Snuggling on the sofa with my eight-year daughter one evening, a commercial for the nightly news hinted of a sensational story about the 2016 political candidates. My daughter looked at me, with sadness in her eyes, "Mommy, I don't want Trump to be president."
"Why is that, baby?"
"Because half of my friends would disappear from school!"
She buried her head into my lap and sobbed. I quietly stroked her hair as I searched for an appropriate response.
How do I respond?
Just like my husband and I don't discuss our fears and phobias in front of our children, so as not to influence them; we also don't discuss politics in front of them. We do discuss who we're voting for, and I have a couple strategically placed candidate signs in our front window and on our minivan. However, we do not discuss the platforms of the prospective nominees nor the difference of the parties -- we don't even talk about the likes and dislikes of any particular candidate. We just want our children to come to their political views organically, with as little influence as possible from us.
So, why was my daughter in fear of Donald Trump? Why did she think half of her friends would disappear?
My eight-year old attended a public school, in an affluent area, for Kindergarten through 2nd grade. Of the 600 students at that school, 30% were of Asian or Indian descent. A move during the summer with a change of school, she now attends a Title 1 elementary, where 40% of the 400 students are of a Hispanic ethnicity. Statistically, 3 out of every 10 friends that she has made over the past 4 years are not white.
Why does she think her non-white friends are going to disappear if Trump is elected President?
How have my daughter's fears been influenced?
In January of this year, Trump's first TV ad was released, just before the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. The 30-second spot highlighted his stance on Muslims, immigration and terrorism. It contained the words "cut the head off," a body "on a stretcher," explosions, and figures running in the night. Pretty scary stuff. I can't even imagine what the visuals felt like to an impressionable eight-year old.
And, what about the actual words coming from the mouth of Trump inciting violence and harm that has been dissected, re-played, and posted? "Knock the crap out of them" from the podium at a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in early February. "I'd like to punch him in the face" at a Las Vegas rally, in late February, as a protester was again being removed from the premises. "The audience hit back. That's what we need a little bit more of" when a supporter at a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, sucker-punched a black man in the face, just last week.
Parents certainly could argue that I should monitor and limit my daughter's TV use. However, we only have ONE television in our home. It is located in the family room. All TV use is under parental guidance. So, f*@k that argument.
Talk of Trump has inundated our everyday visual and auditory existence. We are like test subjects of the Ludovico technique, the experimental aversion therapy Malcolm McDowell's character endures in A Clockwork Orange, strapped to a chair, eyelids propped open, and forced to watch images of Trump. His views and statements are in a constant discussion by news sources, digital ads on YouTube and Hulu, magazine covers and newspaper headlines, Facebook memes and videos, and customers in line for coffee. You would have to be frozen in carbonite for the past twelve months to have not been assaulted by Trump's rhetoric and his supporters.
I asked my daughter, "what do your friends say about Trump?"
"They think he will send back all the Indians." (Eight-year old vernacular for people of India, not Native Americans.)
"What else do they say?"
"My friend, Juan, said if Trump is President, he and his family will have to move back to the Dominican Republic."
What do I say? How do I remove this anguish from my daughter's thoughts? When will she not fear that her friends will be taken away?
Like every good parent, I lie.
I want Trump and his supporters to go away. I wish my fellow Americans saw Trump's behavior as being disrespectful to our great nation's legacy, recognized his answers as lacking the intellect our country deserves, chastised him for his incitement of violence and racism purely out of patriotism, and threw him out like a protester at one of his rallies.
But until then, I tell my daughter that Trump cannot hurt her. I tell her that her father and I will always protect her. I remind her that she is a good person who would never use violence in a disagreement. I praise her for being a role model for others by not judging people by their ethnicity, race, or gender. And, I reassure that half of her friends will not disappear.