Contributed by
Sep 11, 2005

I'm not sure how the conversation started, actually. But over dinner, Mrs. Bad Astronomer, the Little Astronomer, and I started talking about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Now, LA is only 9, so some of the concepts are unclear to her. But she's also a smart kid (with smart parents, I'll add) so we were able to talk about things pretty well.

As it happens, she's supposed to read for half an hour tonight for homework. But she can't find her book, so Mrs. BA comes up with a solution: read the Constitution! So we fire up the PC, browse to the Bill Of Rights, and let her start to read.

She read each Amendment, and we explained them to her in turn. Why it's important to have free speech, and the right to assemble. Why the government can't put troops in your house against your will. Why you can bear arms. Why the government needs to go to extraordinary lengths to snoop around inside your house, your car, your body. And why we have the right not to incriminate ourselves.

And then it occurs to me: it's September 11. Of all days to spontaneously talk about this! She's old enough, I think. So we explain it to her. How people can do such terrible things, why they hate us so. And I told her: there are many reasons they hate us, but one of them is because of the Constitution. It says that the government and religion should not get entangled. It gives women the right to vote (and implicitly, to wear what they want, marry whom they choose, and to walk in front of or beside a man, instead of behind him). Because we are free to worship or not worship, to believe or not to believe as we see fit.

For that, they flew planes into buildings.

Of course, I'm oversimplifying. But Little Astronomer is 9. She'll grow up, and she'll learn about the subtleties of 9/11. The religious brainwashing, the various failures of the US Government to prevent what happened, the subsequent paranoia that in many ways, too many ways, still grips this country.

But she'll grow up, and she'll learn. She has the right to do both, and it's for those rights-- for her -- that I swear she'll get the chance.

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