The tiniest Sean Hannity of all

My brother Andrew is a fifth-grader, and this weekend he was working on his Reflections contest entry. The theme was “My Favorite Place.”

“My favorite place is America,” he wrote. “Some people say that America is not the best country. But I think America is the best country in the world. Because America is free and it is made of nations we have a nice president and we have rights. My favorite state is Utah because I was born in that state. But it might not be the greatest state in the United States of America. But it is perfect to me. And I am proud to be American and I love this country.”

For whatever reason, this paragraph of flag-waving patriotism didn’t sit right with me. I think it had to do with a 10-year-old memory of my own. In November of 1994, my fifth-grade teacher turned on CNN so we could watch the results of the midterm elections. An entire room of kids, including me, cheered as state after state turned from blue to red.

Looking back on it, I wonder: What did I, or any of my fifth-grade friends, know about Republicans or Democrats that would make us want to cheer for one or the other?

My parents never talked politics with me when I was growing up. If asked, they’d both say they were Republicans, but really, who wouldn’t be embarrassed to declare affiliation with the Democratic Party in Utah? It would be like admitting you had to bring your cousin to the prom.

But they did talk about history and civic duty and all that jazz-which is probably better than simply telling your 10-year-old to cheer for red states because that will cause political gridlock for Bill Clinton.

Because my parents never pushed us in one direction or another, I think my family better represents the pluralism of America. Of the four of us eligible to vote in the 2004 presidential election, one voted for Bush, one for Kerry, one for Nader and one couldn’t be bothered to drive to a voting center. We’re like a little swing-voter family.

But now Andrew wants to say America is the best just because “we have a nice president”?

I don’t know what I expected. Explanations about the separation of the branches of government, the importance of the First Amendment, the fight for civil rights?

“Don’t you think you ought to write?more?” I asked him.

“No,” he said. “That’s enough.”

I think I even would have been happy if he had spewed some rhetoric-don’t cut and run; abortion should be safe, legal and rare; the death tax punishes middle-class Americans; you’re being too partisan; etc. In fact, I would have been more than happy-I would have been delighted. “Look, he’s only 10 and he’s already memorized everybody’s talking points!”

“RuthAnnnnnne,” he whined. “Why are you bugging me? It’s about America. The judges will love it.”

I raised my eyebrows. “You just wrote this so you’d win?”

“Duh,” he said. “It’s a contest.”

I considered this. Shameless pandering? I could get behind that.

“Do you think it’s happy enough?” I asked.