The last time my daughter and I talked politics, it was a much easier conversation. She was 11, and we were in full agreement that our vote would go to President Obama’s re-election. He was our Good Guy, and there was really nothing else to be said.
She’s 15 now, which means her opinions are stronger and presented with much more bravado, if not evidence. It’s also served with a side dish of judgment. As in: “OHmigod, anybody who doesn’t vote for (place candidate name here) must be totally STUPID.”
(I’m not saying I don’t believe that myself about some people. But I’ve learned not to say it out loud at parties.)
Our simple beliefs
The good news is we still share the same beliefs. They are, coincidentally, the same basic beliefs I’ve been brainwashing her with since she was a baby:
- Kindness to others is good. Intolerance is bad. Religious intolerance is extra bad, and has caused many of the more violent conflicts over the last several centuries.
- Equality is important. Civil rights are what protect equality, so we should really pay attention to them.
- Woman are just as equal as men. Gays are just as equal as straights. Racism is super shitty, and we should know better by now.
- People should work for what they earn. But people should also keep an eye out for people who are struggling more than them, and not be afraid to help those people who need it.
- Everyone everywhere should get to start off with the same basic tools to do awesome things as they grow up, whether they use those tools or not. In other words: schools should be better, and available to everyone.
- It’s important to treat others nicely, and with respect, whether you like them or not. Name-calling, sneering, bragging and bullying are awful, and no one — especially no leader of any kind — should ever engage in that kind of behavior. And if you realize you’ve acted like a jerk to someone, own it, apologize to the right person, and learn from it.
There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking in these beliefs. It really boils down to your basic “Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated” sort of a deal. Sometimes, we call it The Golden Rule. We’re pretty good about sticking to it, and when we fail, we talk about it and figure out how to do better.
All this is pretty much Parenting 101, right?
Trump not funny anymore
Why is this even remotely interesting? Because while the basic tenets of The Golden Rule seem both obvious and popular, we’re watching YouTube fill up with clips of Donald Trump, who represents the opposite of everything we value every time he opens his mouth.
Six months ago, it was funny. It was like watching a really hilarious TV show about a crazy person who acts horribly, but either learns a valuable lesson at the end, or is simply relegated to some sort of comic relief figure while nicer people take over the narrative.
Now, the man wants to be president, and enough Americans are interested that he’s the official Republican Dude in the Running.
And while I truly can’t imagine him winning, it’s officially not funny anymore. Every day reveals more fresh, steaming vitriol from Trump. More fear- and hate-based rhetoric. And there are enough people who seem to be susceptible to it that I just don’t know what to say when the subject of politics comes up at our dinner table anymore. My daughter will criticize Trump with all the sarcasm and eye-rolling a teen can muster; but while I willingly join her, I don’t enjoy those conversations.
Eight years ago, when my daughter was 7, we talked about the presidential election with so much excitement. I was proud to have my daughter watch the speeches, talk about issues as she could best understand them, and learn. I was optimistic about where the next several years would take us.
All this election season is doing is making me sad.
I’ll shake it off. Yes, my daughter joins me on the Anyone But Trump credo. Yes, I want her to see that a woman can be president. And yes, I plan on sitting down and watching the highlights of the recent DNC speeches with her, starting with the deeply inspiring, elevating words offered by Michelle Obama (who I’d vote for in a second, by the way – just saying). There’s a lot to appreciate.
I just wish we weren’t being distracted by the Trumpiness of the election along the way.
But for now, this seems to be good teachable moment for my kid: Vote. When you’re 18, register and vote. Get informed by real sources, and vote — you’re responsible for the problem ands its solution.
Every election year is an opportunity to teach that lesson, I know … but it seems particularly important this time around.