Nov 5, 2008

The kid-riffic election...

Last night, I watched the presidential election play out on the television, on multiple television stations, along with the seemingly endless stream of talking heads spouting their jumbled mess of ideas, thoughts, and opinions.

What made it unique for me, important for me was that I watched this all play out with my four children.

My son spent nearly the entire time right there, asking questions, tracking the states that had gone one way or another by the 'projections' of the various stations.

My daughters were in and out of the room quite often due mostly to being several years younger than my son. However, once I managed to get the importance of what we were watching across to my oldest daughter, she sat right next to me and watched the bulk of the evening when things were tipping dramatically toward one of the two candidates.

During all this, I would pause the pundits and explain the process to my kids. The electoral college, exit polls, the speculative nature of the 'projections', the percentages of actual votes counter versus the 'projections' and how it bizarre it was to have a state declared a victory for one of the candidates with 0% of the precincts reporting. I showed them on a puzzle map what states typically voted one way or another, when they shut down the voting for the particular states and so on.

We discovered a new state during this process by way of my son, Wah-no-mung. He'd heard of and said the name of the state Wyoming before in various learning environments but yet, somehow didn't connect that with what he was looking at on the puzzle map he had in front of him for the bulk of the viewing we did.

In my life as a father to my children I have never once addressed the color of peoples skin in any substantial way. We have discussed folks with various physical difficulties or problems due to their questions which have come up over time. However, never before had we really discussed the color of someone's skin in relation to how they were treated in any sort of detail. I didn't mention it because it wasn't important to me in any decision making process.

As the night went on the mention of the likelihood of the new president being Barack Obama in combination with his being 'black' continuing to come up on the television, this prompted questions from my son.

I spent probably five minutes discussing with the four of them what I thought. Trying to sum up in simple terms the importance of the election. I explained to them that history was being made. No matter what, no matter who the winner of the election, our country would be different after this election. I told them that either the oldest president and the first female vice-president would be elected or that the first african-american president would be elected. I explained that there are some people who are brought up to have such a narrow view of the world that they think they're better than a person based solely on the color of their skin. I explained that I felt lucky to not have grown up in an environment where I ever felt that way, simply because of the diversity of the place I grew up in. I told them that regardless of whatever they were ever told, the simple fact is that we're all human beings, old or young, short or tall, thin or not-so-thin like their dad these days, or any color of skin whatsoever.

...and I think they understood. I really do. It filled my heart with joy to see them accept what I was saying with out a bit of confusion or any indication of predjudice that could have seeped in from someone when I wasn't around. I was very proud.

At the end of the night, as I was rounding everything up to close out my day, I was surprised to see John McCain come on and begin his concession speech. I'd sort of dismissed the kids and began looking forward to today as the day this would all come to resolution. I hollered at my kids and brought them all back into the room to watch as he began to speak. My son asked 'Does this mean that he's going to, um, concede?' I had explained that there were two likely outcomes to the election process earlier, concession and a counting and certification of the votes in all of the states. I sat there a bit astonished and told him 'Yes.'

I watched as the folks at the McCain rally booed at various points in his speech and it, forgive the crude way of putting it, pissed me off. Not because I was disappointed he was conceding - far from it. No, it was because it was and is a petty way to respond to the man graciously stepping aside and allowing his opponent to claim victory without legal or procedural obstacles in his way.

Then, we watched as Barack Obama spoke. I hugged my oldest daughter, still sitting next to me, at one point and whispered 'This is so special. I hope one day when you have kids, you can look back and say I remember when President Obama gave that speech, sitting there with my dad.'

I'm not going to go into the why or the what for aspects of my support of Obama. Realistically, I wanted Ron Paul as a candidate much more than anyone else in the race. Still, I always knew that was a longshot. In the absence of Mr. Paul being a viable candidate, my support was really always for Obama.

I never told my kids who I was supporting until the votes began rolling in yesterday. Never gave a hint. Did an oscar worthy job of NOT leaning one way or another until the numbers began showing.

I asked my kids who they thought would win. Not who they wanted to win. Of my four kids, three thought John McCain would win. One of my twins thought Obama would win. They decided all on their own. Totally fine with me, I told them. You can have your own opinions on who you think should be our president. That's the great thing about our country.

I'm proud of being a veteran. I'm proud of being a father. I'm proud to be an American. After last night, I'm just proud.

Congratulations to Mr. Obama on his victory and congratulations to me...for having such wonderful kids. :)

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