I’ve been interested in politics for most of my life and Angela is much the same. So we of course discuss politics quite a bit around the house. I do my best to follow my parents’ lead and 1) not get overly emotionally or upset about politics and 2) not present my opinion as the only one that matters. This is important so the kids can grow up forming their own opinions and also so they will be less likely to get in an unnecessary argument with other kids. Kids at school should focus on learning and being kids, not arguing with someone else over who’s parents voted for who. Though I’m adamant our children understand how our country is governed, it’s not really important for them to have strong opinions in grade school on matters of national policy.
But kids do talk about current events and even politics, to a lesser extent, at school. So I wasn’t too shocked when my son told me last Tuesday night after I turned out his lights “I sure hope Trump doesn’t win or I’ll have to move to Canada! He wants to build a wall around the entire country.”
I assured him that we wouldn’t have to move no matter who won and that there wasn’t going to be any wall. The next morning Angela and I discussed the outcome of the election before the kids got up. But once they did wake up, it was a typical weekday rush to get ready for school and work, so there wasn’t any time to talk about the results of the election. After school, though, while I was making dinner, my daughter called out “So did Trump really win last night?”
“What!?” my son shouted with a look of genuine horror on his face.
So I told them that, yes, Trump did win and that one of the greatest parts of being an American is that we have free elections for our leaders. And even though mommy and I may have both voted for Sec. Clinton, we don’t have to leave or lose anything just because she lost. I explained that this is just how we pick a leader but it has nothing to do with who gets to be American.
Now, to a certain point, that is true. However, there are plenty of people who Trump has promised shouldn’t get to enter or even stay in America. And even if Trump hasn’t directly expressed it, plenty of his supporters have some very strong and disgusting opinions about just who should or should not get to be an American at all. But I really didn’t want to have to burden a nine- and seven-year-old with that, so I figured that would be the end of my two-minute reassurance talk with them.
Then my daughter asked what the KKK was and why were some kids saying the KKK were happy Trump won? That’s right: my innocent little kid was asking about the goddamn Klu Klux Klan. I explained that they were a very racist group who felt that white people like me were somehow better than other people but that I am most definitely not better than anyone else, no matter what they look like, where they come from, or for any other reason. That God loves everyone just the same and that, without question, anyone who contradicts that is wrong.
As horrified as I was that I was having to hold this conversation with my children as a direct result of a U.S. presidential election, I decided now was the time to start righting the ship. I explained that even though we weren’t better than anyone, there are racist and prejudiced people in this country who wrongly believe that. Further, that our family probably already has it better than most people and are likely to experience far less difficulties and prejudices than other people in our country already do and will under President Trump and many of his supporters. And that as a result of that, it was our duty to help speak up on the behalf of others. That if we ran away or even just looked the other way, it would make the bullies stronger and their victims’ pain even worse. I asked them both to promise me that if they ever heard or saw anyone else being mistreated because of how they look, the color of their skin, or what they believe, that they would tell the person doing so to stop. Tell them that they were wrong. And to tell a responsible adult immediately.
They both gladly promised that they would. So if two kids are brave enough to make that promise, I know I will be, too. There was never a time in this country’s history that we didn’t need to look out for one another, but maybe it took something like this election to remind us of that.
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