“Alternating currents force a show of hands
Rational responses force a change of plans
Anything can happen…”
—Neil Peart (now an American Citizen, by the way)
"Do you know what country we live in?" I asked.
"Santa Cruz," Beatrice answered.
"No, that's the city we live in. The country we live in is --"
Not surprising coming from young kids who experience the literal "now" and frame their responses accordingly. Even with the traveling we've done to date, the answer a few weeks ago would've been New York.
We went on to give then a very brief, high-level overview of the United States of America, sans the Revolutionary War for now, but including the fact that it's 239 years old and July 4 is its birthday.
"Is that as old as the world?"
"No, the world is billions of years old."
"Wow," Bea said, not really getting the span of geological time. Bryce had already moved on to something else.
Beatrice will start 1st grade this year and soon will begin the standardized learning of American history and beyond. Thankfully they're both still too young to fully experience the institutionalized crazy American politics has become (and actually always has been), but they are old enough to have experienced community generosity here at home and elsewhere. They've met many decent Americans from diverse backgrounds who are personally responsible citizens. No matter how viscerally frayed, thankfully the fringe on either end doesn't affect the B-hive.
At least, not yet. For the Mama and I, we revel in the fact that we live in a country where we can still "turn the channel" from detrimental viewpoints and content (in our opinion). And we can freely share our own beliefs in live and virtual forums where others can nod in agreement, responsibly disagree, or turn the channel as well. This and voting can be important catalysts for change, although economists argue that our individual votes don't really make a difference, so why do we vote, but individually the aggregate can make for very powerful and inspiring motivation.
We also pride ourselves in staying informed as much as possible, reading reputable "in the middle and a little to the left" mostly objective media outlets and listening to and/or watching the like (for me, that's NPR, hands down), and not simply overreacting when misinformation floods the social channels as it so often does (and I've gotten swept away in more than once).
Being an informed citizen free to agree or disagree, and/or participate or not in the divisive social and political rhetoric, but always participating in the betterment of society through responsible personal leadership, family, community and country and of course inspired action -- that's the part we want to live everyday.
The part when freedom rings and the independence and individuality empowers the rights of others who feel the same. The part we'll continue to celebrate and instill in our girls while negating hate, prejudice and oppression. The part when we acknowledge equality, regardless of sexual preference.
And then there's the reality that, while they may not be able be able to be whatever they want when they grow up, we do still live in a country where opportunity aspires to these ends and there's resiliency in that American economic magic.
Heck, there still may be gold in them thar hills...