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What Do I Tell My Children?

This was the popular refrain of the very many Americans who were disheartened by the victory of Donald Trump on November 8th.   The question stemmed from deep concerns about troubling rhetoric that the President-elect had been heard using or had been attributed to him regarding women and others, that reflected a degree of insensitivity that most would find to be offensive.  Well, now that Donald Trump has won and is our President-elect we now need to reflect upon what this means for our country and what it is that we can communicate to our children.  Here are some upbeat things we might say to them:

1. In America, anything is possible and you should dream as big as you wish.  Donald Trump never held a political office and ran against the entire establishment -including both political parties, every media outlet, everyone in the entertainment and arts who represent celebrity and popular culture, all of the major banks, the incumbent politicians, almost every academic, university, and intellectual outlet, and nearly every single CEO of every major company.   He spent a small fraction of the money that his opponent spent, broke nearly every rule in the campaign book, and still won the Presidency.  Every child in America should take a cue from this success to understand that in our country it is very true that anything can happen and anyone can achieve their dreams if they’re committed to them.

2. The system is not rigged, after all.  Trump’s protestations that our system is rigged surely touched a nerve for many in our country, who feared that on some level this might be the case.  And he was not the first candidate for the highest office to make this suggestion (remember a guy named Al Gore?).  The fact that Trump won the election despite being opposed by just about every power player in the nation and the world is amazing, and a true testament to the reality that our democratic system functions well.  We all ought to be very proud of this system, even when it produces results we may not agree with.

3. Bad ideas are best addressed out in the open.  There is a tendency to suppress opposing ideas, especially when we feel strongly opposed to them.  This is a dumb idea, and our founding fathers knew this when they insisted upon the freedom of speech that is so unique to the U.S.  Unfortunately, this desire to squash out opposing views has happened in numerous instances ranging from global warming to discrimination, and as repulsive as we may find those opposing views I am confident that having them aired out in public is indeed better than the alternative.  I remember years ago when neo-Nazis (now mysteriously called “alt-right”) successfully sued to win the right to march in Skokie, Illinois, which was a town heavily populated by Jewish Holocaust survivors.  At the time, I will admit to being personally opposed to allowing that march.  As distasteful as the idea (and the reality) was, the argument to allow these people to come out in the open and expose their ideas to the world was the right one. Freedom is always messy and often ugly, but once a society begins suppressing views one never knows where the suppression ends.  Also, I believe that terrible ideas get killed more easily in the light of day than in the darker corners.

4.     It’s OK to not get your way; and Being in opposition to the majority, and even to government is perfectly acceptable.

Half of the American people didn’t get the outcome they desired in this election.  This was basically true for the past few elections too, and is often the case.  That is perfectly OK, and is in fact one of the hallmarks of American democracy.  We are all way smarter and better off because of this, as we’re all forced to consider the merits of competing ideas.  Whether our guy/gal won or lost, or our ideas and ideals were represented or repudiated, we are all Americans who are in this together.  We’re a better country when we all just hunker down and commit to do our best to all make this nation a great one, and by listening respectfully to the dissenting opinions.  To be clear - this never means shutting up in the face of injustice, or when we see things going the wrong way.

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