Two boys, cousins, played with their iPods and built grand, digital worlds together. Minecraft worlds, full of the wonderful, the frivolous, the clever and the dangerous.
A thought from the outside world, the real world – not so wonderful, not so clever – intruded upon their creative process. I heard my nephew ask my 8-year-old son: “Who do your mom and dad want for the new president?”
Our son gave the correct answer. He knew because we have made no secret where we stand.
This will be the first presidential campaign our sons remember. Welcome to American politics, boys.
I’m bummed that the most surreal, vitriolic presidential campaign of my lifetime is providing their political indoctrination. Yet, this campaign has morphed into a rare opportunity.
This is a chance for us, as parents, to demonstrate to our kids what it means to stand up to the racism, bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, ignorance and general mean-spiritedness that defines the Trump campaign.
Our kids see and hear things. They see and hear the angry man on TV shouting and calling other people names. They hear me answer back at the TV, exasperated, tired of the lies and hyperbole.
They don’t understand.
They are baffled by how rude the angry man acts on stage. The words he says don’t fit the narrative of their world, where their friends are boys and girls whose skin is brown or white or black, kids from Jordan and India and Fort Myers and New York and London and none of that matters, anyway.
The thing is, while that angry man on TV hisses, people on TV listen to him – and they cheer, madly.
How can they cheer? My sons don’t understand that, either. But I know that the cheers register with them, and that worries me.
‘The dream shall never die’
I know it registers with our kids because people cheering wildly at a political speech is the enduring image from the first presidential campaign I remember. I was 11 when Ted Kennedy lost to President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Democratic primary.
I was old enough to be moved by Kennedy’s famous speech at the convention, which included this memorable passage:
“For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on. The cause endures. The hope still lives. And the dream shall never die.”
I wonder what it will mean for my sons that they have seen equally enthusiastic people embrace the ignorant ranting that passes for political discourse with the Trump crowd. I hope it doesn’t lead them to accept ignorance, xenophobia, bigotry, sexism and hatred as standard planks in a national campaign platform.
I hope they don’t think that atrocious world view is OK, that it’s just “how things are” in America.
I hope, instead, that my sons will always reject hate speech, that what they see and hear now will lead them always to stand up for the unfortunate, to do and say what’s right, to conquer fear with courage, to meet ignorance with enlightenment.
Meanwhile, I hope they have fun creating worlds on Minecraft.
I hope they one day remember their mother and I being appalled and troubled by the willingness of millions of our fellow Americans to accept or overlook the divisive and bigoted attitude Trump used to snatch the Republican nomination.
I hope our sons hear it all, see it all, and that they one day help craft a world where this year’s presidential campaign is remembered as the last time bigotry almost won in America, but was defeated by grace and empathy.