There was a time when an American parent’s greatest hope for a child was that he, or she, would grow up to become president. As a young man entering the latter part of my twenties, with the prospect of having children of my own edging closer by the day, I wonder if that’s true anymore. Would I want my child to grow up to be the kind of person who is capable of succeeding in the American political system? The fact that I hesitate to say yes, even for a second, raises uncomfortable feelings in my gut as the next major election looms around the corner.
To begin with, I have to look at the attributes I would wish to encourage in my own progeny. Like most parents, or the good ones, at least, I would like my child to be honest, kind, a hard worker who understands the nature of sacrifice and the pride of having done goodness for the sake of the work itself. I would like my child to be intelligent, clever, and wise enough to know the difference.
Ideally, I would like a child who is tolerant not because he fears how society will view him, but because he is self-reflective enough to realize that he carries the prejudices of experience that we all accumulate along the road of life. Most of all, I want a child who is happy and proud of who he is and has been and realizes that it is those things which will make him the person he will be later in life.
When I list out the qualities I would wish to see in my own children, then take a step back and look objectively at his chances for the presidency, I realize that were he to become the man I hope he does, he would never stand a chance of wading through the murky waters of American politics. He would either be torn apart by the media, who ironically seem to distrust anyone on whom they are incapable of finding a shred of dirt, or, and my heart freezes for a moment at this dreadful thought, he would find a bullet in his heart, put there by another victim of our country’s increasingly fatal divisiveness.
Why, then, if these traits are those which we would consider a blessing on our own lives, do we not expect them of our leaders? Why do we, in fact, seem to go out of our way to make certain that they are not present? If a child is truly the reflection of its parents, then a nation’s leaders are the reflection of its people. As we enter an economic recession and the fifth year of a war driven by greed and fueled by fear, why haven’t we stopped bickering with one another long enough to realize that the child birthed by our forefathers more than two hundred years ago is slowly dying.