Little Ears, Big Words: Why we need to stop the hateful rhetoric but keep up the fight.

As parents we sometimes joke about little ears listening, or we are caught off guard when our young child repeats something we didn’t think they heard. And sometimes, children don’t let us know right away that they’re listening, but boy are they listening. And if you think the topic is too mature and they just don’t get it…think again.

I can remember a time when I was pretty young, maybe around 2nd grade, and my parents were worried about a presidential election.  I remember learning that “democrats were good” and “republicans were bad.”  I didn’t know what either of those words meant, but I knew I was glad we were democrats because I wanted to be good.

At 8 years old the world is pretty black and white. There’s good and there’s bad. I remember walking into school feeling proud that “we” had won. I kept waiting for a friend to bring it up so I could ask some questions because I wasn’t 100% clear on why democrats were good and republicans were bad, but politics didn’t really come up during second grade recess.

Now I realize, of course, that the world is quite complicated and not all democrats are good and not all republicans are bad. However, it has taken me some serious soul searching, reflecting, debating and listening to accept that.

I hate to admit this, because I want to think of myself as open-minded, but I definitely hold a bias against republicans. I know that isn’t fair, but it’s also not surprising given our current political climate.

However, knowing this about myself and recognizing my own bias, helps me engage in more thoughtful debate. I acknowledge my prejudices and try to open my mind to another point of view. I haven’t yet changed my mind on any issue, but I have definitely gained a better understanding of where others are coming from.

There’s no denying that I’m frustrated with the current administration and I’m baffled by the outrageous behavior of our president and, more incredibly, the numerous senators, congressmen, congresswomen and voters supporting his actions. However, I do not think that dignifies the destructive rhetoric that is plaguing our news, social media and entertainment arena.

We are so desensitized to inappropriate, hateful rhetoric that we are forgetting our children can hear us. And that goes for both sides. Whether you believe we are desensitized because of the hateful rhetoric coming from the top, or you think it’s the hateful response coming from those that didn’t vote for this president, engaging in hateful, non-productive name calling isn’t a solution.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed by what I see on facebook, the news and other outlets. I’m embarrassed for democrats because I want to think we are “better than that.” I’m embarrassed for republicans because hateful rhetoric is becoming their norm. Of course, not all democrats and not all republicans are using hateful rhetoric, but enough engage in this unproductive back and forth that it’s monopolizing our news feed.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be the thought police. Of course everyone has the right to speak their mind and use strong language to emphasize their outrage. Not only do we have the right, we have the duty to acknowledge and fight inappropriate governing and racist, sexist, hateful language and actions. I just think we need to put some more thought into word choice.

Let’s teach our children that disagreement is ok, debate is good, different opinions make this country well rounded. Let’s also teach our children that when our government becomes disgraceful, harmful and divisive it’s time for action. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas.

Talk to your kids about ways to take action without compromising their integrity. Have age appropriate conversations with your kids about the current political climate, government and the implications of both. But even more importantly, exemplify those methods: Marches, peaceful protests, standing up to someone when they say something racist, sexist, or hateful.

When your son or daughter sees you standing up for what is right it will give them the confidence to do the same, and you better believe they are going to copy your methods.

We need to change the future narrative for our children, and that includes “fighting fair.” It isn’t always easy, especially with the current administration, but it’s crucial if we want to change this political climate, protect our freedoms, and pursue happiness.

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