When it comes to politics, I'm pretty much a preach to the choir kind of girl--never unleashing the full fury of my opinions on anyone I'm not reasonably sure agrees with me (or at least is bound, by law or genetics, to tolerate me). It may seem a little chicken-shit, but I've learned the hard way that it preserves important business and personal relationships. Odds are you're not going to change anyone's mind so the frustration level is just not worth it.
The other morning, though, I was lured into a discussion of politics by the unlikeliest of fellow conversationalists: two fifth graders. On Tuesdays, I help a friend cover a child care gap by sitting with two eleven-year-olds (one hers and one her sister's) and two eight-year-olds (one hers, one her sister's) for twenty minutes or so until their bus comes. Somehow during the usual morning stuff, Eleven-Year-Old Boy was talking about some celebrity he didn't like and I said, "Yeah, he's not on my list of favorite people."
Eleven-Year-Old Boy says, "Yeah, there's a lot of people not on my list of favorite people...like the president for example."
Then me: "Yeah, he's definitely not on my list of favorite people..."
We're interrupted by Eleven-Year-Old Girl who says, "You know there's going to be an election soon so we won't have to put up with President Bush much longer." Then, warming to the topic, speaking in that breathless way unique to adolescent (and slightly pre-adolescent) girls. "I guess I don't really care who gets elected except my grandma says if Barack Obama gets elected white people are doomed."
Wow. Just wow. What the hell am I supposed to say to that?
While I'm formulating my reponse--looking for something non-committal that will still somehow convey that I don't agree at all without saying something that might offend her family members should it get back to them (which means not using the words "paranoid bigot" which were actually the first thing to pop into my head)--Eleven-Year-Old Boy slings his backpack over his shoulder, looks me dead in the eye and says with a slightly raised eyebrow, "Hillary Clinton has a penis."
I sputter, "Um...uh...good to know." (I mean what the hell?!)
Eleven-Year-Old Girl, suddenly the voice of wisdom, says, "We really didn't need to hear that."
Eleven-Year-Old Boy says, "Well it's true! I heard it on Family Guy. If you pay really close attention you'll hear it on one of the episodes."
So, from the show featuring a talking baby with a subtle yet inexplicable British accent and an IQ higher than everyone in his family combined but who is still somehow not potty trained and whose companion is a talking dog who's almost as smart as the baby yet still hangs out with this whacked-out family, Eleven-Year-Old Boy has gleaned the apparently inarguable information that Hillary Clinton has a penis.
Before we could get into a discussion about whether or not Hillary actually does have a penis, and in what way that might affect her ability to serve as president (would men be doomed? women? Or, because she's a woman with a penis, neither? Or maybe both?), the bus came.
What really scares me is not eleven-year-olds thinking these things, but the adults--in their lives and elsewhere--who are thinking the same way.