I have always loved politics, and not just for the good reasons, e.g. the way our elections shape our laws, our society and our future, but also for the sport of it. I like watching people. I like learning how they work, what makes them tick, and following politics is essentially a pseudo intellectual version of mall people-watching . You see how people want themselves to be seen, and then you see the basest version of those same people as mud gets slung and punches get hurled. (So maybe more like the mall at Christmas time.) It is fascinating and gory and entertaining all at once.
This election has been different. I thought this election would be different because historically and personally, it is incredibly exciting to watch a woman run for President. And in that aspect I am excited and hopeful. But all in all, this election hasn’t been much fun. It has felt sad and toxic and scary. And maybe that’s because I am a parent now and maybe it’s because there are so many important issues that hang in the balance of this election. It is probably both of those. But also, it is because of Donald Trump.
Trump supporters and Trump-haters (and there is truly no in-between) can agree on one point: This guy is not a normal politician. The divergence lies where Trump supporters see this as a good thing, while those of us who are appalled by his words and actions say he is not a normal politician because he is not a normal human being. At all. As in, SOS, get this man off of our streets and away from our children.
But being the sunny and pleasant person that I am, I have forced myself to look for the good in this bowl of poisonous Skittles. (The Skittles being hateful crap the Donald has said and done because that’s how that works, right?) When this steaming garbage pail of a campaign is over, how will I have benefitted from having lived through it? Here is what I came up with. Lessons. There are some real lessons to be learned here, particularly by my sons, who, like Mr. Trump, are privileged white males living in a society that favors that sort of thing. If nothing else, I will walk away from these last months with these 6 lessons to share with my kids, particularly my sons, and for that we can thank the wise, orange one.
Lesson #1: You are the problem.
Kids, you will find yourselves in conflict sometimes. You will find yourselves in situations with people who don’t like you, or people who are rude to you, or people who ignore you or point fingers at you or just seem plain mean. It really sucks when that happens and I am sorry. I will help you navigate those situations when they arise and we will get through it. But if you find yourself in a place where you are in many, many, many conflicts, and the only common denominator is you…then it is very likely that YOU are the problem. Fix that.
Lesson #2: Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you.
It is going to be appealing to you to choose a group of friends who agree with everything you say and laugh at all of your jokes and even fight your battles for you if asked. Don’t do this. Everyone needs a friend who will tell you that you have ketchup dried on your chin before you walk into your next class or someone who will tell you that it’s stupid to pick a fight with an entire table full of people (or country, gender, class of people…all stupid). You need a friend who will call you out when you’re acting like a jerk. Believe me, when the house of cards comes down and you find yourself unsuccessful or in need, Rudy Giuliani, I mean, your friends are not going to be there. They will have already moved on to their next mark because that is what lackeys do.
Lesson #3: Filter is not just a tool on Instagram.
You must, my children, think before you speak. Your words matter. Your words matter whether you are in front of a crowd, or meeting someone new, or in a locker room, or on a bus with an old friend who is also being followed by several cameramen and sound engineers. The fact is people think a lot of very, very, very stupid thoughts. I have heard very rich, very powerful people running for very high office say very stupid things. Only the idiots say those thoughts aloud. Don’t be an idiot. The rest of us have already weeded those thoughts before they escape our mouths or smartphones, which reminds me…
Lesson #4: Twitter is not your diary.
The internet is a public place. What you put there will be memorialized forever. Remember what I said about filtering before you speak? That goes doubly for social media. If it seems like a good idea to send it at 3 am, it will still be solid at 8. Draft and post then. And at 8 am when you realize you would have oddly attacked Rosie O’Donnell again, though nobody actually cares what you think of Rosie O’Donnell, or even really takes notice at all of Rosie O’Donnell anymore, you’ll be glad to have the opportunity to go ahead and not share.
Lesson #5: Walk a mile in another man’s Chinese-made, American-branded loafers.
The lesson here really is to aim for empathy but at least avoid hypocrisy. Empathy isn’t the easiest. It isn’t easy to feel for someone else when their interests seem to diverge or even detract from your own. You must always try though. Always try to understand the world through someone else’s eyes. This is what a good person does. And when you can’t reach empathy, at least don’t be a hypocrite. Glass houses are as fragile as they sound. Don’t wind up covered in glass shrapnel and Chinese ties. And, children, even at your absolute lowest point, please don’t ever compare people escaping genocide to a bowl of artificially-flavored candy. (Don’t roll your eyes. It could happen.)
Lesson #6: Don’t grab women by the vagina.
I mean…Yeah. Don’t do that.
When I look back at the election of 2016 – the good, the bad, the ugly, the memes – I hope that I will remember it as a means to an end. The ugly campaigns that brought us one hell of a Madam President. But if not, there’s always this: it gave me the opportunity to tell my sons to be damn sure they don’t become the rich white guy bullying his way to the top at the expense of their morals, country and family. Be more. Do more. In short, kids, don’t be a dick. Even one running for President.