Dinner. Tonight. With my little family. Inevitably answering election questions that surfaced today at elementary school. Diplomatically answering their probes in a fashion that won’t bash either candidate, evoke fear, incite hatred or create worry about the future that awaits. Carefully cleaning up hateful comments and rhetoric from both parties…..spouted out of the mouths of babes. Mini Democrats. Mini Republicans. Mini Independents. Mini Still Unsures.
I awoke this morning with an unusual feeling in my gut and my dinner table on my mind. Post election hangover, you might say. The realization of last night’s events left me flat. It was an odd feeling, this realization that something huge and usually worthy of mega celebration has ended. But the residual emotions, rather than warm and fuzzy, were just void.
Make no mistake. This is the emotion I would’ve felt regardless of which candidate won the election. For me, there was no ‘hero’ in this race.
I know many of you will disagree with my stance. That is fine. And fair. We’ve all been blessed with individual opinions and variables that have shaped our life views. We’ve earned the right to hold our own beliefs. You have. I have.
Which brings me to my point.
Regardless of political affiliation, I’ve seen a common thread running through this election. Fear. Concern. Focus on our future and that of our children. Despite party or race or gender or religion, my right, left and middle friends have professed a deep concern for our children. I had been full of hope that as we proceeded through the coming days with our new President elect, regardless of who it was, we would prove our sincerity and focus on our future for our kids.
To protect them from bigots.
However, in my own home and perhaps in yours, we need to educate each other on what exactly is a bigot.
A dear friend sent me the definition last night. It appears I’ve been confused all these years. I assumed bigotry was simply synonymous with being a racist. For years there has been no question in my mind that I am NOT a bigot.
But the exact definition is intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.
Intolerance. To state the obvious….the inability to tolerate. The shutting down of communication, bashing of personal beliefs, name calling, jugular attacks that have surrounded BOTH parties all campaign season.
And it appears my right and left and middle friends who have closed off conversation and instead spewed hatred towards another individual for being a baby killer or racist or socialist or Muslim hater (or any other name that has been thrown around related to any supporter of ANY candidate) are in fact bigots themselves.
Those of you calling names from either side of the aisle are technically also bigots. This is not a party related term. This is not me calling names. It is the definition that first appears when you type ‘bigot’ into Google. I know my conservative friends are likely thinking I’m pointing fingers to the left now. And I’m confident my more liberal friends are just so very sure I’m talking about the right.
Friends, I’m talking about all of you. And I’m talking about me.
So, as we work to explain last night’s events to our kids over dinner tonight, I will wait in firm hope that as a nation we will all work to educate. To inform. To explain. To share our personal views and values with our family. But to do so in a way that won’t create fear mongering or further hate or division amongst third graders who simply can’t understand the issues of both parties and simply become the mouthpiece of mom and dad.
Can we sit back for a moment and imagine a conversation where two people can agree or disagree OR BOTH AT THE SAME TIME and do so without fear of reproach or condemnation for their right winged or left winged or wavering in the middle views?
Assuming everyone came forward in kindness and courtesy, there would be no need for “safe places” and individuals could discuss their differences. Their ideas. Their concerns. All while being civil human beings.
No name calling. No bigotry.
Can you imagine a world of great little people who know how to argue? Children (who eventually become adults) who can express their thoughts in a non-offensive way? I do not fear that my kids will get their feelings hurt because someone else shares an opposing view. I do fear they will be hurt from hateful, vitriolic speech. The kind that shuts down conversation. That leaves people silent.
My mother taught government for 36 years. We had a lot of in-home political talk. Yet I NEVER knew who she or my father voted for in an election. I knew their preferences on certain topics. I knew they didn’t always agree with one another on candidates. But discussion was open and I now understand they were preparing us to have our own firmly held views, independent of anything we could’ve been spoonfed from a parent.
I vowed this election that my husband and I would discuss positive and negatives of both candidates at a level our kids could understand. And to the degree in which they cared. Which varied from week to week and largely changed due to conversation at school. Listening to the comments that came home, out of the mouths of second and third graders, was mind boggling. Name calling. False information. Rhetoric. From both sides.
When my kids left the house this morning one child was content with the election results and one was super angry. Tonight we will talk through the issues in a manner conducive to their age. We will diffuse the damage undoubtedly done today by Trump haters and Trump supporters alike. Clinton haters and Clinton supporters alike.
We will refocus on what happens next. Which will likely be dessert. And then we’ll work out a way to show love to another in a tangible way. Because my impact on policy is so very limited. But my reach to neighbors and fellow citizens is far greater. And my direct impact to these littles at my table counts most. The way I speak about others being ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ or ‘crooks’ or ‘racists’ will teach them how to judge others as we move forward.
I want my kids to grow up with a foundation of sound values and strong convictions, for certain. I want them to fight for their beliefs. I want them to be vocal in sharing their thoughts in a loving way. I want them to understand where their dad and I stand on many issues.
Tonight we will talk. Tonight we will probably disagree. Tonight we will teach the word bigot and work hard to insure we don’t raise four more for the future generation.
If you believe in the liberties granted by your citizenship in this country, and wish your children to be raised respecting the liberties their peers also share, I pray you’ll do the same.
And for the record, we’re actually having chicken noodle soup.