Regardless of race or religion, I reckon there are some simple rules most of us grow up with--fundamental lessons that your parents recited until they became the stuff of cliché. As grownups, we say these things so often, they yield eye rolling and sighing amongst many a kid: "Yes, mom, we knoooow." And yet these lessons form the basic building blocks of behavior in our civilized world and define what's generally appropriate. Right?
Why then, I wonder, is the presumptive GOP nominee such a failure in this area? I will pause here to say that I cannot say his name easily now. It bothers me on a visceral level. I think history will show that he was a parenthetical to the 2016 election cycle, so I will only use his name in parentheses.
How is it that someone (Donald Trump) who lashes out repeatedly with such nastiness can ascend to such heights? With every passing week, he spews a new rant or insult--tweeted or otherwise. We see his behavior as acting out or seeking negative attention. The media repeatedly says that the presumptive GOP nominee's behavior is "unprecedented." They often end their reports glibly with "This is not a normal year." Others say they like him for "telling it like it is..." Here's the thing, when it is untrue, bigoted, and vile, it is not acceptable. Civility should be the norm. Facts should matter. We're trying to raise kids here! That means we need a basic construct in which we all act somewhat reasonably.
I'm not particularly shocked at the mean-spiritedness that plagues our discourse. After all, reality TV shows are chock full of ridicule and manipulation. Talk radio is about shocking. Satire is often cruel. In the comments section of politically themed articles, you don't need to scroll too far to find language that approaches vitriol.
But I'm still trying to teach little ones the fundamentals of how to be a good person. I think a refresher might be in order, lest we forget:
1) If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
We tell our kids this over and over again. If you're nice, you'll be able to make friends. And yet, the presumptive GOP nominee calls others names--not as an exception, but as a rule: "Lyin' Ted, Little Marco, Crooked Hillary, Crazy Bernie. Sleaze. Loser. Bad. Very bad." And those are just the names for other candidates, journalists, and judges.
2) The golden rule: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
How would you feel is someone was mean to you? We talk about helping others and being compassionate, understanding that some people, such as the disabled, can't help who they are. This doesn't jive too well with the presumptive GOP nominee's mockery of others or his alleged scheme to scam vulnerable people into spending their retirement money. It's not looking like Trump University followed the Golden Rule. That I can tell you.
3) Two wrongs don't make a right.
So your sister wore your shoes without asking. Does that mean you should wear hers? We teach kids that it's not ok to say, "I know you are, but what am I?" While I do believe you should stand up to a bully, I'm not so sure the "counterpuncher" routine is a good lesson for the kids. When the presumptive GOP nominee re-tweeted an unflattering picture of another candidate's wife, he used the childish logic of "He started it." Not good. Not good.
4) Don't judge a book by its cover.
Just because somebody looks different doesn't mean they are weird or untrustworthy. Someone who is of Mexican heritage, a judge for example, might not be a rapist or drug dealer. A Muslim who wears a hijab is not necessarily a terrorist. We tell our kids this often, but methinks the presumptive GOP nominee forgot this lesson. Sad!
5) Mind your manners.
Wait your turn. Say please and thank you. We tell our kids that we don't do things that are rude. After watching every debate of this year's primary, I feel like many did not receive the memo. Yelling, pointing, interrupting, chastising...my goodness! Most parents would have found this behavior worthy of a timeout. Believe me.
6) Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.
This is a hard one. Kids can be mean and it's easy to get your feelings hurt. Don't let it get to you, we tell our kids as they grow up. Understand that someone being unkind to you might mean that they are unsure of themselves or sad. Maybe, as in the case of the "counterpuncher," he's narcissistic and insecure. Maybe he gets so upset so often because someone was mean to him as a kid? (Admittedly, I think the A&E channel could do an exposé on this topic. It'd be tremendously successful. Tremendous.)
7) Don't brag.
Seriously, don't brag. Others might not be as fortunate as you. It doesn't make anyone like you more if you boast about that new toy, your new outfit, or that vacation. It's not nice to talk about how many golf courses you own or how much money you have. Even worse if it's not true. And yet the presumptive GOP nominee seems to have made braggadocio the centerpiece of his candidacy.
Alas, as parents know, experience and role models are what help kids become good siblings, good friends, and good citizens. It certainly gives me respect for teachers and other caregivers who are committed to this end. I believe the entire village we live in, including our presidential candidates, should provide good examples to help kids understand what is right and just, and just plain wrong. I also gotta believe this will play a role in how people vote this November.
Rebecca Kraus is a content strategist and creative consultant. After working in entertainment journalism and games design in Los Angeles, she moved to Seattle seeking new adventures. For a whole host of businesses, she writes branded copy, provides digital strategies, and helps develop products. She also blogs about parenting, politics, food, and frivolity. You can often find her playing in her backyard garden of eatin' and hitting the trails with her family. Please enjoy her website.