In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
The Girl and I were playing catch yesterday in the front yard when the conversation took an unexpected turn. And I swear, I am not making any of this up.
TG: Dad, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Me: I don’t remember. A bunch of things, really.
TG: Did you want to be a vice president at a community college?
Me: (laughs) No, that didn’t cross my mind.
TG: So how did that happen? I mean, nobody becomes a veterinarian without meaning to!
Me: That’s true. You have to go to school to be a veterinarian.
TG: Didn’t you get a Ph.D.?
Me: Yeah, I did.
TG: What was that for?
Me: I wanted to be a professor.
TG: Of what?
Me: Political science.
TG: What’s that?
Me: The study of politics.
Me: Studying how the government works, and how we make decisions about it.
TG: Isn’t the government bad?
Me: (laughs) Well, sometimes, but not always.
TG: Why would you want to study that?
Me: (smiling) It’’s important. And I thought it would be helpful to understand it.
TG: If the government is so bad, why don’t we just get rid of it?
Me; Well, it’s not always bad.
TG: But people on tv are always complaining about the government!
Me: That’s true.
TG: They say it’s always doing terrible, horrible things. They must be terrible, horrible people!
Me: Well, Barack Obama is part of the government.
TG: (eyes wide) He IS?
Me: Yup. He’s the President, and the President is part of the government.
TG: But he doesn’t do terrible, horrible things!
Me: No, mostly not.
TG: So why do people always complain that he’s doing terrible, horrible things?
Me; Well, do you remember a few years ago when Barack Obama ran against Mitt Romney to get to be the President?
Me: We have elections like that every few years so the government will know what most people want it to do. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had different ways of doing things, and people got to choose which one they liked better. But the ones whose side lost complain a lot. In this case, the Democrats won, so the Republicans complain a lot.
TG: Oh. So everyone in the government is a Democrat, and everyone on tv is a Republican?
Me: Not technically. It only seems that way.
TG: How does the government work?
Me; Well, it’s complicated.
TG: I thought the government was about ten people in a room somewhere.
Me: No, it’s a lot of people. And it’s split into different levels.
TG: Like what?
Me: Well, there’s the government of the entire country. That’s called the federal government. That has the president and Congress.
TG: Do they do terrible, horrible things?
Me: Well, sometimes, but not mostly. And then there’s the state government. Every state has its own. Deval Patrick is the governor of the state, which is like being the President of Massachusetts.
TG: He doesn’t do terrible, horrible things!
Me; No, he doesn’t. And then our town has its own government. Mayor Cohen runs that.
TG: He doesn’t do terrible, horrible things either!
Me: No. They’re mostly trying to do the right thing.
TG: But everyone gets mad at them!
Me: That’s true.
TG: That’s why I want to be a veterinarian.