40 somethings: What we need to tell our children about elections

I really wanted to move on to Thanksgiving posts, but I just can’t leave this one alone. This post is not for college age students… it’s for their parents… my age group.

I am quite dismayed at the number of protests I have seen around college campuses in the country following the election.  It seems like we have everything from missing class to all out tantrums.  We have people destroying property in protest and using horrible profanity towards fellow students, who voted differently than them.  The very people who state they fear the coming intolerance and hate, are spewing those very things.  These events have prompted this post.

Let’s go back in time to November 1992, the second election in which I voted. My candidate did not win. I remember being surprised, shocked, sad… those normal feelings of an idealistic college student, who thinks she knows a lot about politics, government, life. The night that the election was decided, I received a phone call from a very good friend. We were opposed politically, but still great friends. He called (on my landline) to gloat. My roommate and I were furious with his audacity to call us in our moments of “mourning”. It felt very much like my little world was changing and surely things would come crashing down. I talked to my dad, who had seen his fair share of elections, and while he was disappointed in the outcome, he reminded me that we live in a country with a good and fair process. My parents not only told me to respect the process and the man who was our new president, but they showed me through their own words and deeds. I never heard my parents bad mouth, or disrespect President Clinton. They may have disagreed with some things he did, and certainly his moral failings, but in my home we didn’t trash our country or the President. As you know, we all have survived many elections since then and I’m happy to report that I remain friends with my college friend, who called to gloat that night (I did not “unfriend” him or trash his dorm room or key is car).

Fast forward to this election 2016… my candidate did not win. My college aged son called me today to “talk about the election” and much like my dad, I told him that as a nation we will continue, because the process works. I have seen many elections and he will, too. His candidate will win sometimes and sometimes he/she will not. All we can do is vote our conscience, pray for wisdom, and join the rest of the country to support the new President. 

So to my 40 something friends… we need to be telling our high school and college aged children that we don’t always win. Sometimes things don’t go the way we think they should. Sometimes they look beyond repair… but the best way to make a change is to go out and do good. Be the change. Volunteer. Join groups that are like minded and serve others. Love your friends. Share your ideas and viewpoints with respect to others. LISTEN, LEARN, and realize that you are not the only person in the world and you do not have the only valid world view. Rights come with responsibilities. If you want people to take you seriously, exercise your rights with dignity and respect… burning things, destroying property, physical violence, looting, hindering innocent people from their course, name calling, etc are not considered free speech… they are the least petty, childish tantrums and at the worst crimes!

I’ve seen many ask “what do we tell our children?”… if they are little, you let them know there is no reason to fear, because you love them and you will take care of them. If they are older, tell them it’s time to face the facts that you don’t always win, there are disappointments in life, and pitching a fit does not work when you grow up. So go to class, study, and become the change you want to see by contributing to our country. Finally, just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean its the right thing to do.

Teach them, friends, because when they are our age they will be in charge and based what I see that could be more frightening than a presidential election that didn’t go our way.

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