political persuasions inherited?

Some wack scientists believe they may prove that POLITICAL IDEAOLOGIES ARE INHERITED.

I come from a very political family. My parents made a strong effort to get all of us involved in politics at a young age.

I am also very insistent that my kids at least talk politics with me at home. I want them to know the issues and make their own decisions about them (although secretly, of course, I hope they all agree with me).

Henry, age 15, is currently what I'd describe as a confused libertarian. We argue politics a whole lot. He also has some strong social democrat leanings (see what I mean about being confused?). But at least he's thinking, reading and talking. That's what matters. And he'll argue politics with anybody.

He's always been more interested in politics than my other two kids, although Elliot is now showing much stronger interest. ALl three of them apparently went with their father yesterday to early vote.

For old time's sake, here's an essay I wrote about Henry's political views about 6 years ago:

Playing Politics

by Katie Allison Granju

I grew up in a house full of liberal Democrats. One of my very first baby photos depicts me – at the tender age of two weeks – being carried on a labor picket line with my striking journalist father. At age ten or so, I became involved in my first political campaign when I wore a dancing potato costume at various election stops for Bob Clement, who was then campaigning to become Tennessee's governor. No one in my family can recall what the potato was supposed to signify, but we all remember the costume. As a high school and college student I spent several summers in D.C. working for two Democratic members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation.

The first time I remember seeing my future husband was as he was hanging around the anti-apartheid shanty town that graced the lawn of the University of Tennessee’s Humanities Building in the spring of 1989. He and I went on to involve ourselves jointly in a variety of progressive causes that mattered to us, and in fact, one of our first dates was captured on the front page of The Tennesseean; we were marching together at a peace rally near the Oak Ridge Y-12 plant.

And then we became parents. Our son Henry was born in the fall of 1991 and we brought him home to our shabby but well-loved Fort Sanders apartment, sure that we had together given life to a budding little activist. We played him Public Enemy and Fugazi and Arlo Guthrie. He appeared on the local news as we strolled him through downtown in Knoxville’s annual Gay Pride parade. From the time he could babble, we encouraged him to develop his own ideas and to take a stand for things he believes in.

So it shouldn’t have surprised us too much when, at the age of five, he announced that he had developed a strong preference in the 1996 presidential election.

“I’m for Bob Dole,” he proclaimed with unwavering authority.

My husband Chris and I both stared down at Henry, sure we had misunderstood.

“But Henry, why are you for Bob Dole?” we asked. I figured that in a Republican town like Knoxville, Bob Dole was getting all the playground buzz. Maybe Henry was just trying to fit in with his friends at Rocky Hill Elementary.

“I ‘m for Bob Dole because he’s a war hero and has a lot of experience. I like his ideas on lower taxes,” explained Henry.

Despite our calmly reasoned protestations, Henry stuck with Dole to the bitter end of the ’96 campaign. After it was over, Chris and I continued to talk politics with our little supply-sider in hopes that his support for Mr. Viagra had been a fluke, a childish whim. But as the 2000 election year rolled around, Henry again went for the Republican nominee. He became a vocal Bush supporter early in the primaries and hung with him until the last chad was (not) counted.

No amount of reasoning could sway my third grade son from his choice. In fact, to my daily annoyance, he took to proselytizing to his sister and brother, five-year-old Jane and three year old Elliot.

“Now Elliot,” he would start in whenever he wanted to get a rise out of me, “tell Mama who you want to be president.”

“George W. Bush!” Elliot would warble with gusto as I cringed.

I am happy to report that my daughter went for Nader (one of her kindergarten-age buddies told his parents that he too was for the candidate he thought was named “The Ralphinator”), but Jane ended up switching her allegiance to Gore when it came time for her to enter the “Kids Voting” booth on election day.

After the election was all over, Henry and I went out to dinner together in the Old City and I again tried to get to the heart of his political views. I talked to him about the values that matter to me, about my views on world events and social issues.

“I understand all that stuff Mom,” he responded with some frustration. “That’s why I was for Bush. Because he represents things that matter to me, like being against abortion. I’m against abortion. And it really bothered me when Gore said stuff during the campaign that wasn’t exactly true. You always told me that was wrong.”

Suddenly, I was speechless. I looked at my handsome, earnest son gazing back at me over his child’s plate of spaghetti, and I suddenly felt so incredibly proud of him. And I experienced one of those oh-so- fleeting moments as a parent when you know you’re doing OK.

Even though Henry may not agree with me on the details, he has absorbed the family values we are trying to impart: honesty, civic engagement, integrity, and personal responsibility for one’s decisions. I had been browbeating him with my opinions when in fact, he was carefully weighing his own.

As happy as I am that Henry is so interested in politics, I do hope he doesn’t go the Young Republican route in ‘04. After all, I love the kid a lot and I’d really hate to have to send him away to be a foreign exchange student until the election is over.

Copyright Katie Allison Granju 2000-2006. All rights reserved
Originally appeared in Metro Pulse


Anonymous said...

I think it is wonderful that you strive to get your children to think for themselves.
I find that my adult siblings often mimic what my parents believe and this frustrates me to no end. I have vowed to give my children the tools to think for themselves. Your story is a wonderful example of how you have been successful.

This might sound odd…. I hope Tennessee still has a Gay Pride Parade. Our family might be moving to Tennessee and one thing I fear is not being able to expose my children to different lifestyles/cultures. Being from California, I find a lot of my beliefs are pretty extreme to my husband’s family living in TN. And although I know not everyone from TN believes the same thing, I have a feeling it’s a lot more conservative than I want my children to experience. I almost feel we will need to belong to a church in order to not be ostracized.

Anonymous said...

So is male-pattern baldness. That's why America needs a new Whig Party.