My Daughter, The Libertarian (part I)

Does anyone else completely skip the audiovisual inserts people put into their blogs? I swear I’ve never actually opened one, even if it promises nudity.

Here’s the new Tom Waits (tons of nudity!):

Some recaps while I have your attention: Work of Art has been kind of disappointing the past couple of weeks, as the contestants have begun to demonstrate that they are neither very good artists nor reality show personalities.  Sucklord is simply not talented, and even those with talent seem cowed by the challenges and opt to demonstrate the same tired tricks: Bayate goes with middle-brow concepts done simply, Ugly Face Crying Girl, who was kicked off last week, is probably still obsessed with her colon and intestinal tract, etc.  The reason to watch is still Jerry Saltz, and if you have the time, you should visit his critical archive at New York Magazine.  I was pretty sure that Peter Schjeldahl or Adam Gopnik over at The New Yorker wrote the best long-form criticism of contemporary art/art exhibits, but this guy’s stuff is so erudite and clear and witty that it’s truly hard to fuck with him.  He reminds me, actually, of Jonathan Gold, who writes food criticism out of LA.  Awesome stuff.

At the same time, American Horror Story, which I liked (I don’t write about it if I don’t like it, regardless of my criticisms), but had reservations about, is really flowering.  I don’t see this as a show that has a long shelf life–two, three seasons tops–but I thought that about Breaking Bad and it’s got gas left in the tank (Ryan Murphy isn’t Vince Gilligan, but still…).  The wrinkles thrown into the mix–Jessica Lange’s child dying, Dylan McDermott’s fling getting bludgeoned (as you can see, I still don’t know their names, which doesn’t reflect well on character development) have actually been clarifying devices rather than just plot contrivances.  They’ve managed to explain enough stuff that I feel reasonably confident that, at least in the short-term, the creators know where they’re going.

And my mom and dad watch it!  Holy shit!  Born-again Kentucky Baptists have embraced this show!  That’s a thumbs up as far as I’m concerned.  When you appeal to my folks, you’re doing something right.  That’s science, right there.

Let’s end the preliminaries, shall we?

I saw David Sedaris read in Dayton, Ohio a few years back, and at the end of the reading he answered audience questions. Someone asked him if there were any topics he considered off-limits, and his response was interesting.

Note: It’s entirely possible that this exchange took place on an NPR interview or even in print. I can’t actually remember; I did see him, and he did answer questions, but he answers questions a lot, so it could’ve happened.

He said that he would never use children as material, because, even though they made for great copy, their lives, especially their interior lives, were, to him, off-limits. They don’t have any sense of propriety or withholding. Their thoughts and feelings are so unfettered and unformed and to a large degree uncensored by self-consciousness that it would be exploitive to use what you hear and see as fodder for your own ego-driven work.

I thought that sounded like the perfect response for a childless, middle-aged, ethical man. My initial reaction was that it sounded correct, even, and that I would try to stay away from such “easy material.” I think, also, after seeing the hell Joseph Heller put his kids through with the harsh, autobiographical portraits he put together in Something Happened, and how I would never want my kids to read anything I wrote and think I did nothing but love them unconditionally.

However, I am a father, and as such my children take up a sizable portion of my time and thoughts. I would never goad them into revealing every last thing about themselves in order to achieve some sort of objective, anthropological portrait like W.N. Kellogg did in The Ape and the Child or Nicholson Baker in The Everlasting Story of Nori, but their lives are wrapped inextricably around and through my life, and to sort out the knots for some vague ethical conceit seems just as dishonest.

Ultimately, the crux of the matter lies in purpose: I reveal my kids’ behaviors not in judgement of them, but me. How they act, how they believe, how they eat and breathe and shit and learn and feel is indicative of how I believe, eat, shit…you get the idea.

I’m not going to write Go the Fuck to Sleep II, because that book reveals nothing except kids are frustrating, adults aren’t perfect but love finds a way, anyway. Wow. But within that dynamic lie lessons worth exploring (ask Louis C.K.).

My parents live in Kentucky, and my kids stayed a week this summer. Had a blast. My middle daughter, who is seven, told me the other day that she plans on moving there when she’s older. She wants to be a supermodel, too, and is too young to see that you can’t do both.

However, her reasons for living in Kentucky are slightly jejune: she wants to be able to ride a horse anywhere she damn well pleases, and she wants to sit in the back of a moving pick-up without being told by any John Q. Laws that she should sit someplace safer.  This reminds me of the time I told my four-year-old son that not wearing his seatbelt could be dangerous if we crash.

His response was a bewildered look, followed by, “Then don’t crash.”

Perhaps it’s that simple.

My parents through us into the back of our pick-up on a fairly regular basis.  For substantial drives.  On the highway.

I can’t help thinking that such behavior is fucking insane.  My parents, who loved us and wanted only what’s best for us, were willing to put us in a shallow, open container and send us hurtling us through space at seventy miles an hour.  Why didn’t they just rig a catapult and fling us to our grandparents?  It would’ve saved gas.

But I’m not going to bore you with “Back in my day…” bullshit.  The point is that my daughter’s thoughts on Kentucky reflect her general perceptions on how the world should function: I want to do this, and who the hell are you to tell me otherwise?

My seven-year-old, therefore, is a libertarian: she supports little to no guided assistance or interference from the upper echelons of power.  She rejects any type of oversight, as well as any and regulations from any governing body.  She is the embodiment of live and let live.

But maybe, in fact, it’s not that simple.  Maybe it’s not that my daughter, a seven-year-old, is a libertarian.  Maybe, it’s that all libertarians are seven-year-olds.

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1 Comment

Filed under Essays, Kids, Politics, Television

One response to “My Daughter, The Libertarian (part I)

  1. I’m a little disappointed in the lack of nudity in your video. I’ll forgive you, I guess.

    Ironically, I generally say I am non-political. This made me think: maybe I am libertarian. I certainly act and think like a 7 year old.

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