Every morning at the Tyrant’s preschool, the kids have a question to answer as they walk in the room, like What do you want to be when you grow up? (mermaid) or What’s your favorite food? (Velveeta).
This morning’s question: Would you like to be president? And the Tyrant’s all UH, NO-OH! DUH! BORING!
But I felt my heart sink a bit. I said quietly to the teacher, “You know she can never be president, right?” She thought I was joking because my daughter has expressed so little interest in learning anything other than Ke$ha lyrics, so she laughed and said, “Well, you never know.”
I said, “No. She can never be president. Because she wasn’t born here.” My little girl, who loves Barbie and basketball and saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, took her first breaths in Guatemala. According to the Constitution, Presidents of the United States must be at least 35 years old, born in the U.S. or born abroad to parents who were both U.S. citizens, and must have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years.
So you actually can be born outside the country to American citizens, spend the majority of your life living abroad, and still qualify to be President.
But unless the Constitution is amended, none of my children can ever be leader of the free world.
Now, as burdens go, this one isn’t particularly heavy. The Tyrant’s just lucky to be alive, right? All of my kids – they should just be grateful to grow up here and know the taste of a Chicken McNugget.
Lucky. That’s the word. You know who’s really lucky? Me. And you. And Americans in general. We are lucky because we just happened to drop out of the womb in a country where Kim Kardashian writes bestsellers and people actually vote for a man like Rick Santorum. (GAW! SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE?)
You know why my daughter can’t be president? Because Americans think they’re better than everybody else. Dammit, that’s true. We think we’re better than the starving, desperate Mexicans who drag their asses across the desert to find jobs here. We think we’re better than the quiet, simple Muslim women of Somalia who obey their husbands and wear hijabs. We certainly think we’re better than the Chinese. They’re Commies, you know.
We’re not better. We’re luckier. We have rights. We have opportunities. We have a government that, in large part, protects us rather than persecutes us.
I’ll tell you a little secret. Growing up in New Orleans, I belonged to several clubs that excluded blacks and in some cases, Jews. Although I didn’t think it was right, I didn’t really know anybody who was affected by that policy. So I was sort of meh on the issue.
But you know what? I grew up. I matured. I left New Orleans and saw the world, and earned an education – because that was my right. And now I can make a choice whether to belong to clubs that exclude people, and I don’t.
My point: people can’t help where they’re born, and often where they’re born dictates what choices they have in life. Not having many choices in life sometimes shapes your conscience, your decisions, your very existence. In some cases that makes them different; other times, it makes them oppressed. It always makes them unlucky.
My children will have many, many opportunities in life because they are American, and I am grateful for that. But I can’t help regretting that they’ll be denied the one dream we all shared in high school Civics class, that moment in which we all wondered what it would be like to be president.
Dumb luck. It’s not always all it’s cracked up to be.