In my every day life I refrain from debating politics and religion as a general rule. I have political beliefs and strongly held religious beliefs. I have made the number one rule of my life to be kindness and respect. In all things. I don’t have to agree with you to care about you – to count you as a friend, to respect you as a person. I am absolutely able to disagree about something that I am passionate about and still be your friend, your daughter, your sister. I grew up in a house divided, the daughter of a die-hard democrat and a die-hard republican. Two people that are rapidly approaching their 50th wedding anniversary and still in love – maybe even more today than they were 50 years ago. All this is to say, I learned early the ability to agree to disagree.
So, this election and the months leading to it have been fraught with challenges for me. The nastiness and bitter debates on BOTH sides of the political spectrum have been hard. I have had to turn off Facebook on more than one occasion, not because my friends disagree with me, but because the nastiness that is rolling through my feed is beyond my comprehension. See, I feel that one can get their point across without resorting to name calling and blanket hurtful statements towards those that don’t agree.
My children have both come home from schools with half truths and in tears because a classmate said this or a classmate said that. Most of their tears have come from statements (usually out of context) made by our new President Elect, but the half truths have been from both sides. Mickey came home around the primaries upset because a classmate said “Hey, Donald Trump is going to send you and all those like you away when he gets elected”. This was a holdover “joke” that the kid was making about Mickey being gay, you know, because he takes dance. Minnie came home upset that the man who could be president hates women. “Why does he say they are fat pigs? Why doesn’t he like girls?”
I have tried to present balanced information to my children. They have asked why I voted the way I did and I have explained to them that each person, given the ability to vote, has to make the decision based on the issues that are most important to them. They have to vote their conscience, and I did. Both my children made their choices at their respective school’s mock elections and they were proud of their choices and so was I. Both chose a 3rd party candidate because both had concerns with the Democrat and Republican nominee. I did my job if I taught them to vote their heart.
But, how do I explain to my children that their new president, while smart, dynamic and larger than life, is the same man who mocked a disabled reporter? How do I explain that something that is not okay for either of them to do, is indeed tolerated – and lets be fair, in some cases celebrated? How do I teach them to respect the office, even when you don’t agree with, nor voted for the inhabitant, when he doesn’t seemingly have respect for a large segment of the population? How do I teach my son to respect woman, and not to speak of their privates as something he is entitled to grab, when it is laughed off by so many as “locker room” talk. In a world where my son struggles under the best of circumstances to understand that No means No and respect for other peoples’ bodies and space, that these statements hurt our progress. Mickey thinks in black and white, when you introduce shades of gray, you complicate his thought process.
I tried to write this post in as non-partisan a way as possible, but that last paragraph makes it hard to get around how the ugly side of this campaign has hit our house. Clinton brought up different concerns, but it generally wasn’t the things she said, so much as the things she did. Politically I had huge concerns over both candidates. I am only speaking of how words hurt and they don’t go away. How we explain these things to children, who don’t have the ability to see the bigger picture or context.
Our next president is no fool, he is not stupid, in fact, he is likely brilliant. That doesn’t necessarily make him a good person, nor does it mean he will be a good president, but only time will tell on that one. I respect that he had the ability to get the nomination and win the election. I respect the fact that he has run his own campaign his way. But, how do I comfort my son who is genuinely afraid that the flippant remarks made months ago aren’t really going to happen. How do I tell my daughter, who is the defender of the underdog and devastated when somebody gets their feelings hurt, that the next President doesn’t have the ability to filter hurtful comments the way we teach a kindergartner to do?
These are not political questions, these are questions about how to explain to children, who through maturity, ability to understand and compassion are scared for what our newly elected President represents – not politically, but as a man. The man elected to represent all of us.
I promise this will be my only political post – at least for 4 more years. Both children cried this morning. The next four years will be interesting, to say the least, but we will make it through. I am not sure I would have been any happier had the results have gone the other way, I just wouldn’t have had two crying kids – and remember they didn’t “vote” for her either. This wasn’t about winning or losing. In the last five presidential elections I have voted for 2 Republicans, 2 Libertarians and 1 Democrat. I cross party lines at the local level too, and yes, I vote in EVERY single election, not just the presidential ones. I vote my conscience every single time and I am trying to teach my children to do the same. It isn’t about a party, it is about a candidate and what is important to you.