Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure
My blue-eyed girl is in civics this semester. Along with half of her seventh-grade class, she’ll learn about American government. Explore Illinois government. And take a peek at local government. I’m ecstatic. She’s unimpressed.
I loved civics. Memorizing the Constitutional amendments. Differentiating between the powers of the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches. Explaining the concept of checks and balances. The elastic clause. Interstate commerce.
Just last week she asked which Constitutional amendments I thought were most important. I thought maybe we were connecting. Maybe she was interested. Nope. Come to find out her question was less “get to know your mom” and more “I don’t want to do my homework.” I reminded her that I was not a pre-teen girl and asked her which amendments were most important to her. Apparently, the ones that start with an exaggerated sigh.
I did find out after the fact that one of the amendments she listed was the repeal of prohibition. And her reason why, so her mother and father could be happy and not so mean. Cue my eye roll.
Once she finishes her light dive into American government, she moves on to Illinois government. In sheer anticipation I offered her my copy of the 1970 Illinois Constitution annotated for legislators (recognizing that it’s no longer the most current version of the Constitution but is still annotated and in perfectly well used condition). Her eye roll was rather fierce. It was even more fierce when I told her that it had to be returned in the condition in which it was lent out. I don’t think she gives annotated the respect that it is due.
After Illinois government, she’ll explore the government that most impacts individuals’ everyday lives. Local government. Cities. Counties. Townships. And special districts. My blue-eyed girl was unimpressed when I politely reminded her that I served nearly two terms as Aldermen for the City of Harvard. I even moonlighted as the Vice-Chair of the Finance Committee and Chair of the Ordinance Committee. And I served nearly a full term as a McHenry County Conservation District Trustee including two terms as President. Again, cue the eye roll. And dramatic sigh. I was honestly waiting for the classic “you just don’t understand” but fortunately (for her) it wasn’t uttered.
Civics has also taught our blue-eyed girl about political parties. One evening she asked my farmer and I which political party we vote for. We’ve never hid our political leanings. We also don’t broadcast them. Like many farmers, my farmer is cheap. So cheap he squeaks. Politically he prefers candidates who also squeak. I believe in the value of government, but I don’t want it everywhere. When it comes to government, “limited” is my favorite word.
Something we’ve never hid from our blue-eyed girl or big-little boy is the importance of respect. Our preferred candidate might lose. And lose big. But you respect the office. The title. And the person who won. Even if you don’t want to. Good politicians will tell you that after election night you put political parties aside and move on to the art of governing. Perhaps if more people did this we could simply move beyond campaigning and on to the great experiment called democracy.