It Took a Children’s Book
When I was single, it was hard not to think about politics. I pretty much lived it while working on Capitol Hill. And then, after two years working for a Congressman, I went to graduate school to get my masters degree in public policy. I anticipated each election with the conviction that our culture — and my job — would rise or fall based on the results.
I may have overemphasized the importance of elections back then, but once I got married and started having kids, I have to admit, I went too far the other way. I stopped paying attention altogether. It was depressing with so much bad news and it dampened my hope for the future for my own kids. It seemed easier to turn off the TV and radio and limit my news to the Wall Street Journal while focusing on the kids.
But then just last week something unexpected reminded me that I can’t ignore politics and public policy just because I don’t like the direction Washington is headed. That something was a children’s book.
In the midst of focusing on our kids, we were reading Johnny Tremain, a work of historical fiction that shows up on all those lists of great books for children. Since it’s long, and our kids are still at the Hop on Pop reading level, we decided to get it from the library unabridged on CD.
The story, about a silversmith’s apprentice, overlaps with some of the great names in Boston during the two years leading up to the War for Independence: Sam Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere, just to name a few. This boy becomes a young man as he grows increasingly involved in the coming revolution and in the process, learns what it is the colonists are fighting for. In a moving speech, James Otis asks the select group of the “sons of liberty” why it is, after all, that they’re preparing to fight. “Taxes without representation,” says one. “To get the British soldiers out of Boston,” says another. No says Otis. “It’s so a man can stand up,” free. And it’s not just for the men in this room. It’s for our sons and our grandsons and all the generations that will follow, he continues. And it’s not just for American generations but for all men, everywhere, that they will know there are rights that come not from governments, not from men, but from God. Their freedom is a gift of God and not something any man can take away.
It’s for the men, women and children of Communist Russia (my great grandparents came from there), it’s for the families in East Berlin, and yes, for the people of Iraq.
Leave it to a book for kids to remind me just how essential my involvement in our great system of Representative Democracy is to my own family. Getting involved may be tedious in the present, but their future depends on it.