Sadly, my sister and her husband are both Republicans. Though I wouldn’t call either of them “political hobbyists.” My brother-in-law tries to act like he knows what he’s talking about (he’s doesn’t have a clue), and my sister for the most part won’t talk about politics at all.
Though I think I’d best describe them as the typical Christian Republicans. The most “Christian” thing they do involves going to church on Sunday (if they wake up in time) and probably about 98% of what they know about politics comes from Fox News.
Needless to say, at family gatherings, we don’t discuss politics.
All that being said, my oldest nephew (he’s 10) recently decided to stay a few days with my mom. Granted a lot of people say their family members are bright, but this kid is really intelligent for being ten. It’s hard sometimes to talk to him because he can carry on adult conversations, but you forget sometimes that he’s only 10 so he’s not always going to understand everything.
While I was visiting the other day he happened to ask me what the difference was between a Republican and a Democrat. Which, when you think about it, is kind of a loaded question to answer so that a 10-year-old would understand. Not only that, but he’s not my child.
I could answer the question the way I would tell my child (for the record I don’t have any), but trying to explain this to someone else’s child is not exactly simple. Especially when I know his parents aren’t Democrats.
Needless to say, it was one of the more enlightening experiences of my life. I’ve explained politics to many people, but never a 10-year-old. And especially not a 10-year-old whose parents are Republicans.
I didn’t even know where to start. Social issues? Economic? How do I explain either where he would understand and without essentially telling him, “Your parents are full of crap”?
I started with the social approach. He knows what homosexuality is and he’s clearly intelligent enough to know being a good person versus being a bad person. He’s a Christian, so I simply asked him what he learns about Jesus in church. His answer was basically to be a good person, a caring person, to love one another and be generous.
But that’s when he mentioned that he was taught that homosexuality is a sin. At least according to the Bible.
Then I mentioned that Jesus Christ never once spoke out against homosexuality. In fact, Jesus never mentioned homosexuality even once.
That’s when I posed the question, “Going by what you’ve been taught about Jesus, would you think he would judge homosexuals or embrace them?”
He said embrace them.
Then I asked him if he finds girls attractive. He begrudgingly said he did. He’s 10, they still have “cooties” after all. That’s when I asked him, “When did you decide you liked girls?” At first he really didn’t know how to answer that. Though finally he said he just does. He wasn’t sure why.
That’s when I said to him, “It’s the same way with homosexuals. They don’t know why they like someone of the same sex, they just do. They were born that way the same exact way you were born to like girls.”
Then I asked him if he could write his name with his right hand (he’s left handed). He said he could, but it would be “really ugly.” So that’s when I said, “So you have two mostly identical hands. Yet you can only write well with one. When did you choose to write with your left hand?”
Naturally he said he’s always written with his left hand. And it’s true. Even when he was a tiny baby he always favored his left hand.
So that’s when I told him, “See, we’re wired to be certain ways. Our sexuality isn’t really any different than which hand we write with. You didn’t choose to be left handed any more than someone chose to be homosexual. You can try to write with your right hand as much as you want but it’ll never feel as comfortable as writing with your left. It’s part of who you are. It’s just like our sexual orientation. We are how God created us because as a Christian I can’t imagine God creating people to be sinners.”
Then he countered with, “Well what about criminals? Did God make them bad?”
I paused for a second, and presented with a situation a professor once presented for one of my classes to answer, “Describe race to someone who was born blind without using color.”
He sat there for a good 10-15 seconds before he said he didn’t think he could.
Then I asked him, “So are racists born, or is racism learned?” He guessed learned.
That’s when I said, “See, bad behavior is learned. People aren’t born bad. You can usually trace bad behavior back to something. The way they were raised. The family structure. What kind of financial situation were they born into. Mental illnesses. While some might be more inclined to be criminals, ultimately it’s always a choice. The same way it’s a choice to be racist. Someone isn’t born racist. You can typically trace that racism back to mental illness, the way they were raised, where they were raised or even events in their life that might have caused them to form racial stereotypes. But they weren’t born a racist.”
“But when it comes to homosexuals, that’s not the case,” I continued. “There’s no scientific evidence that pinpoints what causes homosexuality. Straight parents raise gay children and gay parents raise straight children. Most homosexuals have no idea why they’re gay. Just that most of their lives, even as very young children, they always felt an attraction to the same sex.”
Though I told him at the end of the day, it’s all about just being a good person to everyone you meet because you don’t know what they’ve been through. The server at the restaurant who’s not giving good service could have just lost a loved one. The cashier at the grocery store who isn’t that talkative might be someone who suffers from severe social anxiety just trying to make a living. But don’t judge anyone because you never really know what they’ve been through that’s made them the way they are. Just be a good person to everyone and at the end of the day you’ll never know what impact your kindness might have made in the lives of others.
And if you do that, that is what being a Christian, and a good person in general, should be about.
But he didn’t left me off the hook with that. He then brought up economics.
Economics I struggled with. I didn’t want to step into territory where I might be telling him his parents don’t know what the heck they’re talking about (even though that’s what I really think), but I wanted to phrase it in such a way that he could figure it out on his own.
“What’s better, helping 98 percent of people or just 2 percent?” I asked.
He answered 98 percent.
Then I asked, “What makes more sense, spending money to help the poor or to give more money to the rich?”
He said to help the poor.
Finally I asked him, “What’s should we spend more money on, education or bombs?”
He said education, because education is what makes people more intelligent so they don’t need to use bombs.
Like I said, he’s a pretty smart kid.
Then I told him that most Democrats believe that we should help the poor, that we should focus on helping 98 percent of people instead of just the top 2 percent and that education is one of the most important investments we can make in this country.
Republicans support pretty much the opposite of all of that.
And it will be up to him to decide for himself what side of these arguments on which he wants to stand. Because it wasn’t my place to tell him what’s right or wrong. Nobody should do that, not even his parents. The only thing anyone should do is tell him what they think and let him make up his own mind.
Will anything I said to him make any kind of a difference? Who knows? I guess time will tell. Though I feel I might have learned more from trying to explain all of this to him than he did from anything I had to say.