It all started on a car journey home from Fencing Club, our forum for discussion of the great issues of the day. The Federalist Papers may have served this purpose for sword-toting intellectuals two centuries ago: I’m going t0 publish the Traffic Jam papers for the modern age.
The Boy has been anxious about the scraps of news filtering through to him. We try to shield his childhood. But as any parent will testify, they catch on to what’s going on and they worry. Rather than avoid the issue and allow a six year old imagination to fill the gaps, we met world affairs head on. In his language, we discussed peaceful protest, the rule of law, the right of Presidents to issue executive orders and the role of jurists to rule on them, officers to interpret them, and law-makers to fashion their context. We talked about tolerance, freedom, security and safety.
We considered his close Muslim friend, and reached an interim conclusion that people have different religions but it’s pretty much the same God beyond the small print. Chillingly, he has in the inquisitive notebook of his memory a vague fleeting impression of some people being set apart in the olden days, made to wear a star when people were “mean” to them. I moved us on quickly – there are things that no six year old should have to digest yet and that is one of them. How will we explain when the time comes that his impression and the horror that it represents may be history – and God willing they remain so – but the attitudes that spawned it remain in various pools of hidden toxicity around the world’s societies?
But in the end I was proud that we discussed, civilly and coolly, the opinions on both sides. I hope that I managed to convey a balance between treating all opinions with respect and not lapsing into moral relativism.
But then, as all political theorists lament, we hit the reality.
It turns out that that peaceful protest is impotent at bath time, and that Dad’s executive order is not appealable. The Supreme Court isn’t going to intervene, because rights to protest at bedtime aren’t constitutionally protected. As he bitterly pointed out, when being transferred from towel to dinosaur pyjamas, our house is not a democracy.