Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States!
What shall we tell our children about this?
Members of the ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) Anonymous 12-Step program spend much of their meeting time talking about their lifelong fight to discern reality; to discover the truth underlying all the “white lies” they were fed as children: Mommy’s tired and that’s why she’s sleeping; Daddy hit you because you are bad. Reclaiming reality is an important part of recovery, even when painful (no, mommy sleeps all the time and daddy hits you because they are drunks!)
Children instinctively know when they hear lies. They see that the truth is hidden, and they are driven to discover it. And when they do find it, they are not nearly as damaged by the ugly truth as they are by the pretty lies! So the answer must be, we tell children the truth!
She was 11 years old in 1978, the year the Briggs Initiative was on the ballot in California. Sleepy and grumpy, she asked her mother at the end of another late night meeting to plan ways to defeat the homophobic initiative, “Why do you care? You aren’t gay, and even if you were, you aren’t a teacher, so why do you care about this?” (The Briggs Initiative would require that gay teachers be fired.) When her mother explained the reasons for her activism, the child painstakingly wrote the answer in calligraphy, and posted it on her bedroom wall. Her mother explained with this quote from Martin Niemoller:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Many years later, her twin teen-aged daughters told their grandmother, “Our friend’s grandparents voted for Trump.” Grandma (she of the quote) said “I’m so very sorry for your friend that her grandparents are racists. They replied “No, they aren’t racist, they are just old.”
Grandma replied, “Ruth Bader Ginsberg is old. I’m old. People who vote for someone who despises women and Muslims are not old – when they knowingly cast their precious ballot for an avowed racist – they are racists. Now is your time to show the courage of the suffragettes, the Underground Railroad heroes, the Civil Rights marchers who ended segregation. This is your time to fight evil, and to have the courage to stand up for your beliefs. Wear a safety pin and promise you will always stand up for the rights and dignity of vulnerable people.”
The twins returned to school and talked to their friends. They decided they wanted to work for women’s and human rights. See the Women’s March in Sacramento? There they are, marching with their classmates, wearing the “pussy
hats” they knitted.
What shall we tell the children? We shall tell them that this man full of hate was NOT elected by anywhere near a majority of people in this country, so they needn’t be consumed with fear. We shall explain that he is only in the White House because of a law passed long ago, during slavery, designed to give extra power to the slave-owning states. Assure them that we, the decent people who are the majority in this country, are even now working to put a fair system in place, so we will never again be ruled by someone who appeals only to the hatred of a few. Point to how the entire country has become more loving and accepting, and explain that this “president” is an anomaly!
We shall tell them that every generation is tested, and now it is their turn. We shall tell them to be brave and steadfast. We shall tell them to follow their hearts. We shall tell them that they are spiritual beings having a human experience, and the test of that experience is their willingness to face danger in support of their ideals. We shall tell them they follow in the steps of a long line of courageous individuals, including Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr, freedom riders, Vietnam War protestors, Gloria Steinem -- all those who fought against the hatred of a few.
What shall we tell the children?
We shall tell them how very proud they make us, with their marches and pussy hats and phone calls to politicians!
We shall tell them the truth.
How do we explain the election and actions of Donald Trump to our children, while affirming that our country is a safe place populated with loving people . How do we tell children about racism and homophobia. Should we tell them what is happening in our country, or protect them from the ugliness? What is the right balance of honesty and protectiveness, and why?
Tess Pender is an ordained Interfaith Minister, active in 12-step programs for over thirty years. Her spiritual practice began with Native American Sweat Lodges, and continued with a series of Vision Quests. She led a Teen Spiritual Education Program, and regularly teaches classes on accessing intuition. She practices Earth-Centered Spirituality. She can be reached on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Rev-Tess-Interfaith-Minister-1333335763419...