s going to buy equipment for our playground. He’s going to buy more swings. And because a lot of other people chose him, so he must be good. And also, I think he’s kinda cute.” Intriguing. So I said, “What about John McCain?” She crinkled her nose at me and said, “He’s old. He’s not as handsome as Barack Obama.”
“So the cuter guy should be president, and the president should buy your school more playground equipment. Do I have that right?” To which she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Yeah, why not?”
This conversation immediately brought to my mind an experience I had when Jimmy Carter was running against Gerald Ford, who was the incumbent president at the time. I was in grade school and my teacher wanted to give us a lesson in civics. She went to great trouble to tell all of her students what each candidate stood for. And she let us know that Gerald Ford was already the incumbent president. Then she sent us all into the coat room to cast our vote, privately.
When the results were tallied it was 26 in favor of Ford, and only 3 in favor of Jimmy Carter. I voted for Jimmy Carter. She asked random people why they voted the way they did. The Ford voters all said variations on the same thing, “Ford is already president. He knows what he’s doing. Why change at all?” When she asked me, I was a little nervous since I’d gone against the tide, but I said, “I just think everyone should have a chance to be president. Maybe this guy can do a better job.” People turned on me and I never knew why. I thought my reason was sound.
So here we are today, a historical day, a day when America will change, one way or the other. We’re either going to have a female vice president or an African American male as president. Change is good. I like giving new people a shot at making a difference in our country. I think that no matter who is elected, the country is going to go through a shift. Because we want one, because we need one, and so we will attract this shift.
I asked my son, age 5, who should be president. He said, “I vote for the Hulk. He likes to smash things.” Uh, so does our current president, apparently. Then he said, “I want the Hulk to be our president because he’s a hero.” Intriguing. So I asked him, “So you think a hero should be president of our country,” to which he replied, “Well you wouldn’t want a bad guy to be president would you?”
No. No indeed.
We could use a hero.