My son's middle school pre-election vote was prescient. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by seven percent. "Could this actually happen in real life?," asked my 12-year-old. "Yes it could." For more than a year, I have predicted that this outcome was likely. Ask my friends and family about the heated discussions at cookouts and holiday get-togethers. Most dismissed my theory that Trump would win because of the hidden, growing trend he represented and pandered to. I suspected the polls wouldn't fully reveal this partially underground phenomenon.
Now that it has come to pass, what to say to a kid who heard Trump's "build a wall" statement in real time and called him on it vehemently? A kid who formed his own opinion of who was the better candidate, landing firmly on Hillary Clinton. So when Trump became the President-elect, what could my son learn from his chosen candidate's loss? These are my suggested takeaways:
1. Life isn't fair. It never has been and it never will be. The sooner and the more deeply you learn this, the better-equipped you will be to handle life. "So what?" if a kid stole your ball, the teacher blamed you for something you didn't do, a colleague presented your idea as his, or your candidate didn't win?
The takeaway: Decide how you are you going to handle it. Are you going to blame your current circumstances on external forces? Are you going to dwell on the fact that it's unjust? Or, are you going to translate that ire into resolve to do something about it... starting now?
2. Find the good in people. Are all of Trump's supporters, bigots, misogynists, and haters? Probably not. But they're all scared. They're afraid of losing something precious -- their economic or social standing. We know how swiftly fear brings out the worst in people. We saw the rise of fear in Nazi Europe and we saw FDR brilliantly allay it when the Great Depression descended upon this country.
The takeaway: Work hard to understand what people are afraid of. Is it fear of lost jobs, diminished quality of life, or "otherness?" Once fear's understood, you can combat it -- by demonstrating how rising tides raise all boats or how we all share a common human experience.
3. Understand that you have power. Whether you're a 12- or 87-year-old; a business owner or unemployed; a white male or a member of a disenfranchised group; you are powerful, especially in this country. You have rights. You have a voice. You have platforms. You have agency.
The takeaway: Every person's actions matter. The greatest movements began with one person who inspired others to stand up for good. What you do in your life -- no matter how seemingly insignificant -- has a ripple effect on the people around you, and so on, and so on. Gather up your power and feel its strength.
4. Identify clearly what needs fixing. While there's a lot to do to make the world a better place and it's great to feel passionate about many things, you can't fuel real change without identifying concrete problems and solutions. What will ensure all Americans have equal rights under the law? How do we give everyone an opportunity to prosper? What measures will protect our planet from climate change?
The takeaway: Find your cause(s) and identify the various ways to improve it. Some solutions involve top-down institutional or policy change. Others use bottom-up grassroots public pressure. Most use both. What elements of those solutions can you truly advance?
5. Create a practical action plan. Actions affect change. Your actions should be proportional to the concern you feel. If you think the long-standing future of the country is at stake, then make a long-standing commitment to getting involved. Progress requires hard, protracted work. You can sign a petition or post on social media, but will armchair activism be enough?
The takeaway: Evaluate the most effective ways you can make a difference. Are you a strong writer or a tech guru? Can you lend your skills to like-minded people or groups? Perhaps you will shape your career to positively impact this world. Will you run for office? Invent something useful? Advocate for the needy?
In seeking lessons around the outcome of the recent election for my 12-year-old -- a person old enough to understand what's going on in the world, but not old enough to fully feel his agency in changing it -- I learned a lot. Proof positive that parenting often teaches us more than we teach our children. In that spirit I share what I hoped my son would learn during this exceptional time -- a time that's raw, but rife with opportunity.
Anne Zeiser is a critically-acclaimed transmedia and social impact producer and media strategist. She's stewarded films and iconic series for PBS, produced news for CBS, managed national brands for marketing firms, and founded Azure Media, which develops transmedia projects on air, online, and on the go that fuel social impact in communities, in schools, and in capitals. She's the author of Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media from Focal Press' American Film Market® Presents book series.
Follow Anne Zeiser on Twitter @AzureMedia