Thursday, November 10, 2016

Explaining the election to a child

Tuesday night my 9-year-old son went to bed around 10pm, crying at the prospect of a Trump presidency.  I assured him it was early, the returns would go late into the night and everything would be ok by morning.  At 2:30am, along with just under half of the country, I watched the news report that Hillary Clinton had called to concede.  Tears poured down my face and I walked into the bedroom and told my wife that the United States as we know it died in that moment.  I firmly believe that the country reached an inflection point and will never be the same: economy, environment, science, tolerance, acceptance, self-determination are on the chopping block.  Dear Odin, I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

But I couldn't say any of that to my son in the morning.  He's a smart, aware, curious, sensitive child and the last thing any father wants to do is terrify his son, so I owed him something better.  My favorite part of the day is the half-hour I spent walking him to school in the morning.  (My work calendar has that time is blocked off with the label "Sacrosanct".)  As we left the apartment this morning he asked how so many people could be so stupid as to vote for someone so clearly wrong for the job.  What I told him may not be especially profound but I think it came out well and might be helpful to other parents struggling with the same thing.

 I started off saying it's not about smart or stupid.  This country clearly has issues, though not the made-up problems most people think (immigration and unemployment to name two.) And they're complex problems.  Because if they were easy they would be solved already.  Difficult problems require thought, experience, effort, time, patience and dedication.  In short, it's very hard work.  We average citizens have enough to deal with in our own lives without having to take on the nation's burdens alone.  So easy, simple answers have their appeal: Build a wall, take the country back, make America great, deport all of the illegals.  A few moments of serious thought make it clear none of those are realistic, much less desirable, but without the effort those solutions can be comforting to people who don't know better.  Compound that with the news bubble that feeds you only what you already believe and you get president-elect Trump.  

It's unquestionable that many of his voters are racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic and/or antisemitic.  (Look at the virtual orgasm David Duke has been having for the last 24 hours.)   But I just can't believe that this country has that many, well, deplorables, for lack of a better term.  I blame last night on laziness more than malice.  

None of what I've said is meant to excuse the laziness and its fallout.  Far from it.  I was just looking for a way to explain it to a precocious boy who's waking up to politics just in time for what promises to be a disaster.  

Once again, dear [your deity here]  please let me be wrong.

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