Ok, the Green Day song was a little harsh. It was fueled by serious lack of sleep and what felt like a punch in the gut. It is simply inconceivable to me that we just elected Donald Trump as President of the United States. I’m not going to begin to recount the litany of his disgusting statements and actions but I will tell you how my kids reacted.
My 16-year-old daughter recounted seeing people at her all-girl school celebrating his victory, while others cried watching Hillary’s concession speech. “How can anyone be excited about him? He thinks he can grab us by the …”
My 14-year-old boy said, “It’s sad that you don’t even have to be special to be president. You just have to be a bully and push your way in.”
This is what we’ve taught the kids.
I don’t want my kids be scared and cynical, so I looked for ways to help them make sense of it all.
I started with numbers. There was no Trump insurgency; there was a suppressed turnout on the Democratic side. Trump got fewer votes than Romney, but it was enough to overcome the deficit on the other side. Predictably, the GOP is trying to spin this is as a “mandate” and one thing I’ve learned this election cycle is that a lie, repeated often and loudly, has become indistinguishable from the truth. We need to know the truth. We need to speak it.
So first lesson for the kids – there wasn’t a great roaring tidal wave of change that swept him into office. It was a less-bad-than-the-other-side kind of whimper.
Second lesson – Clinton won the popular vote. I’ve been able to tell them with absolute confidence that the majority of people in this country reject his dark vision of our nation.
Third — and for me, hardest — lesson – I told them that I believe the overwhelming number of people who voted for him didn’t do so because they believe women deserve to be grabbed by the genitals, or that Mexicans are rapists, or that Muslims should be kicked out of the country. I believe people have legitimate concerns about rising inequality, ineffective political leadership, and greed and corruption of the rich and powerful. People feel disenfranchised; they’re angry and they’re scared. They voted to upend the system because no one has been listening to them.
I told my kids, and I hope it’s true, that Trump said a lot of bad crap just to get elected. He knew he could exploit their negative feelings. However, he’s not actually going to do these things he promised/threatened. For starters, our government has checks and balances to stop any one person from wreaking that sort of havoc.
And I assured them that if those systems don’t work we’ll stop him ourselves.
That’s where you come in.
If you voted for Trump and found yourself nodding vigorously while reading the Third Lesson, hear this next part loud and clear.
I hold you personally accountable.
I do not give you a pass on voting for Trump. You decided it was OK for him to be President, not me. You voted for all of him – the promise for change; the bigoted statements; the lies, slander, and violent language; the pending lawsuits; the evasive financials; the crude sexual comments. And yes, that includes the bevy of White Nationalists who have found their voice in him.
You own it all.
The first time this man steps out of line, you are in charge of fixing him.
You cannot look the other way because you really want an “R” in office. That’s the big source of my own anger right now, that you may have compromised your own values in order to get an “R” in the White House. You have to answer to your own conscience for that.
But this gamble you’ve made that his rhetoric was blow-hard empty bully talk, I’m now bound to live by that and you didn’t have my permission. So if it all goes sideways it’s your responsibility to correct it.
Right now, I’m busy trying to undo the damage you’ve done to my family.
Like trying to convince my daughter that she is valuable and not a commodity. I’d like for you to come sit at my kitchen table, look her in the eye and explain why ‘locker room talk’ is any excuse for anything but in the interest of time I’ll handle that part.
And I’m trying to convince my son that bullies don’t win in the long run.
I’m teaching them both that no one can stop them from being kind and compassionate or from standing up for what’s right.
You can bet that I’m heartbroken and scared. But I’m not defeated. I’m watching. I’m planning. This isn’t over.