Friday, April 19, 2013

In Response to the Boston Marathon Bombings

On the rare occasions when we hear a helicopter in our town, I remind Twelve that she is incredibly privileged to live in a place where the sound of something flying overhead is a novelty - even something that one might even try to get a better look at. It's not a cause for alarm; we don't worry that bombs will be dropped or seek shelter. Being the targets of bombings in our home towns is just not a reality for us, unlike the realities of too many thirteen-year-olds and too many of their mothers in too many other home towns.

Of course, she doesn't get it.

This week's Boston Marathon bombing highlights the privilege of a nation for which this sort of thing is appallingly novel - we're collectively outraged that anyone would dare bomb us! - and warrants an immediate, indignant, and definitive response.

This afternoon I will remind LJ that in too many countries, being the target of terrorist attacks is pretty much business as usual. In too many cities, a couple of relatively smallish bombs is not a good enough reason to shut everything down while you find the bad guys.

Of course, she won't get it. But I will have said it and she will have heard it, and that's enough.

Actually ... she might get it a little bit, come to think about it. In the car on our way to an out-of-town volleyball game this week, Twelve announced that she wants to be a congressional intern. In Washington, DC, her class met with a young man who had gone to their school a decade or so ago and is now an intern for one of our state's senators. Apparently his snazzy green shirt and matching tie were appealing enough that Twelve was curious about how one might become such an intern, so we talked about how she should get good grades in high school and so on. (I'll take any excuse to talk up 'getting good grades in high school.')

Okay, I said, and then what do you want to do? Do you want to become a senator yourself?

Oh, yeah, I guess so, Twelve replied, with the air of someone who hadn't really thought about it before but supposes she thinks it's a fine idea. She then proceeded to outline how she thought that might work, and we talked about the difference between state and national government and the intermediate steps between seventh grade and senatorhood. Find leadership opportunities wherever you are, I said, be like your Auntie and be the president of everything in high school, be involved with student government in college, that sort of thing. I tried to tie in her ideas with what she learned on the DC trip and help her make connections with what actually happens already. I tried to do this part gently, because it's such a letdown to realize that someone else already came up with your big idea.

(For my part, a couple of years ago I had this brilliant idea for a gift registry website that isn't tied to any specific store. You could ask for anything you wanted from anywhere! I even came up with a couple of excellent names for such a service. As it turns out, the idea was so brilliant and those names so excellent that it was already being done.)

I don't remember everything Twelve said - I was listening reallysuperhard but I am terrible at remembering the specifics of the awesome conversations that we have - but one of her main ideas was that, if she was a senator, she would ask regular people what they thought about things, and then do that. I explained that, well, that's sort of what's supposed to happen already - but it is an excellent approach, you should do that!

I think we arrived at the Boys and Girls Club gym before we had a chance to figure out all the details about Twelve's path to the Capitol, but that was okay by me. It was a great conversation. She's talking to me, first of all, but she's talking to me about things that she's learning in school, learning to care about things that matter to the future of the nation, envisioning ways to be involved, and practicing her critical thinking skills. It doesn't get much better than that in a twenty minute car ride with a thirteen-year-old.

It almost made up for the hour of misery at the volleyball game - between the uncomfortable metal bleachers, stinky strangers with small personal space bubbles, and the really lousy volleyball, going to Twelve's games is not my favorite way to spend an evening.

On the other hand, we now have a reason to be grateful that a sore backside and smelly people are the worst things that happen to us at an athletic event.

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