I wrote this post on my blog in 2012, the day after Obama was re-elected. I fear the need for the same sentiment. And this year, I have two children voting for the first time, a 16 year old who is so interested in the political process, he helped found a young political group at school, helped organize a student debate and is having friends over to watch the returns, a 14 year old who has watched all of the debates and a 10 year old who is very impressionable and beginning to become aware of the world. Please, lets keep our children in mind as we navigate today and the days to follow. Please read and comment with your thoughts...
I voted for President Obama and thought that today I would feel very happy about his re-election. Instead, I woke up to see anger, sarcasm, resentment and disrespect for the president and those who voted for him being expressed all over my Facebook wall. I am very disappointed that many of you choose to be filled with hate, derision and negativity and choose to express those feelings in such a public way. I have five children and many of you are in our "village" influencing and setting examples for them. Some of you are friends with them on Facebook. Decisions like yours cause me inordinate distress because I believe that you are teaching them all of the wrong lessons.
I am raising my children to be be informed, to be open minded, to be tolerant of everyone alike or different, to question authority without disrespecting it. I am teaching them that they have the power to become informed and educated and by listening to others, make decisions on their own. Your decision goes against every single one of my goals.
By showing them hate and a closed mind, you are teaching them that by having an opinion different from yours, they will be greeted with hate thus making it more difficult for them to form their own opinions and express them without fear. Open- mindedness is taught by exposing children to different people, cultures, and viewpoints. By expressing derision of their government, you are reinforcing the idea that it is not okay to be different from each other.
Tolerance is taught by example. By showing them that when your candidate doesn't win, it is okay to attack those who voted differently from you or to attack the president or the government, you are teaching them to turn their backs on those who are or believe differently, rather than encouraging open and respectful discussion.
Our country was founded by our questioning of an authority with which we disagreed. By allowing our children to see disrespectful attacks instead of respectful discussion you are teaching them to disrespect authority instead of giving them the tools to question or change their futures.
Providing children information from every perspective gives them the belief and the tools to change their futures and impact the world. By attacking one group's views and votes, you are teaching them that they have no power to make their own decisions or to change their futures without fear of retribution.
I would like my village to have the goals that I have listed above to produce educated, informed, tolerant, open-minded and powerful children who will grow to be adults with those same qualities. I would like them armed with knowledge as they go through school and go out into the world.
This time, my candidate won. I have experienced the same disappointment in other elections when my choice lost. I did not attack my friends for their votes. I did not, in dramatic fashion, pray to God that he would save us from the "evil" that loomed. I think the president needs prayers for wise and just decisions whether he is my choice or not. I did not believe that the world would end because my choice didn't win. And it won't now.
We live in a country that provides peaceful election and peaceful transfer of power when a new candidate wins. We need to appreciate this and recognize that many risk much more when they vote. We need to teach our children, by example, that we can win or lose gracefully. That we can respect the office of the president and try to support each other and articulate our opinions in ways that teach our children to be the kind of adults we would like them to be..
I want my children to be politically aware. I want them to learn to watch and think for themselves. I do not want to feel compelled to warn them that talking about politics with friends may not be such a good idea for fear they will be attacked. I believe that this culture of hate and fear can turn the young away from wanting to learn about and participate in the process. I believe that those who express hate and vilify others run the risk of denying my children the experiencing of history by making them afraid.
It does not matter for whom you voted or what your political affiliation, children and adults (because every adult is a part of some child's village) should respect the office of President, even if you do not respect the man or the ideology.
I have written my political views on Facebook. I have made every effort to be respectful, find facts and post articles that I find interesting and support my ideas. I have never called someone (either a political figure or friend) a name or attacked anyone personally. Even I began to feel disillusioned with discussion as people are very angry when you disagree with them. That is not the path I want my children to walk.
Change starts with the individual. If we can come together and work together, it will be harder for those in power to remain so polarized. If you do not like the way things are, instead of ranting in anger, why not do something about it using respectful and intelligent discussion. Call your senator, write your congressman, attend meetings. Take you children and teach them how it works. At the very least, before you speak or post, pause to think if what you are about to say is something you would want your children to hear or see.
We live in an area with a great deal of diversity and however you believe, it is important for all children to know that anything is possible and barriers of all kinds can be conquered. Our president is an historical figure by sheer virtue of the fact that he is our first African-American president. We should at the very least respect that. Maybe if we all pulled together for the greater good, he could actually accomplish something, and we could teach our children in the process.
This post was originally published on The Gift of the Struggle.