Friday, October 24, 2008

What the Election Means

When I was (almost) ten, I was not particularly interested in the presidential election. I remember thinking it was cool about Geraldine Ferraro; I plotted non-bloody situations in which she could become president. I also remember very distinctly my parents' sense of, "That's nice, but oh well." My mom used to talk to her friends about how everyone knew Reagan was going to win again, a pronouncement that was usually met with sympathetic murmurs and a quick change of the subject.

I was a know-it-all, thought-I-was-the-smartest-thing-evah kid, and I had little interest in the larger world. My son, the skateboarding, pop-rock-hip-hop, dancing obsessed ten-year-old has put me to shame.

He loves Barack Obama, has sat through debates, has critiqued John McCain. He's observant of other people's comments and bumper stickers. He walks around the house lamenting the fact that he can't vote. I've had to reassure him a million times that I'm going to take him with me when I do.

The other day, he begged me to break the no-TV-no-recreational-internet-Monday-through-Thursday rule. He wanted to go to "Kids can vote there!" he told me. I told him he helped Senator Obama edge by Senator McCain. You should've seen his smile.

My son identifies with Barack Obama for obvious reasons and this campaign means something to him that even I can't fully understand.

It's on these kids' faces:

All those pictures are copied from Yes We Can (hold babies), btw.

He is so eager, so protective and adoring of Barack Obama, that I've had to call him on two things.

First, a few days ago, I was trying to decide what clips from the The Murder of Emmitt Till I would show in my African American History class. My son saw parts of it and asked for the back story--he knows a bit about Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement already, but we've always discussed "And black people could be killed for..." in an abstract sense. But here was the story of a boy, only a few years older than he, who'd been savagely murdered. That troubled him enough.

But when I told him the murderers got away with it, he got visibly angry. "Wait til Obama is president," he said. "Racism-"

"Will still be here," I interrupted him. "Baby, Barack Obama being president will not fix all of the things we've talked about."

He nodded, but I know, in his heart, he thinks an Obama presidency will rectify so much of what is wrong.

Then, he came home Wednesday, sort of pissed, because his friend's mom had a "Nobama" sticker on her car.

He thought aloud about the likelihood of the friendhsip being able to continue. I scolded him for that and told him that not everyone has to agree with him politically. He just looked at me because he's still self-centered enough to think that everyone ought to see things the way he does.

This picture was on Yes We Can (hold babies) yesterday:

The caption beneath read
These two boys waited as a long line of adults greeted Senator Obama before a rally on Martin Luther King Day in Columbia, S.C. They never took their eyes off of him. Their grandmother told me, “Our young men have waited a long time to have someone to look up to, to make them believe Dr. King’s words can be true for them.” Jan. 21, 2008.
Whatever happens, while I am admittedly intrigued by Obama, as a person, I am deeply appreciative of what Obama, as a symbol, has meant to my child.


Kimberly said...

Elle - I admire what you are doing with The Kid. And it's touching to hear that he is so interested and that he has a hope in him that I think is lost on so many young black boys.

Thanks for sharing.

RageyOne said...

Elle - you made me go back to my 0 year old self. Was I interested in politics at that age...let's see the closest election during that time was 1980, so I was really 9 years the Carter/Reagan race and no, I probably wasn't as interested as your son or my nephew for that matter.

My 10 year old nephew has been raptly paying attention to this election, as have other young folks (I'm talking under 18 yrs. of age), and I think it is great. They are seeing someone who looks like them - which I think is key. They actually identify with Obama as a person. I think that shows promise for this next generation.

Mommy to Ander and Wife to Box said...

Ah, elle, this made me tear up. (Just a bit, because I'm a tough old bird who doesn't cry much.)

I know my little boy is only 2, and white (so not subject to racism much), but I hope Obama teaches him some of what your son is hoping for, even if my son never realizes and just grows up to think that anyone can be President and race and gender simply don't matter.

Oh, and I cared very much, at age 5, when Reagan was elected President. I cried, because he was going to nuke us. Guess my parents had one too many liberal conversations in front of me. ;)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I wish my kiddies were just a bit older so they could understand the significance of Obama...but it's also a beautiful thing that the first national election of their lives features a black man.

Gladys said...

i love this post. as with the other commenters, it made me think of the children in my family, especially of course my baby son. i am voting for obama (actually, i already did - absentee ballot!) in large part for my baby and his future. i just love the faces of those boys in the photos. and i think your son is awesome!

elle said...

Thanks for all the feedback; this really has been amazing to watch. I usually can't get this kid to focus on anything for more than 2 minutes and now he's transfixed!

Hawise Gadarn said...

Even if nothing else comes of this election, we have already won because a new generation believes that it can try.

Tiffany Clemmons said...

I love the pictures on Yes We Can (Hold Babies). There is something specifically similar in the way black boys look at Barack Obama. I have many reasons for supporting Obama, and the impact that he could have on America--particularly young, black, male Americans--is an important part of my passion about him.

Christopher Davis said...

Remember the picture of Bill Clinton shaking hands with John F. Kennedy? 40 years down the road, one of these kids may repeat history.

jack a said...

Oh wow - those pictures brought tears to my eyes. And your words - so true.

FEMily! said...

I think this is an exciting time for everybody, but I think it's especially exciting for kids. I don't know if that's necessarily true, but it just seems that way. I was in New York City yesterday just walking around with a friend, and these little girls skipped past us say "Go Obama! Go Obama!" It was so adorable.

And the little Obama supporters make me think more about the accusations of "elitism" by McCain and Palin on Americans who live in big cities. Are these children elitist? No. I think these kids just understand Obama's message of hope because it speaks to children's natural optimism that the conservatives' anti-intellectualism simply doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I choked up when reading this and looking at the pictures.

Thank YOU.

Kathy said...

I love the pictures you've got posted. I can't wait until next Tuesday!

Kevin Andre Elliott said...

This is the first post I've read of the day, and it's exactly what I needed. Thank you. Those pictures are priceless.

Octogalore said...

How wonderful that he is involved and aware of his stake. He seems like a real source of inspiration.

And, far from being "put to shame," it's clear that you are an inspiration to him, as well.

Sudy said...

Good God this post is amazing.

Melissa said...

I looked at these pics last night here and I came back tonight to look at them again. I have tears all over again.

The thought that in one week, we could all be going to sleep with the assurance that Obama is the next president...that brings so many tears. I cannot wait.

Daisy said...

Awesome photos, sweet kids, they are just so thrilled! Fabulous post.

MarcieCrim said...

This was lovely.

On the night of Obama's acceptance speech I got my 9 year old daughter out of bed and as Obama stood soaking in the applause I said to my daughter, "I want you to understand how extraordinary this is, and it also means that you and I can be anything we want to be".

I am a single white mother of a blonde haired civic minded daughter that says similar things as your son, especially when she sees McCain bumper stickers or yard signs.

This history touches us all and I am so excited.

elle said...

Thank all of you who have stopped by. I feel so connected to so many people, seriously. And glad to know that other children are feeling this as well.

Lyric said...

Crying here too. Oh, those beautiful pictures. Thank you so much for sharing.

My son is nine and my daughter is six. I hope this election will be a turning point in terms of the future they will inherit. In Florida here, and working so hard for the Obama campaign so that it can be.

Blog Queen said...

Absolutely beautiful...this story is also a testament that YES WE CAN: In spite of all the race card throwing, hatred and intolerance that has surfaced in the last few weeks surrounding this historical campaign...there is little doubt that we still have come a long way....especially after reading that the 109 year old daughter of a former slave cast her vote for Barack Obama....Yes We CAN!

Ben Varkentine said...

That's lovely.

Sharon said...

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story and for linking to these fantastic pictures. So very uplifting to read.

Anonymous said...

That is just awesome in so many ways!

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peter said...


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