November 03, 2009

First Political Memory

"Framing the Shot"

During the 2004 US Presidential race, our Mr. D was regular attender at local political events. He was three years old and being dragged along, so he doesn’t remember that much about it. My teacher friend Sassafras Mama asks her students to think about their earliest political memories, and I wonder now if our trip to the National Equality March (NEM) last month might someday qualify as Mr. D’s first political memory.

"No Justice, No Peace"

As parents, our approach to the social issues of the day – racism, immigration, healthcare, poverty, taxes, equal rights for the LGBT community – has been to try to “get out in front” and provide our Mr. D with some context. We tell our stories as the time seems ripe. He knows that our taxes help pay his teachers’ salaries, and that racism is still something we’re all working on. We have debated about how explicit to be about gay and lesbian issues, since those terms are not much a part of his everyday life, but we’ve heard from other LGBTQ parents that second to fourth grade seem to be prime years for a kind of aggressive monitoring and discussion of difference amongst students, so the National Equality March seemed like a good way to introduce him to the ideas that underlie our current struggle.

We went with a bus full of high school students, so spirits were high from the outset. Once we arrived in our nation's capital, the crowds were enormous, loud, and impressive in both their relative youth and racial diversity. Having previously attended national marches as a young student activist, it was very different to attend as a parent and quasi-chaperone. When the traditional call-and-response chant of “What do we want?” “EQUAL RIGHTS!” When do we want ‘em?” “NOW!” went up, I substituted in “YESTERDAY!” at the end, explaining to the students near me that my t-shirt (from a march in the late 1980’s) was older than they were. We got home around 11pm, and Mr. D asked some good questions without ever complaining.

In the weeks after the March, the race for the NJ governorship tightened, with Corzine (D) and Christie’s (R) stances on gay marriage being one of the starkest differences between them. Suddenly, gay issues were up for discussion at every turn, and for the first time in his life, Mr. D heard an older kid speaking out about the “grossness” of all things gay. Our son was much better prepared to put comments like that in perspective, having had some conversations with us about homophobia and the people who oppose equal rights for lesbians and gays.

I wasn’t sure how taking an eight year old to the March would work out, but I am so glad now that our Mr. D has seen a loud, large crowd of lively supporters of LGBTQ rights. In the weeks before the National Equality March, I’d told him that although his Tama and I aren’t married in a way our government recognizes, we think we are on the right side of history and that in any case, he doesn’t need to worry about us. “How do you know we're on the right side of history?” he asked.

In the quiet dark of the bus ride home, I reminded him of his question and said, “Did you see all those people who came together today? That’s how I know, buddy.”

(It's taken me a long time to process
this momentous event; finally tonight,
awaiting the results of the NJ gubernatorial elections,
it seemed like the right time to pull it all together.)


JAXTER said...

an enormous thank you to you and D's Tama for bring up such an enlightened young man... that was a wonderful read...

Stacy said...

One heck of a our first memory.

I so want D in my government class some day!

Mag said...

I am more confident that the world is becoming a better place, just knowing you, Tama and Mr.D.
Thank you.

Tracy said...

Look out, world... he ain't gonna stand for no shit. I mean, I could have infused that comment with a little more peace and love, but... not feelin' it right now. Feelin' like a lot more kids need to be raised like D -- knowing how to suss out the truth from the crap, how to intelligently call it crap, and how to get up and DO SOMETHING about it. Thanks to Sassafras Mama, too, for that government class.