In light of Donald Trump’s visit to Bangor today, there has been a lot of attention on Trump, with much talk about the presidential hopeful on the news. Even though I am only a somewhat political person, I would normally be excited about a local visit from a presidential candidate. I would talk to my children about it and use such a visit as an opportunity to teach my children about the presidential campaign, important elections, and the democratic process. But I find myself “laying low” about this visit.
One morning my oldest son and I were in the kitchen making breakfast, tea, and conversation. My oldest son is in college, and since this is his first national election in which he will be able to vote, he’s been talking a lot of politics this election season.
We were discussing Donald Trump and some of the offensive things he’s said, specifically about women and minorities. I told my son about a friend, a Trump supporter, who wanted some “exact quotes” that were evidence of Trump’s sexist and racist language. So my son and I opened my laptop to find some of those quotes. Just as I was reading one that I find most offensive as a woman, the one where he referred to women as a “piece of ass” in an old Esquire interview, my husband and youngest son, who is only six years old, walked into the room.
I didn’t know they were there, but they were just in time to hear me reading Trump’s quote. My husband told me to “watch my language,” that our youngest was in the room.
This was an epiphanic moment for me. We were quoting a man who could be our future president, and I couldn’t let my little boy hear what he had said.
Of course, some could argue that was an older quote, and it was, but Trump’s rhetoric related to women and minorities is often offensive and inappropriate, as he refers to women as bimbos or implies they are successful in their careers because of their sex appeal.
Although I missed many of the Republican nominee debates on television, I was very much aware of Trump’s rhetoric from reports on the news and social media. Despite being concerned by much of Trump’s rhetoric throughout the debate process, when he took to social media to defend the size of his private parts after one of the debates, I was concerned that the rhetoric was reaching a new low, and I was concerned about the message this was sending my children. These tweets were shared all over the world.
And those tweets worry me. Trump seems fast and loose with his comments on Twitter, and these things, obviously, make the news. Although some of these offensive tweets are later removed, they still make headlines long after they are visible on Twitter. When his account retweeted a joke that Hillary Clinton couldn’t “satisfy” her husband, so how could she “satisfy” Americans, it was definitely another cringe-worthy moment for me. Although this tweet was later removed and Trump claims it was made to his account by one of his staffers, it was retweeted all over the world before it could be deleted. This sexist joke was made from his account.
What kind of example does this set for our children?
Whether we want to or not, we need to stop and think about how the President of the United States is a role model for our children. That person has reached the highest office and is seen as the pinnacle of success in our culture, and children look up to our presidents. I don’t know how to even begin to talk about a president like Donald Trump with my six-year-old.
My husband and I are trying to raise a son who respects women, who understands that all people are different, unique, special, and deserve respect. We’re trying to teach our son that we can’t group all minorities together and that to do so is a form of racism. We’re also trying to raise him with kindness and love and with an understanding that words are powerful and can hurt.
I try to teach my son that words can actually hurt most of all. We can say we’re sorry when we say mean things, but the damage is done. We need to be thoughtful in how we speak to and about people, and we need to be extra careful in the things we write online, as there will always be a record of it.
Donald Trump doesn’t seem to believe in these lessons and seems to be careless with his language choices, or, perhaps, he is purposeful, but that concerns me even more. I’m concerned that he’s setting a bad example for our children about how our democracy works and how the words we say reflect who we are as people.
I wonder if Trump’s supporters have stopped to think about this: Would you want your children to hear the things Trump says? Would you be okay if your children spoke to and about people in the same way?
I don’t think Trump is going to change unless his supporters demand it of him. He said during the Republican debates that he could “shoot someone” and would not lose his voters. I would love to prove him wrong. This kind of arrogance and recklessness with language really does set a bad example for our children.
Let’s demand better of a presidential nominee.