The Fate of the Flag

under-distress
Image created by Allison Bedford

I spent Inauguration Day 2017 with a large group of homeschooled kids. They were all busy going on about their day, but we’d set up a computer to C-Span’s livestream of the inauguration in a common area for anyone to watch if they wanted.

I couldn’t. It seemed so dismal. I appreciate the peaceful transfer of power and what a privilege it is to live in a nation that does that.

But I kept myself busy elsewhere.

At snack time, we all met in the common area.

I noticed, not for the first time that day, that every time the kids started to gather round and watch, it got very quiet.

One girl, about eight years old, turned to her mother and asked, “Why is he the President? I thought more people voted for Hillary?”

Her mother hemmed and hawed a bit, trying to figure out how to explain the electoral college. She finally answered, “That’s true, but not enough people whose votes counted less voted for her. There were too many people whose votes count more who voted for him.”

Her daughter was quiet a moment, nibbling on cheese and crackers.

She finally looked up at her mom and said, “But that doesn’t mean he’s a good person.”

“No,” her mom responded. “But he is the president.”

“Will he be a good person when he’s president?”

Her mother was quiet.

“I’m not sure,” she finally said with a shrug. “I haven’t seen many indications that he will be. Not just during the election, but in the years before. But honey, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good person in there. It doesn’t mean he won’t be a good person now. We just have to watch and see.”

My heart broke.

I stood to retreat into a different room because my throat felt thick and my eyes started to burn. It is always emotional for me to watch a mother answer difficult questions for her child. I know what that’s like and how it often churns your soul up, wanting to be honest but not wanting to frighten. Wanting to protect while also wanting to be realistic.

I gathered my son’s things and turned to walk away when a quiet 12 year old who’d been watching the ceremony piped up. He asked such a random question, so surprisingly apropos, and with such an air of genuine curiosity, that I almost fell over laughing.

“So does this mean the American flag is going to get a spray tan?”

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