Like many 9-year-old girls, Eva spends much of her time watching presidential debates, pondering identity politics, and criticizing Hillary Rodham Clinton through the art of impersonation.
I was introduced to Eva’s political performance art and analysis by her proud aunt, journalist Rania Khalek, who, recorded videos of her niece on her phone, which Eva “insisted” she do.
I related immediately to the early political engagement demonstrated by Eva. I kicked off my career as a feminist film critic at the age of five, pointing out the “prejudge against women,” evident in the movies I would watch at home on VHS. Given that I only watched Hollywood versions of musicals (Kiss Me Kate, Bye Bye Birdie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) there was a lot to work with. Within a few years, however, I had grown dissatisfied by the bourgeois confines of cultural criticism and the Second wave feminist lens which saw gender in a vacuum and ignored the interplay of gender and race. My intersectional and Marxian framework can be traced back to “Last Night I had a dream,” a critically acclaimed and award-winning first person poem about a homeless woman which I wrote at the age of eight. The work was recognized by my grandmother’s union, the Social Services Employees Union, and printed in their newspaper. I also entered the poem into a contest held by a children’s bookstore. Not surprisingly, they were loath to reward such a radical and disruptive work of art. At the age of ten I decided to switch careers and became a journalist, writing and presenting to my fourth grade social studies class a student report entitled: “Rodney King and police brutality: not just an isolated incident.”
My comrade Eva and I share many criticisms of Hillary Clinton and are both supporters of Bernie Sanders.
Though I’m a Bernie Bro, I think even a Hillary supporter would find these amusing. They are certainly funnier, more nuanced and more fact-based than the so-called satire going around which is based on the absurd idea that every single thing is Sanders does is motivated by sexism. OK. I’ll get off my soapbox now. Back to the videos…
Khalek told me:
My entire family has been feeling the Bern, especially my parents. They’re working class immigrants from Lebanon, so hearing a presidential candidate slam people like Henry Kissinger and condemn regime change and defend the humanity of Palestinians was a really big deal for them.I imagine a lot of Arab-Americans who’ve been following the election can relate. We’re used to politicians talked about us like a diseased predators. Sanders has been a refreshing break from that. Anyway, the point is excitement about Sanders has been a major topic of conversation and sometimes debate at family gatherings and Eva absorbs everything.
It wasn’t until Eva got stuck hanging out with me during a Democratic debate in February that she got really into the race. She wasn’t paying much attention to the sparring until she heard Sanders say that Clinton called for deporting child refugees to send a message to their parents. She was genuinely horrified and has been fixated on the presidential election ever since.
Eva insisted that I record her imitating the candidates. She’s really into theater so she likes to act out mini-plays for us. She recruited her 12-year-old brother Kareem to play Bernie Sanders in a mock debate against her as Hillary Clinton. They planned out a couple of the lines, but most of it was improvised.