Formative experiences: The young Sanders supporters

Children often first become aware of politics through their parents and teachers talking about political events.  For many people my own age, 62, the earliest vivid political memories are of the JFK assassination.  I had just returned to my fifth grade classroom at St. Columba School after the lunch break, around 12:50 pm,  Mrs. O'Hare, our teacher, arrived soon after, looking quite shaken.  She told her class the President had been shot, then sat down at her desk and made no effort to start the afternoon's lessons.  A few minutes later the intercom came on.  Our principal announced that President Kennedy was dead, we should all pray for his soul and when finished with our prayer, school was dismissed for the day.  A classmate named Linda Johnson was immediately teased by some classmates that she was the new President.  Such kidding aside, most children in that elementary school knew their world had changed over lunch hour because our teachers were not behaving as normal.

Over three decades later a friend who was in first grade at the time recounted his own memories of that weekend.  He did not remember the events of the assassination itself but he vividly recalled how upset his parents had acted over the next several days. Most of all he remembered how when he was around his parents tried to pretend that nothing was wrong, which he knew was not true.  Indeed, their pretending all was normal when it was not deepened his anxiety.  He picked up that they were talking over his head and with a child's keen imagination pictured things that disturbed him more than the events themselves on the TV.

I have to wonder. How many of the young people now migrating to Bernie Sanders' campaign have as their earliest political memories their own parents' profound discomfort as they tried to make sense of Bill Clinton's numerous infidelities, his perjury, his impeachment and Hillary's apparent toleration of being publicly humiliated by the Monica Lewinsky affair?  In many homes this was discussed in language children might not understand, but they knew something was wrong with the President and his family.   After all, how does a parent talk about DNA from semen stains on a dress and Bill Clinton's theory that oral sex isn't really adultery in front of one's children?  As my friend reminded me with his memories of the weekend of JFK assassination, young children may not have the language skills to fully understand all the bare facts, but they are experts at picking up nuances of mood and emotion in adult discussions. It is also commonly acknowledged that the young can be hypersensitive to hypocrisy.  It is only as people age that they become more likely to see hypocrisy as, in the phrase of the Duc de La Rochefocauld, the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

In 1992 Hillary famously stated she was not the kind of woman to do a Tammy Wynette and stand by her man.  For many younger Americans their memories of the Clintons have her doing exactly that.  Since Bill is "after all, just a man," Hillary has made countless excuses for his bad behavior over the years.  Indeed, in a career mostly arid of real accomplishment, Hillary has been singularly successful in using her contacts in government, the media and Hollywood to discredit, intimidate and even buy off Bill's many sexual conquests.  Then, tone deaf as usual, Hillary acts like hers has been an ideal two-careerists-for-the-price-of-one modern marriage.   Ask a few young people how thy feel about just such baby boomer marriages.  After all, in many cases their own mothers weren't off curing cancer or solving world hunger when they parked their children in the care of strangers in order to pursue career ambitions.  Such young people know first hand how uncomfortable it can be to have a parent treat one as a prop in her quest to maintain the I-have-it-all image.  Many also sadly know what is like to be used as a wedge in ongoing sparring match between their parents.

Children often first become aware of politics through their parents and teachers talking about political events.  For many people my own age, 62, the earliest vivid political memories are of the JFK assassination.  I had just returned to my fifth grade classroom at St. Columba School after the lunch break, around 12:50 pm,  Mrs. O'Hare, our teacher, arrived soon after, looking quite shaken.  She told her class the President had been shot, then sat down at her desk and made no effort to start the afternoon's lessons.  A few minutes later the intercom came on.  Our principal announced that President Kennedy was dead, we should all pray for his soul and when finished with our prayer, school was dismissed for the day.  A classmate named Linda Johnson was immediately teased by some classmates that she was the new President.  Such kidding aside, most children in that elementary school knew their world had changed over lunch hour because our teachers were not behaving as normal.

Over three decades later a friend who was in first grade at the time recounted his own memories of that weekend.  He did not remember the events of the assassination itself but he vividly recalled how upset his parents had acted over the next several days. Most of all he remembered how when he was around his parents tried to pretend that nothing was wrong, which he knew was not true.  Indeed, their pretending all was normal when it was not deepened his anxiety.  He picked up that they were talking over his head and with a child's keen imagination pictured things that disturbed him more than the events themselves on the TV.

I have to wonder. How many of the young people now migrating to Bernie Sanders' campaign have as their earliest political memories their own parents' profound discomfort as they tried to make sense of Bill Clinton's numerous infidelities, his perjury, his impeachment and Hillary's apparent toleration of being publicly humiliated by the Monica Lewinsky affair?  In many homes this was discussed in language children might not understand, but they knew something was wrong with the President and his family.   After all, how does a parent talk about DNA from semen stains on a dress and Bill Clinton's theory that oral sex isn't really adultery in front of one's children?  As my friend reminded me with his memories of the weekend of JFK assassination, young children may not have the language skills to fully understand all the bare facts, but they are experts at picking up nuances of mood and emotion in adult discussions. It is also commonly acknowledged that the young can be hypersensitive to hypocrisy.  It is only as people age that they become more likely to see hypocrisy as, in the phrase of the Duc de La Rochefocauld, the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

In 1992 Hillary famously stated she was not the kind of woman to do a Tammy Wynette and stand by her man.  For many younger Americans their memories of the Clintons have her doing exactly that.  Since Bill is "after all, just a man," Hillary has made countless excuses for his bad behavior over the years.  Indeed, in a career mostly arid of real accomplishment, Hillary has been singularly successful in using her contacts in government, the media and Hollywood to discredit, intimidate and even buy off Bill's many sexual conquests.  Then, tone deaf as usual, Hillary acts like hers has been an ideal two-careerists-for-the-price-of-one modern marriage.   Ask a few young people how thy feel about just such baby boomer marriages.  After all, in many cases their own mothers weren't off curing cancer or solving world hunger when they parked their children in the care of strangers in order to pursue career ambitions.  Such young people know first hand how uncomfortable it can be to have a parent treat one as a prop in her quest to maintain the I-have-it-all image.  Many also sadly know what is like to be used as a wedge in ongoing sparring match between their parents.