March 20, 2016

The times they are a-changin’


Long-time readers have heard many stories about my oldest son Boy-in-Black. They might remember the time he rewrote the lyrics of a Bob Dylan song and played it as his valedictory speech. The time he rescued the stray kitten. The time he was in charge of cleaning the kitchen and made up crazy rules to go with his chore. The time he memorized all the Q words in the dictionary so that he could beat me in a game of Scrabble.

Ten years ago, Boy-in-Black declared his career goal: he wanted to get a PhD in Physics and then become a hobo who hung out on the street corner with a guitar. He figured people would walk past and say, “See that hobo? He’s mad good at physics.” The career hasn’t turned out exactly as he planned. Oh, he’s got a PhD in Physics, and he still pretty much dresses like a hobo, but he’s got a full-time job doing research. He’s a respectable grown-up and all that.

I don’t think Boy-in-Black’s approach to the upcoming election will surprise anyone. Like the research scientist he is, he first spent hours looking up facts and statistics, reading widely and checking his sources carefully. He went especially to primary sources, actual footage of the candidates. “You don’t have to watch much Trump footage to see what he’s about,” he said to me, grinning.

Once Boy-in-Black found a candidate he felt strongly about, he threw his whole self into the campaign. He’s been phonebanking and facebanking, signing up for events, donating time and money and emotional energy. He’s passionate about getting young people to the polls for the primaries. “If just every person between the age of 18 and 30 voted,” he said, “we could make a difference.”

In the past, Boy-in-Black has been willing to sit on the sidelines while everyone else argued about politics. "That's because normally, I feel like I can't make any real change," he explained. "This is the first time there's been an honest candidate that I genuinely agree with."

It’s been fun for me to talk politics with my grown-up sons. Yes, that’s plural because With-a-Why has been just as adamant as Boy-in-Black. They keep presenting rational arguments in favor of their candidate. It’s funny, really, that all the young people I know are so obsessed with a candidate who is 74 years old. With-a-Why’s girlfriend, Shy Smile, said that Bernie Sanders is “like a cool grandpa.”

“I want to get that shirt that says Talk Bernie to me,” With-a-Why said.

“I love how the Bernie’s campaign has pretty much been a kickstarter project,” Boy-in-Black said. “I think the average donation has been $27. He’s crushing the internet.”

I’ve long been a supporter of Clinton, but my sons are pulling me into the Sanders camp. They know how to sway me. Boy-in-Black was quick to point out that Sanders has a good record when it comes to feminist issues. And of course, he knows that I am appalled by the idea that someone as sexist and racist as Trump could ever become president.

“Bernie Sanders beats Trump and all the other Republican candidates by a sizeable margin,” Boy-in-Black pointed out. “Clinton barely beats Trump, and loses to the others, according to all the polls so far.”

They know that environmental issues are my other major concern. “Well, if you’re gonna vote based on just one issue, that issue should be climate change,” Boy-in-Black said. “If the earth is destroyed, none of the other stuff really matters.”

“You can’t have meaningful action on climate change when you’re funded by the fossil fuel industry,” With-a-Why said. (Yes, With-a-Why is all grown up now, a young man in his twenties who gets into political debates. I know!) It says something about the sway of the Bernie Sanders campaign that With-a-Why has been phonebanking: he's an introvert who HATES making phone calls.

This will, in fact, be With-a-Why’s second time voting in a national election. He turned eighteen just a month before the election four years ago. And he’s done his research. “People say Bernie won’t be able to get anything done with a Republican Congress, but he’s known as the Amendment King for passing amendments tacked onto other bills,” said With-a-Why. “Look at this quote here,” he motioned to his computer screen. “A Republican senator praising Bernie’s willingness to compromise to get things done.”

Once Boy-in-Black and With-a-Why get on a roll, they begin spouting statistics and facts like crazy. Here is a typical sentence from Boy-in-Black: “Bernie Sanders has the highest approval rating of any sitting U.S. senator – 83 %. The average approval rating of U.S. senators is 14% and their average re-election rate is 95%. Because no one votes in local elections.” He's obsessed with facts, numbers, and statistics. That's what happens with a physicist gets into politics.

Whenever I go onto the internet and see some of the downright nasty conversations going on, I’m heartened by the young people I know who have figured out how to talk about politics in a way that’s a calm and rational sharing of facts. I don’t know how this election will play out, but the process has given me faith in the next generation.

The photo above: Boy-in-Black and With-a-Why phonebanking together.


Elephant's Child said...

Such an encouraging post.
On this side of the world I have been watching, and my anxiety levels are rising.
Were I able to vote, I suspect I would be joining your boys in their allegiance.

Sandy said...

So Boy in Black did get that PhD? Congrats to him! And no surprise that your kids take their responsibilities as citizens so seriously.

beemama said...

This is the first election where my young teens have been really aware of what's going on, and truly able to engage in meaningful political discourse - aside from things that gave me hope, like, "people shouldn't just hate President Obama because of his race," they didn't bring in much original material. This year, though, it's a whole new ballgame. They are talking with me, listening to and reading news, and having serious discussions with friends. (some of whom are reportedly changing their views from parental indoctrination to actual, reasoned, independent thought!)

Little kids were fun, but teens are the real reward. It's bittersweet for sure, but I'm a dark chocolate fan anyhow <3

jo(e) said...

It's exciting, isn't it, to be able to talk politics with your kids -- and learn stuff from them?

The line about dark chocolate made me smile.

jo(e) said...

Elephant's Child: Oh, I think there's a whole lot of anxiety here. When I watch people actually going to Trump rallies to support a candidate who has been openly racist, sexist, and xenophobic, I'm horrified that I live in this country. I'm not sure what I would do if he were actually elected.

DJan said...

I will have a chance to caucus for Bernie this coming Saturday here in Washington State. They say it's already over, that Hillary will be the nominee, and if she is I will support her, but until Bernie concedes, I'm all his! It's an exciting if scary time indeed. I love your blog, BTW, and congratulations for having raised to fine young men. :-)

Marty Damon said...

It is so heartening to see something positive come out of this god-awful campaign season. It sounds as though Sanders' campaign is changing the lives of the young generation just as (I hope)that generation will change the direction of politics to come.

Jeanie said...

Good for him and I wish him well. I'm afraid it won't happen (though it did in Michigan!) but I hope he keeps his passion. It's indeed a frightening time, bad enough for us; all the more so for the young. I admire him tremendously.

Carol Z said...

Enjoyed your post and always pleased to see political thoughts presented cogently and thoughtfully. I've been through a lot of elections -- a lot! -- and this one concerns me the most.

Mwa said...

I love how involved they are.

Debbie said...

boy in black sounds interesting, intelligent and on the right track. i do wish more younger people were more like sons are politically ignorant, but smart in their fields. i did not know any of this so i enjoyed it, very much. i could learn more, i could be more involved...but i'm not. and i am already tired of it all, thinking nothing will change. i could use a boy in black in my house, to motivate me!!!

he is using his time well but i hope he still plays the guitar, from time to time!!!

Liz said...

YAY for political involvement!! Sanders is awesome, though Clinton is my favorite. I'm having fun knowing that both of our two candidates will make me happy when one of them becomes President.

jo(e) said...

Liz: Exactly. I'll be happy with either one. It's the Republican candidates who terrify me.

jo(e) said...

Debbie: Oh, he does still play the guitar. And his girlfriend gave him a ukulele for Christmas so he'd learning that.

Zhoen said...

Utah might well go for Bernie, which means my vote might just count this time.
Dylan just covered for two of his co-workers who went to the caucus to vote for Sanders.

Wouldn't it be amazing?

Oh, found this which made me feel better.

robin andrea said...

I love your sons for their passion. I'm a 100% total Bernie supporter, but will definitely vote for Clinton if she's at the top of the ticket in November. I'm just heartened that a 74 year old, white-haired, gesticulating, old protester of the 60s has come this far in the presidential primaries. I would have never guessed such a thing was possible. Please tell your sons that an old hippie and her even older husband are hoping to vote for Bernie in the late California primary this June. Definitely feeling the Bern!

Martha Spong said...

#2 Son has also been phone banking, as well as recruiting his family members to support Bernie. I'm so glad to see the next generation engaged in our civic life!

Lomagirl said...

I'd vote with them- if I could vote. I'm keeping my Canadian citizenship, though, because I might be headed up there if Trump wins. (We threatened to do that with GWB but never did. This time it might be our best option.)

Wendy said...

You don't have to answer, but I'm wondering if they have changed your mind because this post is the closest I've come to changing mine (in that final primary in June). My staunch Sanders supporter friend and I had a good discussion about it after I read the post. (She and I both changed our Green Party affiliation so we could vote as Democrats in the Primaries, but I believe our votes will cancel one another out.)
Meanwhile, I appreciate that we can talk about our allegiances like grown-ups and support one another and whichever candidate makes it to the top (and I wonder if there is any chance that one will choose the other for the VP slot. Do your boys have any statistics on that possibility?).

Boy-in-Black said...

To everyone: Thanks for the comments! I'm very hopeful, and the Sanders campaign has gotten some great momentum. Five out of the last six states have been wins with 70% or more of the vote!

Wisconsin and Wyoming should both be wins, and if Sanders can manage to win New York I think that'll be the crucial turning point. He's down 12 points in NY polls currently, up from being down 48 points less than two weeks ago.

In all, he's at 92% of his delegate targets given by Nate Silver on and is steadily gaining ground. People are starting to come around!

Boy-in-Black said...

Wendy: I don't have any stats on VP picks for either candidate, just speculation at this point, although in my mind the chance of either Democratic candidate in this election picking up the other one for VP is probably low. I haven't followed the Clinton side as closely, but from the Sanders camp there's talk of Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren (though I think she'd end up going to a different position), or Nina Turner.

There's even talk of Jill Stein as VP for Sanders (or Sanders as VP for her if he doesn't get the Democratic nomination), as their platforms line up well and she's mentioned that she's seeking a collaboration. In my plug here (sorry!) I'd also mention that Bill McKibben of has written a great series of articles strongly endorsing Bernie Sanders as the only candidate who will make significant strides toward battling climate change. Climate change is definitely one of the most important issues for me.

I'd like to ask what your main reasons are for choosing Hillary over Sanders for your vote? Don't worry, I'm not gonna to convince you to change your mind. Okay, I might try a little bit... :) But mainly I'm just interested in hearing in hearing points of view from the other side. It's tough sometimes to get clear answers over the internet, as a lot of conversations can get hostile pretty quickly. In particular, it seems like on paper Sanders might be the typical choice for a Green party member. Jill Stein has even said she thought she and Hillary were "polar opposites". I'm just curious what the deciding factors were for you.

Thanks for the discussion!

37paddington said...

My son is on board with yours. And he did his research very methodically too. It's been fascinating to watch our young one make reasoned and informed assessments. and inspiring.