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September 12, 2012

Grooming the next-next generation

Attention 7-year-olds: Congratulations! You’re going to inherit the country. I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, barnacles!” But hear me out.

Now that you’re 7, it’s time to start thinking about not only your own future but your country’s future as well. You probably aren’t aware of it, but time is speeding up dramatically. Gone are the halcyon days of lollygagging with a sippy cup over “Yo Gabba Gabba” while conveniently having accidents in your Pull-Ups just because Foofa was rocking some particularly mesmerizing glitter-hands.

You’re 7 now. It’s time to start getting serious about your future. First, it’s not too early to start studying for your SAT. (Tip: Eliminate the two most implausible multiple-choice answers and you’re halfway to acceptance letters from whatever online universities will still be around in 2023.) And it’s probably not too soon to draw up an outline for your college entrance essay. (Stay away from Dora references. She’s a big deal now, but bilingual backpacks will be pretty common in the future.)

But enough about you. It’s also time to start thinking about your country. For instance, do you support collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers? Do you believe we can spend our way to a robust economy? Do you believe there’s such a thing as “clean coal”? What should we do about the crisis in Syria? If your answer to any of those questions was, “May I please have some SpongeBob mac-and-cheese?” you’ve got some homework to do!

But don’t fret. We here at The Summary of My Discontent Center for Elementary Civics can help you smooth out the rough spots in your nascent comprehension of national affairs. And what better time than an election year to learn a little bit about our American political landscape?

First, there’s no point in corn-syrup-coating it: We’ve got a lot of problems. We’re $16 trillion in debt, our healthcare system is broken and the next Captain Underpants book won’t be out until after the election. We adults have pretty much stopped trying to solve our problems, so it’s up to you!

To get started, it might help to identify the political philosophy that most closely matches your own. Here’s a brief overview:

Most people who follow the news are either “liberal” or “conservative.” Broadly speaking, liberals are people who believe that if we work together we can begin to solve our problems, and conservatives are people who believe that Jesus wants us to have guns.

There are also people called socialists and libertarians. They are people who like to scream a lot but don’t really ever get to do anything. The liberals and conservatives politely let the socialists and libertarians do a lot of yelling, and then quietly go on running everything. It’s sort of like when your teacher gave your friend a sticker for writing his name — even though he just wrote “XGRBF” and drew a picture of a stick-dog — and then made him repeat kindergarten.

The vast majority of Americans aren’t liberals, conservatives, socialists or libertarians. Their role instead is to watch sports, tell dirty jokes, eat a lot and vote for the winner.

So how do you know which kind of American you are? It’s hard to tell, but if you like to pretend sticks are guns and point them at other kids and yell “Pow-pow-pow-rat-a-tat-a-tat” and build Lego Death Star multinational outsourcing and capital-equity firms, you’re probably a conservative. Whereas if you sometimes share your Gogurt with that dirty-faced anemic kid even though he always puts it in his pocket and sits on it, smearing it all over the bus seat, you are probably a liberal.

Now, you are probably thinking either, “Thank God we have robust and powerful news media to keep these various factions in check!” or “May I go play now?” Either way, you are horribly wrong.

In a former era, reporters made a big stink whenever conservatives started religious wars or liberals funneled billions of dollars to build toilet-paper-recycling wind farms. But now we have the Internet and cable TV, which have important Kardashians to keep up with. That means a bad guy can do bad things, confident that even if word gets out, some other story will brush it aside within a half hour and then Bieber, Tebow, Doritos Locos Tacos.

Well, that’s enough for today. Join us again next time for Lesson Two: What If Mommy Is A Corporation? And now you may go play.