Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (November 24, 2016)
This week has been an emotional one for many people, and not just people in the United States. The US elections this year garnered the attention not only of people in their country but people around the world. Perhaps it’s because it’s been the most media-covered story recently, or because the candidates have been so contentious, or just because people know that the outcome of this election will not only affect the US but the world. I’m not usually one to be so involved in understanding US politics but this particular election has captured my attention.
And the results came out this week that Trump will be the next president. And when that happened, my Facebook feed was flooded with comments. I have dear friends who genuinely support him and believe that he is the much needed leader for their nation. I also have close friends who cannot even fathom how someone like him could have been voted in. And what ensued on my Facebook feed, as I’m sure was the same on many others, was a war of words. Supporters of both candidates started attacking not only the candidates but also their supporters, where Clinton supporters were not just bashing Trump but his wife, his children and all his voters.
I don’t claim to be politically knowledgeable so I don’t know all the political and social implications that having Trump as president will mean but there are things that concern me. I obviously don’t know him personally so I can only base what I know about him from what I’ve heard and seen him say in the media and in the presidential debates. And what I’ve seen has troubled me, as it has many others. The way he has insulted people, looked down on people of a certain religion, interrupted people as they are talking and said that he wouldn’t accept the consequences if he lost the race. All these have been concerning and as parents, it makes it hard to explain to our children how someone like that can be made a leader of the free world.
Some reports have been heart breaking too. Figures have shown how bullying has increased in schools since the campaign started. Acts of violence against ethnic minorities have also seen an upward trend in the States. These would perhaps have gone up anyways but when the President-elect, which he is now, is seen to show these behaviours and get rewarded for it, it makes it easier to follow suit.
So then the question is, what can we teach children now that Trump has won? Throughout history, we have had leaders that are good role models and those that fall short. And have to remember that we can use any situation as a teachable moment. We can look at a person’s positive traits and use them as in inspiration to our children and also look at a person with negative traits to highlight how shouldn’t follow. And at this juncture in history, I will highlight these 3 things to my child:
1. Be kind
It’s easy in this climate to join in on the judgmental comments and express negative emotions through bashing people. But if we do that, we are perpetuating a cycle of disunity and disrespect. Being kind can break that negative cycle. And it’s possible to be kind to someone even if you don’t agree with him or her. It’s also possible to be kind to someone who isn’t kind to you. Being kind is a reflection of your character and not the person whom you are showing kindness to.
2. Be accepting
As Rick Warren has said, “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” We need to rise above differences and learn that we can love and accept each other despite differences. It’s okay to disagree but it’s not okay to disrespect. We will always have differing opinions to others and the key is how to show acceptance and respect to the person without needing to agree with them.
3. Be hopeful
It’s easy to feel disheartened and hopeless at this point but we have to remember and teach our children that hope doesn’t lie in one person; it lies in all of us. We all have the responsibility to make the world a better place and bring hope to those around us.
And in all of this, the most important thing is that we as adults be good role models for our children. If we are kind, accepting and hopeful, our children will look to us as role models, and not just people in leadership in the world.