All of these events occurred in my head. Some of them occurred in real life as well.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

topeka: on being a kid

The vast majority of questions about being the child of a politician can be answered with a simple statement: We are proud of our father and confident in his character.

We are proud of our father's accomplishments, of how hard he works, of the sacrifices he endures, and of his lifestyle of diligence and dedication. We are proud of his intelligence and his ambition, of his passion for his work, and of the joy with which he carries it out. Our father has taught us the great heights to which good men are capable of rising with the blessing of God, the help of others, and an ample supply of determination.

We are intimately familiar with the sacrifices made by public figures. We are familiar with the long weeks away from family and friends, the countless hours campaigning, and the miles upon miles of parade routes. We are familiar with the five-second delay on evening phone calls from Kyrgyzstan; we are familiar with the loyalty of his supporters and the fervor of his detractors, and for that reason, we would never take advantage of his position and never ask for special privileges. The time we spend alone as a family is sacred, and the sacrifice thereof is tragic, and we would never trivialize either by exploiting his position.

It is true we campaign for our father, we support him at public events, and, like most children, we will do our best to help our father in however we can. It is also true that we have been blessed with unique advantages as a result of his position. To this extent we have assumed a public role and deserve to have our public image scrutinized. We expect to be held accountable for shortcomings that could reflect poorly on the suitability of our father for public office. This does not mean, however, that we desired this role, that we prefer to have our privacy violated, or that we deserve to be held responsible for defending any individual policy of our father.

So when we witness epithets shouted or written or painted, when we see caricatures distributed or effigies raised, when we hear slanderous falsehoods cried, we know it is part of our job to remain silent, to maintain composure, not to yield to the overwhelming temptation to retaliate in kind and defend our father. It has taken precious few unsolicited lectures from perfect strangers and drunken tirades from former classmates for our skin to grow thick and for us to assume a demeanor of practiced apathy toward the insults of strangers. We aren’t weak, and we won’t be wounded by discovering the existence of people who disagree with our father. We have prioritized the love and opinions of family and we have neither the time nor the energy to attend to the grievances of every dissenting voice.

If the goal is notoriety, then it is easy to capitalize on the fabricated narrative that we are privileged, easily offended, and quick to make unreasonable demands about others who have an honest disagreement with our father. Unfortunately, this scenario circumvents the uncomfortable truth that even dishonest protest does not affect us. We have heard countless voices perpetuating falsehoods about our father, and one more does not rattle our faith in the goodness of his character. We have seen innumerable caricatures of our father’s face, and a thousand fiery protest posters will never supplant a single memory of that same face smiling at us after a tennis match or laughing with us during a movie or lecturing us for a speeding ticket or teasing us because we don’t want our picture taken with Santa. We are proud of our father and confident in his character, even if you aren’t.

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