Because the Kids Are Watching

The Washington Post ran a story last week: "In Iowa, fans chant 'Trump! Trump!' at a racially diverse high school basketball team." According to the article, the home team chanted "Trump" and "USA" at players on the visiting team who happened to be of Latino, Native American and of African American heritage. In a Fairfax County, VA third-grade class, two children pointed out the "immigrants" in the classroom and announced that they would be sent "home" when Donald Trump became president.

These incidents make it clear that every talking head who has dismissed critics worried about the tone of this year's presidential election need to think again because, as an aptly titled column today in the Times of San Diego noted: "We need civility in politics because the kids are watching." The point is if candidates are asking us to vote for them to hold the highest office in our country - to be our representative to the world - shouldn't we hold them to the highest standards of behavior? Will it be so entertaining if an ill-spoken comment about a foreign leader prompts tense relations or worse? What lesson are we teaching our youngest generation - that it's okay to demean people based on their looks, their heritage, and/or their disabilities?

We are losing the basic American value of civility and some will argue we have already lost it. We should be able to look up to our leaders for their policies, their diplomatic abilities and their efforts to improve our country. Yet the total lack of civility in this year's Republican presidential primary, where facts don't matter and every utterance regardless of its truth is taken as the gospel and repeated over and over again in headlines and newscasts, has turned a debate on our future into a mudslinging contest.

Have Americans so lost our mooring, are we so wearied from the ill nature of politics these days that we are willing to accept the unacceptable? We were once the great melting pot and admired for our diversity of faith and culture and heritage. It is what made us great. Why are we sitting back and letting the few undermine our national values? Where is our outrage? How much further do the candidates have to go before we stand up and say enough is enough?

We can change the tone of the debate but it requires each of us to speak up and demand change. If the candidates want our votes we need to start by insisting they speak and act like grownups. If we can't do it for ourselves, then do it for the sake of the children.