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Out of the mouths of babes

Amanda Michaels | Thursday, November 9, 2006

Politics are about passion – political campaigns, even more so.

But there is a point at which the passion becomes too much.

When partisan differences turn into throw-down dirty brawls. When attacks turn away from the greater national issues and latch onto the throats of individuals and their families. When campaign ads say nothing about political platforms, and instead are intent on showing how ‘unfunny’ an opponent is.

After each election, there are always some “civil hands” in need of washing.

One of the most unsavory elements of this kind of over-the-top antipathy for ‘the other guy’ is the way in which children are pulled down into the mud with the rest of us.

Late Tuesday night during CNN’s election coverage, a woman called in to speak on behalf of her 12-year-old daughter. The girl, she said, was distressed about the Democrats’ victories, because she loved President Bush. The CNN analyst asked that the girl -we’ll call her Jane – be put on the line.

Jane, in a soft but very assured voice, told the analyst that what was really upsetting about the election was not so much that the President’s party was losing, but that she knew that the winning Democrats were “all really immoral people.”

That was from a sixth-grader.

When I was nine, my entire class wrote to political leaders. Most people picked then-President Bill Clinton or Hillary – but, not knowing much of anything about politics, I made my decision based on the person receiving the smallest number of letters.

That person was Rick Santorum-the Pennsylvania Representative who had just been elected to the Senate. No one else wanted to write to him, and I took pity.

Big mistake.

Weeks went by. Everyone else in the class brought in their signed pictures of “Slick Willy” – as my dad still calls him – but my mailbox remained empty. Finally, I was the only one left without even a letter to show for my efforts. And thus was born the grudge that lasts even to this day.

Eventually, I began to dislike Santorum for more informed reasons, but for many years I thought of him only as “the bad man who doesn’t care about little girls,” and hissed every time I heard him mentioned.

Yes, I literally hissed.

Now, in the world of politics, it’s one thing for an adult to call another adult a baby killer, a warmonger, a sleazy sycophant.

It’s another for children to become involved in the muckraking, to be used by their parents – or political candidates – as mouth-pieces for a cause they don’t even understand.

It was disturbing to hear that little girl on CNN last night – just as disturbing as the deep anger I still harbor for Santorum.

I’m just glad my mother never put me on the phone.