Trump, Politics, and Parenthood

The other day I was driving my kids to a play date and the topic of Donald Trump came up on the podcast I was listening to. One of my kids said, “ We hate Donald Trunk.” (That’s how she says it.) “Right, Dad?”  My other kid quickly chimed in, “Yeah, he’s disgusting. Eww.” In that moment I knew I had failed to teach my kids the full and true meaning of compassion. 

Over the past year our political climate has gotten chaotic. There seems to be so much hate floating around and so little effort to empathize with or understand those on the “other side.” This very issue has brought up a lot questions for Trystan and I as parents. What do we tell our kids about Donald Trump? How do we explain what he’s said about immigration? How do we explain how lots of other people support him? I haven’t found answers to a lot of my questions. I have figured out the lesson in all of this mess for me and my kids. 

Donald Trump is our fault. By our, I mean progressives. We’ve created an environment where anyone who asks questions that seem even slightly racist (or insert any other ist here) has been shouted down and name-called. We seem to have decided we’d just shame anyone who expressed views that we deemed unacceptable. In doing this, we have inadvertently pushed people out of the conversation. We’ve robbed them of the opportunity to have a conversation that could have changed the way they view race, LGBT issues, or immigration. After all…none of us were born believing what we believe. Someone took the time to show us love by exploring issues with us in a welcoming way. 

We white people have failed our fellow white people. In our efforts to advance racial justice, we chose to leave our fellow white people behind. And these are the very people who have come to resent “political correctness.” These are the people who feel like no one cares about the ways in which they also face oppression. 

This is how they found a friend in Donald Trump. 

In listening to my children’s reaction to Trump on the radio, I realized that in my effort to teach them certain values, I had accidentally taught them to be self-righteous. In my effort to teach them tolerance, I taught them not to tolerate people with beliefs that contradict ours. 

I knew I had to change this, so Trystan and I have begun an ongoing conversation with our kids. This conversation has been centered around the idea of treating everyone— truly everyone— with dignity and respect. 

And so the first way that I’ve decided to talk to my kids about all of this is to explore with them what their responsibility is in changing people’s minds for the better. As white children, they have the responsibility to be patient and kind with others when they see racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Oppressed communities shouldn’t have to show kindness and compassion in the face of hatred— that’s our job as allies.  It’s not okay to say mean things about a bully. If that bully ever wants to change, wants to move in a better direction, then our role is to be there to help that happen. 

Things are not black and white. Things are all shades of grey.

I’ve found that the other issue with our political climate is that we’ve completely discouraged discussion and debate around so many issues. I’ve decided to teach my kids that it’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to challenge ideas or thoughts. It’s also okay to be on the journey towards understanding. Not everyone has had the opportunity to learn the same things. And we should have compassion around that, not judgment. How can we expect people to grow, to learn, unless we are willing to allow them to progress through each stage toward their journey for truth?

In these discussions with our kids we’ve been challenging our kids to think about why people support Donald Trump. Are all of those people mean? Are some of them nice? Are some of them our family or friends? And don’t they deserve our love and respect? 

The last area that I’ve tried to explore with my kids is the idea that not everyone comes to the same conclusions and that’s okay.  We all meet lots of people who engage us in discussion about various issues, and it’s not uncommon for both parties to walk away without changing their views. We have to accept that this is okay. If our experience has brought us to a certain conclusion, then it’s totally possible that another person’s experience could bring them to a different conclusion. As long as the goal is love and respect, we’ll likely keep moving forward. After all, this is what pretty much everyone wants. 

Progressives have contributed to this political atmosphere just as much as everyone else.  And the best place that we can start to fix it is with our children. If we create an environment where discussion and cooperation are discouraged, then growth and progression will be slow on both sides of the aisle. 

And so, when my kids made those comments about Donald Trump on our trip to a play date, I took the opportunity to change how I’ve been parenting. 

“You know, I don’t know why Donald Trump is like that,” I said. “What do you think?”

 

Biff Chaplow