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.