Living with North Carolina politics: Kids and Independence Day

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I have two little girls - they're 1 and 3 - and I also happen to have two patriotic dresses in the appropriate sizes. With Independence Day approaching, it only seemed natural the girls would wear these dresses on the 4th. And then we'd eat watermelon or grill out; we'd break out the temporary tattoos and, later, we'd hear the concussive blast of fireworks beyond the trees out back as fireflies flickered in the humid dusk. Yep, we'd do all those clichéd things that appeal to parents of young children.

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Yet July 3rd saw strange and dangerous legislation railroaded through the General Assembly. Anyone who's been on the upside of a rock, not just in-state but nationally, is likely familiar with the light-speed passage of the Family, Faith, and Freedom Protection Act - a masterfully ironic title for a catchall Islamophobic and misogynistic bill. In the fallout of this legislative hat trick, I and many North Carolinians (Gov. McCrory included, per his own statements) felt more than a little queasy - and not for the first time at the hands of the current NCGA. I was left wondering: Is it respectful or appropriate, in such a repressive political climate, to put my kids in red, white and blue outfits? As they grow, is it ethical for me to tell them the American political process is fair? I don't believe in lying to my children.

But I also don't believe in poisoning them with negativity. I don't think they should know, not at this age and not anytime soon, the kind of bizarre generalizations that are being made about their native state - and mine - in this time of crisis. It's not a lie, I don't think, to let them learn about the idea of America before they learn the realities of politics. You learn to walk before you ride a bike, right?

So while we didn't do watermelon, we did grill out. And we did go see a band play on Friday - the day after the 4th, true, but still within the scope of the holiday. The girls wore red, white and blue dresses and American flag tats. At this age, it was just a fun holiday - a long weekend replete with play dates and popsicles. I see this is as the foundation of pride in the American ideal, if not the American reality. It would be downright lousy parenting to drag them into the political vitriol that has many decent people disenchanted enough to want to leave N.C.

After all, I know how disgusted I am when I see kids lugging anti-choice or pro-choice signs at rallies - hell, any time kids are dragged into their parents' causes - and I would be doing more of the same if I didn't tell them that, yes, today is the country's birthday and that is why we're celebrating. It's not like I even thought about it that long, to be honest. Dad can fight his impotent little fight on Twitter and maybe write a column or two, but the kids - I'm leaving them out of it. The future needs, more than anything, optimistic and capable people - and that's not who I'd be raising had I kept the patriotic dresses in the closet on the 4th.

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