Let’s talk about the kids in the aftermath of this presidential election.
Little people have big ears, and a lot of children, according to a range of reports from all over the nation, have been frightened by Donald Trump. In Albuquerque, there are reports of kids—a lot of them children of color—coming to school afraid their parents are going to be deported. Their fears, borne out of Trump’s aggressive rhetoric, have school officials urging parents to talk with them about it.
But alas, enough adults were more scared of Hillary Clinton and elected Trump instead, so now he’s an even bigger, badder wolf. Hopefully, the kids’ fears will subside soon enough, now that the president-elect seems to be turning toward a kinder and gentler persona, but it’ll be up to the adults to make them feel safe and secure.
Civic lessons took a back seat to shouting matches during this just-ended presidential campaign. What did that teach our kids? That’s it’s OK to say hurtful things to others, and that bullies often win? Or, that it’s OK for boys to mistreat girls? How about the message that, in this country you are valued, but only if you have the right documentation?
These are disturbing lessons for our children to be learning. They contradict a more important lesson, that respecting each other’s space—and things, and opinions—is essential to becoming responsible adults.
Of course, our children also need to learn to stand up for themselves, and the lessons from Trump’s rise to power teach that one well. Trump has shown us how to lift ourselves up by putting others down. Our kids now have a great example of how to insult and threaten your way to the top of the food chain. The kids need to know that it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and only the attack dogs are still standing at the end of the day. They need to know such things, right?
Of course, children are resilient and with the right guidance they’ll come to understand the difference between good behavior and bad behavior. They look up to their parents and teachers far more than any president we choose to elect.
Clearly, we didn’t elect Trump to be a role model, but to run the country, which is exactly what’s scaring a lot of grownups, too.
Older fogies like me were born in simpler times. I was raised to respect not just my elders, but pretty much everyone I encountered. My mother wouldn’t even let us say “stupid” or “shut up” to each other, let along with many other disrespectful and offensive words that get thrown around, and while I did so anyway (behind her back), I grew up with a sense of what’s appropriate and inappropriate behavior. I was taught to be responsible for my own words and actions and that made me a better, more responsible adult.
After I grew up, got married and had kids of my own, I knew that providing for my family was more than just home-and-hearth and getting ahead. It was also about providing a moral foundation for our kids. I spoke often with them about what was going on in the larger world, not to scare them but because that’s where the values we instilled in them would be applied and tested.
Trump isn’t our first morally bankrupt president and I suppose he won’t be our last. He will, however, impact future generations based on what he says and does as president.
The ends don’t always justify the means, but in the case of Donald Trump, the means he used brought him the ends he desired. That’s a sad commentary on our political discourse, and it will reverberate for years to come. Want to raise your kids to be good people? Then you better steer ‘em away from politics.
I don’t really mean that last remark. Unless better people go into politics, it’ll only get worse, and the kids who will inherit this country will be the ones to suffer the most. Hopefully they’ll do better than we did.
Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.