What Do We Tell The Children?

“Say that silence is dangerous, and teach them how to speak up when something is wrong.”

It goes without saying that I’ve been reeling with grief and shock this week. Here are some concrete words I was able to pull strength from in my conversations with students this week, from The Huffington Post. The article bears reading in full:

What Do We Tell The Children?

“Tell them bigotry is not a democratic value, and that it will not be tolerated at your school.”

“We need to teach students how to disagree—with love and respect. These skills will be priceless in the coming months and years as we work to build a democratic society that protects the rights of all people ― regardless of the cooperation or resistance those efforts face from the executive branch.” 

Now we regroup, and we tell the people we love that they are loved and they matter over and over and over again. My question to myself this week: How can I most effectively leverage my skills and the privileges I have left to stand up for and support the young people who are going to spend a key portion of their formative years under the reign of a bigot who promotes sexual assault?

If you are devoted to this same goal as a fellow educator and/or advocate and/or restless globetrotter, I’d love to hear your ideas below. More to come soon. 

What are we telling our children?

What do we want our children to learn from this election?

*content warning non-graphic references to sexual assault and racial violence*

First of all, please watch this. Michelle Obama has articulated what I have been wanting to say over the past week most clearly than I seem to be able to. (I wish she would run for president.)

Now. To anyone who thinks staying home for this election is a sign of protest against a corrupt system or a showing of solidarity with a third party candidate, please realize: Staying home on November 8th is an act of complicity. For anyone who believes abstaining from voting would send a message, you’re right. But it may not be the message you want to send. Not electing Hillary Clinton would be a message to politicians, to our children, and to the rest of the world that the majority of adult United States citizens are willing to give the most powerful position in our government to a publicly racist man who is proud of sexual assault. It would be telling our kids that as much as we say social justice, human rights, bodily autonomy, respect, and basic human decency are important values, what really matters is being a wealthy, white cis-het man who is comfortable doing whatever it takes to get himself ahead. It would be teaching our kids that the things he has said and done claiming women’s bodies as his playthings and endorsing public violence are somehow excusable. Handing this man the presidency would be telling the world that the basic rights and safety of women, people of colour, Muslims, immigrants, and children mean nothing us. His most recent comments are alarming, but not surprising. As others have said again and again, his most recent comments are exactly consistent with whom he has shown himself to be for years.

Every time there is an election with a particularly onerous candidate getting a lot of press, I get upset and discouraged, but something about this candidate, as Hillary Clinton said clearly in the last debate, is different. We do not just disagree on certain issues; he is injecting so much bigotry and fear into the public sphere that I have not been able to find the words to express myself, and as a writer at heart, that terrifies me. That said, I’ve been silent on this blog for too long as some sort of act of self-preservation, because it’s all too painful to think about for long enough to put words down, and that is not okay. If with all my cis White American privilege, I can’t even bring myself to make a public statement, then I feel like I’m just rolling over for him. We need everyone in our country shouting from the rooftops that this man does not represent us. We are not complicit.

Unfortunately, we do not have the choice of whether or not to give this man power. He already has taken it. We do have the choice of how much more power to give him. Please ask yourself what you want to tell your children, your siblings’ children, and your friends’ children when they ask you what you did to stop this man from becoming president. We are not complicit. Please vote. Please vote. Please vote. Please vote. Please vote. Please vote. I don’t know how else to plead. A missed vote for Hillary is a vote for her Republican opponent. Please vote.