My First Foray into Political Debate
My undergraduate degree was in Political Science. Looking back, it wasn't the most practical option, but it was a whole lot of fun to study. My parents took me to my first political rally before I was even born, so I suppose it should be no surprise that I grew up to be fascinated in all things political.
My first political memory is from the 1980 campaign, when I was an 8-year-old third-grader. I was in the school bathroom with a classmate and we were washing our hands. Looking back as an adult, I've no idea how we ever got onto the topic, but at the time, it was the most natural thing to discuss.
The classmate told me that she was for Ronald Reagan and so were her parents. I shrugged and said that I was for Jimmy Carter and so were my parents. The classmate's mouth dropped open and she looked at me with a combination of horror and pity. "But you can't be for Jimmy Carter! My parents told me that Jimmy Carter kills babies."
This revelation puzzled me. "How does Jimmy Carter kill babies?" Her response was a curt "I don't know. He just does." So I tried to figure it out myself. Was it like a Bible story, like when the Pharaoh decreed all the boy babies would be killed? Did he creep into nurseries and smother babies himself?
The thought of it, of Jimmy Carter killing babies, just didn't square up with what I knew of him from the television. He seemed like a nice man, a gentle guy. He had a daughter of his own, after all, who wasn't that much older than we were. He couldn't be so against kids that he would kill babies.
Maybe in this day and age, I would go on the Internet to fact check my classmate's claim. But back in the day, there was only one arbiter of fact at my disposal - my dad.
I know that I asked him, but I can't remember what he told me. I asked my dad today what he told me. He remembered my reporting the story to him that day, but he couldn't remember what he'd said either. Today, he said "I probably just told you that was absolute nonsense and that she didn't know anything and that you shouldn't listen to her."
I don't know what this classmate is doing these days. Her parents and my parents used to be friendly, but I think the last time I asked after her was at least 10 years ago. I think my mom told me that she was moving to Nashville to try to be a country singer. Looking at the election this year, I think her talents would probably be better spent as a maker of negative ads.