A Reminder to Politicians: Our Children are Listening



On twitter, I made a joke about something my daughter said to me about my novel. While watching the news, she turned to me and said, “Mitt Romney would hate your novel.”

As I am apt to do when she says something precocious, I laughed. And then I asked why she thought he would hate this novel that she has not read.

"Because it’s about Muslim women, and one of their friends is gay,” she said, “ and Mitt Romney hates Muslims and gay people.”

And suddenly, I wasn’t laughing.

My now eleven-year-old (Muslim) daughter has always been a feminist and something of a politico. Even though the other members of our household were in the tank for Obama in 2008, my daughter was a die hard Hillary Clinton supporter. When I put my "Women for Obama" bumper sticker on the back window of my car, she put a Hillary sticker on the back of her battery-operated Barbie Jeep. She wore Hillary pins, wrote emails to Hillary, donated money, and did her best to convince the rest of us that we were supporting the wrong candidate.

She was understandably disappointed when Hillary pulled out. Slightly devastated, in fact.

Except? She saw a silver lining: Hillary's withdrawal meant that my daughter could still be the first female president of the United States.

I loved that it was so effortless for her to believe she could be president. (She also planned, at one time, to be the first female player on the New York Yankees.)


I remember being incredibly relieved that the horrible things some people said about Obama and his father and his step-father and his middle name never filtered down to my daughter. But realistically, I knew that someday they might.

Which is why Colin Powell's appearance on Meet the Press, right around minute 4:30, literally brought tears to my eyes:





Why shouldn't a Muslim American child dream of being president?

When she was eight, and still somewhat insulated from the things candidates and their supporters say, my daughter believed she could be president. And at eleven, even though she thinks she'd rather be a doctor, she still doesn’t doubt for a minute that she could be elected president of this nation.


And yet. She thinks Mitt Romney thinks she is other. Less than.

In the most secret part of my heart that I do not show her, I wonder how long this brilliant, beautiful Muslim girl will believe she can be president. I want to shake the politicians and tell them to be careful of her.

Please. Be careful what you do to my daughter.
Unfortunately, the ones I want to say it to probably wouldn't listen. And to them --  the ones who would marginalize an eleven-year-old child for the sake of political expediency -- I say this:  

I hope she runs against you one day.

16 comments:

  1. Love this. My children are Mexican-American . . . and right now, along with Muslims and gays, Mexicans are a pretty-hated group. My kids hear other kids say the most hateful things about Mexicans--from the mouths of kids. And where do kids learn such hate. From their families. And often, sadly, from pundits.

    I'll vote for her one day!

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  2. Thank you, Erica.

    Can you imagine living with yourself if your legacy was that you taught people -- children -- to hate? Or even that you "just" stood by and benefited from it?

    No election can be worth that. And yet so many people act like it is.

    I'll keep you posted on her political plans!

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  3. Powell is a brilliant statesman and I wish he'd remained in politics.

    Your daughter's timing may be perfect. It usually takes a generation before a bold yet reasonable question such as yours is answered with a progressive paradigm shift in the public consciousness.

    Tell her to start printing bumper stickers. She already has my vote.

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    1. Thank you, Steve.

      Your comment is both hope-inspiring and frustrating--why does it take a nation so incredibly long to do the right thing?

      I expect to see you here in the states for her campaign.

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  4. I was only going to listen to part of what he was saying to see what part you liked so much and found myself glued to the whole thing.

    Can I be part of her campaign?!?!

    And Erica - I think DB should be her right hand man. He would make sure everything got done.

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    1. Sarah, you have to be part of her campaign! And DB. They will take the country by storm (literally, if Erica's posts are any indication.)

      I love when Powell talks about the Muslim mother with her head on her soldier son's gravestone. I need to go find that picture.

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  5. Part of the reason, I'm happy I put down that offer to move to US, when I did. All Indians are looked upon as people who snatch other people's jobs, and muslims in particular, well, you've got the toughest road to walk.

    They just classify everyone into broad categories without bothering to know who the person really is, and say the most hateful things.

    I hope yours, and Erica's kids grow up to meet a better world.

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    1. Thanks, Aniket.

      I really do believe they will meet a better world--I think they simply won't accept something less.

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  6. Beautiful, brilliant post.

    I was raised in the South where Feminism is sometimes referred to as "the F-word." But I was raised by a single mother who taught her children that they could do anything they wanted if they had the grit and determination to do it. No matter how outlandish, outrageous, unheard of.

    She taught this to me and to my brothers the same way -- not as girls or as boys. I didn't know anything about "feminism" until I went to college. It just wasn't talked about. In our house it was all about our power as people, as humans. And outside our house it was "the f-word."

    One of the greatest gifts you can give your daughter is confidence. You've instilled that in her already so now, no matter who tells her she is not enough or that she can't do something she can say with pride, "You are wrong about that."

    Or as my mama always said, "Watch me..."

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    1. The thing we know that no one else knows is that you had something to do with this post, Wendy. And I am grateful for that.

      Your mom sounds like my mom. She wouldn't have called herself a feminist, and yet she wound up with a (then-Catholic) daughter who, at age three, asked why we said "amen" instead of "awomen." And, in no small part because of her, I just grew up believing those were good questions to ask.

      My daughter is strong and confident. I know she'll be okay. But there is something different about believing you can do something and believing that you should have the right to, but that some people will line up to stand in your way.

      It's part of growing up, I know. But the mom in me wants her to stay "little" for as long as possible.

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  7. Brilliantly written.

    Unfortunately, for most politicians and all those who push an agenda based on fear, prejudice, or hate, it's not about people. It's about dogma. And money.

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  8. Thank you, Pete.

    I try really hard to wrap my mind around that point -- the dogma and money (and power). I know it's true; I just can't imagine it.

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  9. Nicely done.

    Here is the picture you are looking for:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/19/colin-powell-invokes-imag_n_135977.html

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    1. Thank you!

      So beautiful and heart-wrenching.

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  10. I would vote for your daughter over Mitt Romney today! She seems to have a much better grasp on life.

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    1. Thank you! I feel like I have a sort of exploratory committee going for her here.

      Thank you for visiting!

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