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National Security Mom Paperback – January 20, 2009
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"Deceptively simple, but nonetheless trenchant." -- Dr. Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
"BRILLIANT ... opens the door for all Americans to participate in securing our nation in a more meaningful way." -- Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst, Author of THE OSAMA BIN LADEN I KNOW
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Mrs. Bennett has taught us many lessons in this book.
* Tell the truth
* If you make the mess, you clean it up
* Don't give in to a bully
* Choose your friends wisely
* Learn from your mistakes
And of course, the job description for parents also requires an in-depth knowledge of issues such as crisis management, conflict resolution, budgeting and diplomacy.
So why aren't there more women in government? On paper, many women--especially mothers--are uniquely suited to participating in government, on whatever level they choose. There are of course other qualifications that must be met--particularly for higher office--but there should be more women serving on city counsels, as mayors, as governors and in Congress. Ms. Bennett pulls this telling statistic from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University:
"In 2008 women hold only 16.3% of the seats in Congress; 16% of the Senate seats; 23.5% of the statewide elective executive offices across the country; 23.7% of the state legislative positions; and of the mayors of the hundred largest cities in America, only eleven are women."
She also notes that "We can blame history, the educational system, men, and many other underlying factors for why this is the case. But we also have to ask ourselves whether our disengagement perpetuates the myth that men are somehow more naturally suited to govern."
Sure, some days we barely have time to do the laundry and the grocery shopping--where on earth are we going to find time to volunteer at our child's school, much less to run for elected office? I work from home part-time and have only been able to volunteer in my daughter's classroom once. And she's in first grade, so that's two years of not being able to find the time.
Because we are living in the "post 9/11 world," Ms. Bennett tackles some of the larger questions that relate directly to her argument that more women, more mothers should be in government:
* How much personal freedom are we willing to give up in the name of "security"?
* How do we protect our children while making sure that they enjoy the freedoms granted in the Bill of Rights--freedoms we used to take for granted?
* The terrorists win if we to afraid to go about our lives as usual. They are generally unpopular even in their own countries and feed off the fear and attention they engender.
And as to the title's assertion "Why `Going Soft' Will Make America Strong,"
"[in matters of national security, foreign policy and counter terrorism] Anything other than belligerent speech is considered to be weak . . . [but] strength and security come from more than just physical might . . . I believe that to resolve problems, we have to understand them first. I prefer to believe that American policies have had bad results in some places rather than sticking my head in the sand. . . . I believe it demonstrates more courage to allow people whose beliefs you reject to have their say; it takes more integrity to admit you've made mistakes; and it takes far more strength to reject change in the face of a threat. I am a mother and that is the strength I know. That is the definition of strength that I will pass to my children so that they understand that there is a balance."
I've been a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom for the past six years. In six years I've spent a lot of time in playgroups, at the playground and on play dates. And I've never ceased to be amazed at the number of women who don't think that politics has anything to do with them. But everything that happens in government--from the local, to the state, to the national level has ripples of consequence.
Imagine that you're at the park with your child. You go the lake to feed the ducks and your child tosses a rock into the pond. Watch what happens to the ripples. That's politics. And what's at stake? The laws that are passed effect your family; the judiciary, both elected and appointed, and how they interpret those laws; the military--will the draft be reinstated, and where will our soldiers--our sons and daughters--be sent?; the national debt--will our kids and grandchildren really be paying for our excesses? All of it affects us every day.
But how does this apply to me? I am the ultimate armchair political junkie. If I don't get an hourly fix--or at least several times a day--I start twitching--particularly in an election year. There's a little panic: What happened? Something must have happened in the time I've been away from my computer. But, other than haranguing friends and a few strangers, and writing a few letters to the editor, I'm a passive audience. I hear "Are you going to get involved? Maybe run for office?" and my answer is always "No." I don't have the time, the mental capacity, the self-confidence, or the ambition. All of those things that I imagine politicians need to be successful. But then I've always thought being involved in government meant running for city counsel and higher. It never occurred to me to start smaller--the PTA? A position on the board of one of my groups?
But after reading National Security Mom, I'm at least thinking about it.
Because being more involved does matter. To me, to my family, to my children's future.