My first political memory is strangely vivid. It was November of 1992, and my dad was driving me to Kindergarten. The radio announcer, in a tone as soggy as the weather, discussed Bill Clinton’s recent election.
“Bill Clinton is stupid!” I proclaimed, feet kicking the dashboard.
“Don’t say that,” my dad replied. “He’s the President now, so we have to respect him.”
My memory goes blank after that, so I don’t know how I responded. But this memory’s worth dwelling on for a couple reasons.
First, it shows that I somehow got it in my six-year old head that Bill Clinton was “stupid.” Second, it shows I could not have gotten this idea from either of my parents. My dad stopped me from calling him stupid. As for my mom, those who’ve met her know that calling a politician “stupid” is . . . out of character.1
So how did I learn that Bill Clinton was stupid? It must have seeped in from my culture, a part of the atmosphere I imbibed without realizing it. Like the blue of the sky and the green of the grass, the badness of Bill Clinton was a fact of life.