Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kids and Politics

All the election season nonsense (attack ads, misinformation, corporate political funding, etc.) has made me want to try to think back to a time when I was 100% oblivious to politics. This made me think back to how I perceived politics and current events when I was a kid.

My first childhood political memory is of the Gulf War era. I was in second grade, and I remember boys in my class running around the playground chanting, "Saddam Hussein is so insane, Saddam Hussein is so insane!" I didn't know who Saddam Hussein was. I didn't know where Iraq was. The name "Kuwait" wasn't even in my vocabulary. I didn't understand why we were in a war, but I was certain we were the good guys. And I had a crush on one of the boys doing the chanting, so I laughed with all the other kids and pretended I knew what was going on.

My second political memory is of the 1992 presidential election. I didn't know anything about Bush, Perot, or Clinton. President Bush sounded very serious when he talked, so I thought he was probably no fun at all. Clinton reminded me of a gameshow host, so I didn't think people should trust him. Perot seemed like a normal enough guy, so when our teacher had us make election season art projects, I colored a big American flag and wrote "Vote for Ross Perot!" at the bottom. I think one of my parents still has that.

My third political memory is of the 1996 election. I was in sixth grade, and the election results didn't come in until after my bedtime. When I woke up for school the next morning, my mom had written "Clinton won" and drawn a big sad face on the white board in the kitchen. Though I wouldn't have told my mom, I was secretly happy that Bob Dole lost because I thought he seemed really lame.

That was the extent of my political awareness before I turned eighteen. I would love to know how my readers' childhood political memories compare.


  1. In the 80s there used to be this show on late at night opposite... Johnny Carson, I think, called DC Folleys. It was a political comedy show featuring puppets of contemporary and famous political figures. I think they were the ones that made the Ronald Reagan puppet that appeared in the Genesis music video "Land of Confusion". Reagan got made fun of a lot when I was a kid. I don't even remember Jimmy Carter. I remember laughing along with a lot of the jokes about Reagan without really understanding the circumstances behind them. After that... I don't think I really paid attention to politics until I voted for Ralph Nader in the 2000 election.

  2. I TOTALLY remember that Reagan puppet AND that Genesis video! David you rock!

    My first political memory was of the election in 1984. I was in first grade. I knew who Ronald Reagan was, probably because he was already the president, but I have no memory of knowing who was running against him, or what that really meant.

    My second political memory is of asking my mom what the difference was between Democrats and Republicans. She gave me the oddest response that made the weirdest sort of sense. She said that most people identified as Democrats when they were young and then grew into Republicans as they got older. When I asked for clarification she told me that, for instance, she was a Democrat and my grandmother was a Republican. That was just the way to put it to my seven-year-old mind because knowing their two personalities I totally got what she meant.

  3. I never really got politics as a kid, and now that I've grown up... I still don't get it.

    I remember getting an email from you back when the Gore/Bush election got decided; you expressed your relief that Bush Jr was finally picked out after all that hoo-ha (though I suspect you were more relieved that it was all over than that it was "W" who got elected).

    We had the same thing with our recent Federal Election - we had our first female PM running against a conservative male, and Australia voted with a resounding "Meh". (I believe Ms Gillard has kept her position, by the way.)

  4. This isn't my first political memory, but of the early ones maybe the most vivid. I'm about nine. It's after bedtime, and as usual I'm under the covers reading comics by flashlight. The room I share with two brothers has no door; I can faintly hear the sound of the television. Then it goes silent. Momentarily my father's heavy footsteps are climbing creaky stairs. With practiced speed, I kill the light and feign deep sleep. But tonight I need not bother. My father is probably too absorbed by the horrible news to notice any petty infraction of mine.
    "No-one," he says as he steps into their bedroom across the hall, "ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." A line I am to hear my father quote many, many more times in the years to come, but never with quite such venomous fury as on the night that Ronald Reagan was elected president.