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Grasping The Core Concepts of Democracy

At the end of last week, Cora was playing
with a little friend, and I overheard the following conversation:

For whatever reason, the subject of chocolate came up. Cora,
standing, said something to the effect of, “Wouldn’t
you love some chocolate?” and her friend, sitting, answered,
“I’m not sure if I can have chocolate.”

At which point Cora dropped down to her friend’s eye level,
gazed intently into her eyes, and said, “We live in America.
No one can ever take chocolate away from you. Not even Obama.
That’s why this country was made – so no one can ever
tell you that you can’t have chocolate. Well,” she
amended, “except maybe your Mommy. She beats President

Ok, I may be responsible for this one.

See, Maddie’s been learning about
cities and states and countries in school, and she’s been
fuzzy on the differences. So we’ve been talking about America
being our country, and why it was made. And Maddie’s been
wishing we had a king, since she has visions of crowns and royal
balls dancing through her head, and I told her that we have a
president instead, which is way better than a king, and that, in
fact, our country was made by people trying to find a better way of
doing things than having a king. And I tried to illustrate it in a
way the girls would understand.

“Well, the people who made America lived somewhere that had
kings. And the only thing you had to do to become king was be born
to a king and queen, and it didn’t matter how wise or just or
kind you were, you were the king and you could do whatever you
wanted and no one could stop you. (Not the time to get into
Parliament.) So sometimes there were good kings, but sometimes
there were bad kings. And the people who made America thought that
choosing a president was a better idea – we’d pick
someone we thought was good, and if he turned out not as good,
we’d pick another one in a few years.”

“Well, what sort of bad things could a king do?” Maddie
asked, unable to picture this insane world where kings don’t
just throw balls so their sons can find their true loves.

I tried to think of something awful, but not scary. “Um, for
example, a king could come up to you and say, ‘Hey, no more
chocolate for you for the rest of your life!’ And because
he’s the king you’d have to obey him. It wouldn’t
be very fair, but he could do that. But with a president, he
can’t just hand out silly laws like that which are unfair or

“You mean President Obama can never tell me to stop eating
chocolate?” Maddie asked, concerned now. “Nope,”
I reassured, “he can never do that. In America no one can
take chocolate away from you, just to be mean. And if Obama tried,
the rest of the government would say he was abusing his job and
fire him.”

Apparently Cora was listening to that lecture, and felt the need to
pass it on to her little friend when the subject of chocolate came
up. Freedom from Chocolate Tyranny -It might not be the best
description of democracy, but it certainly isn’t the worst.

I did love the fact that at some level, Cora recognized that for
all our talk of democracy, in the end she realized that blood
trumps election by the people any day, and Mommy’s power runs
deeper than the president’s. I think there are leaders of
nations out there with less political acumen than my


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