Babies Should Vote Verities the Congress Should Heed


New London, Connecticut.

"SO TELL ME," said New Mom, "What is going on in the world?"

I hardly heard her. I had just returned from seeing the baby, and still felt a little tipsy from the experience. His father and I had pressed our noses against the glass, peering at the second crib in the fourth row. Oblivious to his admirers, Braedin slept, despite the fact that we sounded like a miniature version of a crowd during the Fourth of July, all ooohs and ahhhs.

"You want to know what's going on?" I said, distracted.

"You do work at a newspaper, don't you?" New Mom replied.

She's just being polite, I thought.

Aloud, I said, "Well, the governor is threatening to take a chain saw to the budget. The Persian Gulf crisis hasn't gone away, but the hostages might come home. As we speak, S&Ls; are folding, the deficit is piling up, and we're all in debt up to our armpits. Same old stuff."

But who cares? I thought. Braedin had arrived, all eight pounds of him. The nurses have him wearing a little cap. Once he even stretched, spreading his tiny arms. His hands looked like miniature stars, with his fingers the five points.

There were 15 babies crowded in clear plastic cribs, a virtual Baby Hilton. They were all sizes and shapes and colors. A red-haired little one who looked like he could win a leprechaun contest nestled next door to a baby of Eastern Indian descent. They were black and brown and cotton-pale, and they looked as soft as velveteen. It's amazing what soaking for nine months will do for your skin.

The day Braedin was born the secretary of State talked tough to Capitol Hill about the possibility of war in the Persian Gulf. Economists said we were heading into a recession. Oil dropped; the stock market crept up. An earthquake, predicted to strike the Midwest, never materialized. Strong winds and high tides for the East Coast did, though, and whitecaps curled on the ocean.

Inside the nursery the only disruptions occurred when one baby voiced his objection to getting changed and another squalled, ,, raising her arms like a referee signaling a touchdown. Her admiring relatives, assembled outside the glass, reacted as if she had scored a perfect 10 in the Olympics. She might be no bigger than a potato, they nodded to each other, but already she's feisty.

Braedin dozed through it all. He yawned, briefly, and went back to sleep. Time enough, he seemed to say, for tackling the dull matters of relationships, war, weather and politics.

I wondered aloud once whether we shouldn't require all members of Congress to stay home and take care of children full-time for six months or so, just to make sure they would have their priorities straight when they voted on issues that touch our lives.

My husband, within earshot, groaned. "Don't be such a sadist," he joked. "Six weeks is plenty."

But it seemed to me, looking at 15 brand-new, bundled citizens, that regular visits to a nursery would give a more accurate picture of what is important than power lunches, conferences or hearings on the Hill. Choices made today in the corridors of power will affect life in the next century; the babies behind the glass will experience the result of those decisions.

Maybe the men and women who buy weapons of war and deepen our debt wouldn't act so quickly if they voted with babies on their lap.

I have seen the future. It wears diapers.

Maura Casey is associate editorial-page editor for The Day.

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