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OpinionCommentary

Our political reality is dreary, but it doesn’t need to be this way

A U.S. flag flutters at the Lafayette Escadrille

A U.S. flag flutters at the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial of Marnes-la-Coquette, east of Paris, on Nov. 11, 2013. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Thomas Samson

In GinaLand, everybody would be able to change a diaper, change a tire, change the dressing on a wound and change their minds when presented with a more convincing argument.

In GinaLand, people would not fear hearing from those who hold points of view at variance from their own but instead welcome vigorous and informed debates. Town Halls would replace sports events as the most highly prized competitions between well-matched rivals.

In GinaLand, all elected officials would have a real education, meaning they would understand world history, not only their own, and show mastery over several languages, including their own.

They would understand, too, that there is more than one version of history: they would have taken courses in classical rhetoric, in geopolitics, in economics, in philosophy (Eastern and Western) in comparative literatures, in the scientific method (and its application across the disciplines) and — naturally — they would’ve contextualized all of this within a deep understanding of the arts.

As educated citizens, they’d be able to do all of this as well as be able to pass the tests given to new citizens entering our nation. Of course, we should all be able to do this already, but have you tried? Those tests aren’t easy, especially given that we are now living in a world where major news outlets are forced to remind people, as I just heard one announcer say without any irony or sarcasm on the radio, that “Canada is just north of the U.S. border.”

I wish I were making that up.

In GinaLand, satire would be obvious and nobody would have to include a subject line saying “FYI: Not From ’The Onion’” before emailing a hilarious, but real, article.

Politicians would emerge from an informed electorate, showing mastery over ordinary, everyday tasks of life: They would have solid reputations as good citizens, generous community members, honest taxpayers, reliable neighbors, loyal partners, trustworthy bosses and intelligent raconteurs. They would be aware of familiar phrases such as “second lady,” “priming the pump,” and be able to distinguish between homonyms such as “president” and “precedent.”

Neither sex nor money would be a mystery in GinaLand. Making wise choices concerning both would be part of both private and public conversation, addressed with neither shame nor taboo.

Of course kids need to know about sex. As a stand-up comic Elayne Boosler once told us, some folks are afraid of talking about where babies come from because “birth is a miracle.” “Hey, popcorn is a mystery, if you don’t know how it’s done,” Boosler points out. As for those who believe that “if you teach sex education in school, kids will go ahead and do it,” she insists it doesn’t work that way: “I had four years of algebra,” says Boosler, “And I never do math.”

In GinaLand, learning how to understand, manage and protect your money would be as important as understanding, managing and protecting your sexual impulses. Taught at an early age and discussed at every stage of development, you’d learn that nothing is written in stone and that everything is in flux.

The only shame surrounding money in GinaLand would be living by the 10 x 10 x 2 rule, which is paying $10 million for a 10,000-square-foot property that you use two weeks out of the year. This would not be regarded as a reward for doing well but literally an embarrassment of riches.

Vocational education and training in GinaLand are highly valued and everybody is eager to take pride in his or her skill. A good mechanic, a good engineer and a good orthopedist will respect each other equally and meet for a “women’s night out” on a regular basis without anyone commenting.

Schools, from kindergarten through university, in GinaLand are fully-funded and free, as are the many libraries, museums, theaters, parks and preserved lands, because shutting the doors on knowledge, beauty, creativity, science, nature and history are not the way to go.

Joyce Schlemm, my friend from Lac Brule, Quebec, age 97, declares that in JoyceLand, “If everybody could just have a good breakfast, everything would be OK.”

GinaLand is my land. What happens in yours? And how can we make the best of these ideas happen in the world we share?

Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and the author of “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” and eight other books.

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