Warning: the following post includes sharp, partisan political commentary. Read at own risk.
Scene: Tonight. Our house. MOMMY is giving ISAAC a bath.
Mommy: Isaac, who are we voting for for President?
Isaac (laughing): John McCain!
Mommy: Noooooo! Who are we voting for?
Isaac: Barack Obama! We are not voting for John McCain!
Mommy: That's right! What color is John McCain's hair?
Mommy: That's right! What color is Barack Obama's hair?
Mommy: Barack does not have purple hair! His hair is black! How old is John McCain?
Mommy: That's right! How old do you think Barack is?
Isaac: Nine years old. No, he's 79 years old.
Mommy: Well, I think he's somewhere in the middle. Isaac, Barack is going to help schools. (Under breath) and John McCain is going to help the rich...
[MOMMY shampoos ISAAC'S hair. ISAAC is lately enamored of MOMMY's fruity-smelling conditioner, which helps keep his hair from sticking straight up like The Littlest Punk.]
Isaac: I want some conditioner.
[MOMMY rinses ISAAC's hair and puts in a dab of conditioner.]
Mommy: Okay. Put your head back so I can rinse you. So who do you think John McCain is going to help?
Isaac: The rinse.
Mommy (laughing): Not the rinse! The rich!!
[Bath and political science lesson over, Isaac flees to the computer, presumably to research and speedily refute Mommy's brilliant political analysis.]
Most everything I know about politics I learned from watching Jon Stewart and The West Wing. I admit it, I'm not wonky that way, and the Sportscenteresque political coverage annoys me. Who cares if more people approve of Mitt Romney today than yesterday? And let's just say that I have a pretty good idea of how the sausage is made, and it's not pretty. Policy changes follow polls, positions shift on a dime, mud is slung and re-slung, and I have as good an idea of who Angelina Jolie really is as I do the candidates (I take that back: I have to admire someone who tattoos the birthplaces of her children on her body. Now that's commitment.)
So I was curious to meet Elizabeth Edwards at the BlogHer '07 conference in Chicago, and even more curious to meet her again with my fellow Silicon Valley Moms on Saturday. She was warm, personable, genuine, and deeply thoughtful about things that I care about: education, health care, sure, but mostly: people.
As the parent of a child with special needs, I am intimately touched by all these issues. Education, because my son's current program just...doesn't...work. Don't get me wrong: the teachers are committed and talented, and they genuinely seem to care about my kid. But school starts at 9:20 and ends at 12:20, so how exactly does that serve working parents? We have found a temporary fix, but this isn't sustainable long-term, and I shudder to think about the families who just give up because it's too hard to make it work. Don't even get me started on the healthcare. If you visit the Autism Society of America Web site, you'll find approximately 17 treatment options for autism, just about none of which are covered by health insurance. With one in 150 children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, this is a national crisis and a national shame. So the political has gotten a lot more personal for me this time around.
Meeting Elizabeth made me realize that if I vote for her husband, I have, for the very first time, a pretty good idea what I'm getting. And that made me rethink my assumptions about who and what I was really voting for. It was a smart move to connect with the mom bloggers: we're not just out here writing about little so-and-so's stomach flu (though we do), or the great pedicure we got down the street (though we do)--we're having a national dialogue on raising and educating the next generation. That is political, and the Edwards camp is listening. (Hint to other candidates: are you listening too?)
I admit I haven't done the research yet on the Edwards health care plan--too busy juggling day to day. But I do know this: based on what I've seen of Elizabeth Edwards, I believe this campaign views policy in a complex and human way. I appreciate that. I respect that. I may even vote for it.
I spent yesterday with the Silicon Valley Moms and, for the second time, Elizabeth Edwards, who was as lovely and genuine and impressive as ever. I do think that of all the candidates, the Edwardses seem to have the most thoughtful take on what real families actually need. Elder care, health care, education--policy issues, sure, but Elizabeth (as she insisted we call her) moves fluidly from one topic to the other as if, miracle of miracles--they're all actually related! For those of us dealing with autism spectrum and other special needs issues, this is a critically important distinction--whoever your candidate of choice, and whatever your politics.
Mr. Personality is back! This morning he woke up and announced (as he does so many mornings), that he wanted to "get on the elevator." So we let Daddy sleep in and took the bus to the Hyatt Regency (memorialized in Mel Brooks' High Anxiety, if you are old enough to remember) and rode around for an hour while I was on a conference call. Multitasking: breakfast of champions.
Thanks to all of you who sent sweet comments and wishes during Isaac's bout with stomach flu. It's so great to know that we're all out here, living our lives and handling stuff and checking in with each other.
Whatever your politics, join me in appreciating the grace and strength of character of Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards. She is the closing keynote here at Blogher 07 today. Quotes for the day:
On being attacked on the Internet and the media: "My experience of trolls; they don't go away if you ignore them. The same thing is true of Ann Coulter."
On stating her views, even when they differ from the campaign's: "No one's ever asked me to stop talking."
On Hillary Clinton and the Defense of Marriage Act: "She's in favor of repealing some of it. John and I are in favor of repealing all of it."
On universal healthcare: "The national will is there. But to pay for it we're going to have to raise taxes."
On Hillary Clinton: "If you say as a woman you should support me, then you should lead on the issues that are important to women."
On youth involvement in politics and community work: "I think one of the reasons young people are not involved is that they feel powerless, and that their voice will not be heard...I think it's part of the jobs of campaigns--wherever they are on the spectrum--to hand young people a megaphone."
On Iraq as a women's issue: "Iraq is a women's issue...I bet in 2004 I did not have a single event where a woman didn't cry in my arms for the loss of their child, or in fear for their child. I think if women were in charge there would be no more wars."
On the politics of war: "I was once at a fundraising event when the the audience was asked who among them had a relative who was serving in Iraq, and not one of the guests raised their hand--but all of the people who were serving raised their hands."
On the politics of media: "John has said that he does not want Rupert Murdoch to be the gatekeeper of the information that Americans receive."
More on Rupert Murdoch: "I don't agree with Rupert Murdoch. I agree with me all the time. But I still don't think I should be the sieve through which all information flows."
On where she gets her news: "I turn on the BBC. I don't want to hear 90 seconds on an issue. I want to hear it fully discussed."
On self-expression: "I think people dye their hair purple because they want to be noticed in a very crowded world."
On campaigning in Texas: "I'd like John to go to Texas and campaign against Rudy Giuliani."
On how her faith informs her political views: "I believe that we are given a set of guidelines and that we are obligated to live our lives with a view to those guidelines....not because of the promise of eternal life, but because it is right."
Anyone want to join me in nominating Mrs. Edwards as a write-in candidate for 2008?
Photo courtesy of Stefania Pomponi Butler at Citymama. And thanks to Robyn and Glennia for filling in a few quotes I missed.
If you haven't seen today's New York Times piece on the very public rift between Bob and Suzanne Wright, founders of Autism Speaks, and their daughter Katie, whose son Christian has autism, it's a sobering read. I received the link from a few friends today, all of whom suggested that as the parent of a child on the spectrum I might have something useful to say. But here's the thing: I've been following this story for a while now, queasily watching the Google alerts pile up in my email box, and I'm no closer to any kind of perspective than I was at the beginning. But I am certain of one thing: this story is well past the point where taking a position is anything other than (in the immortal words of David Bowie), "putting out fire with gasoline."
What I can say--what I want to say--is that if you suspend judgment for a moment on the arguments and the experts and the celebrities and the posturing and the statistics, what's left is very simple and very stark: a lot of families in a lot of pain, trying to do what they believe to be right for their kids. I don't pretend to have answers--I'm as much in the dark as everyone else who is navigating this crazy journey. But I do have one rule: when I put my son to bed at night, I try not to think much about what it is that caused him to be different. I just love him, the essence of him, and whether or not he can put it into words, I want him to feel it in his bones as he drops off to sleep.