We asked a question on the cover of our Nov. 10, 2016 issue: “What do we tell our daughters?” It wasn’t rhetorical–we genuinely wanted to know from readers how they were explaining Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton after he endlessly demonized non-whites, women, immigrants, Muslims, Jews and just about everyone else who’s last name isn’t Trump during the election.
Seriously, people–Trump is bad news for American democracy and whatever rule of law we have left. His rhetoric is explicitly intolerant and antagonistic–especially towards women; his boasts (caught on tape over a decade ago) of groping women without their consent screams sexual assault and misogyny of the worst kind.
So we asked our readers how they explain all of this to your kids? Reader Paula Headbloom clearly shared our concerns in a Nov. 14 email:
Mahalo for your article “Trump Wins, America Loses.” I saw your invitation to write about how we are explaining the results to our children and wanted to share what my daughter texted me the morning after the election. She has two children, ages 6 1/2 and 4 1/2.
This is what she texted:
“This morning I sat both kids down separately and told them that their job today, and every day, is to protect people who are hurting. That if they see someone who is hurting someone else with their words or their body, they have to help. They can yell at the one doing the hurting, they can go get a safe adult, they can take the one being hurt away. But that they always have to stand up for other people.
“I said that there are people who believe that people with brown skin are bad, that people who don’t speak English are bad, that people like our friend, (redacted), who doesn’t quite look like a boy or a girl are bad, that people who aren’t Christian are bad. But that’s wrong. And it is always our job to speak up.”
I was inspired by this. I hope you are, too.
This is exactly what we were looking for. One reader, Elaine Roe, commented on Facebook that our question should have been directed to sons:
It’s time to start teaching our SONS that women should not only be respected, but that they are trustworthy and reliable and perfectly capable of living a life equal to them. We need men to vouch for women and their future or we will not move forward.
Others said they had no problem telling her kids about Trump. Reader Tina Hassmer said as much in a Nov. 12 email:
I just finished your biast [sic] article about Trump. Whether you like him or not–he is our president, and we should give him a chance. He is imperfect, as is everyone. I hope you’re aware the media is also biast [sic]. As for my children, we should not inform them negatively, which was all your article was about. My teens couldn’t stand Trump; when Trump won my teen said I am really bummed he won, but I would be just as bummed if she [Hillary Clinton] won. Out of the mouths of babes, and how true. Neither candidate was any good. And how interesting, the media said Trumps [sic] supporters were so violent, and violence–from Clinton supporters is all we see from protesters. Also you may want to look back on [Ronald] Reagan–which [sic] many people liked–he was blasted in the media. I recognize Trump for what he is, also recognize his bus rant *10 years ago* and am fully aware that *private* locker room talk goes on everywhere!!! He also has good relations with his children. He is imperfect, give him a chance. I was surprised to see such a biast [sic] article in Maui times [sic].
So much illogic to unpack: the notion that Clinton and Trump were equally bad; the comparison of coverage of Ronald Reagan in 1980 to Trump today; the insistence that Trump’s statement that he likes to grope women without their consent is mere talk and not an admission of sexual assault.
Then again, Hassmer did answer our question. On Facebook, most of our commenters ignored the question entirely, choosing instead to attack us for not lining up behind Trump:
You guys are ridiculous. So lame. Tell you [sic] daughters what you’ve been telling them. Teach them. Lead by freaking example. Quit your crying and sniveling and move forward like big girls and boys. Unfollowing your biased, pathetic, whining page. This is the second day all you’re doing is whining. (Bryan N Gretchen McGary)
Oh wow it’s people like you who are continuing to be the problem! Tell your daughter that she’s very lucky that the first female president wasn’t a criminal! (Jayme Wichman)
You tell your daughters Donald J Trump was elected President of the USA! And then you remind them he is not their parent. And then you quit being a dickhead and raise your damn kids! (Frank Lopez)
And so on. I wish this vitriol surprised me, but angry, demeaning, brutal rhetoric has been a hallmark of American political thought since the beginning. In fact, reading over the angry Facebook comments jarred an old memory: the horror writer James Michener exhibited in his 1971 book Kent State: What Happened and Why when he came across remarkable letters to the editor written after National Guardsmen shot and killed four unarmed students during anti-war protests at the Kent State campus in 1970.
“Horray!,” one Ravenna housewife wrote to her local paper. “I shout for God and Country, recourse to justice under law, fifes, drums, martial music, parades, ice cream cones–America, support it or leave it.”
Another stood solidly behind the idea of shooting protesters by simply defining them as criminals. “When radical students are allowed to go through a town smashing windows, terrifying the citizens, and are allowed to burn buildings belonging to the taxpayers to the ground, I think it is high time that the Guard be brought in to stop them–and stop them in any way they can.”
Of course, those shot and killed at Kent State were never accused of “burning” or “smashing” anything. Students–young people, many not then old enough to vote–had been killed for protesting a war. They were not terrorists, enemy agents or rioters. They were Americans, trying to exercise their constitutionally protected right to assemble and protest, and other Americans were happy that they had been killed.
Call it living in a bubble or being brought up by optimistic parents, but many of us feel tremendous shock and dread that a man who demonstrated so much hatred towards women, non-whites, Muslims, Jews, immigrants and disabled people–and who can’t for the life of him write a simple declarative sentence–will soon have control of our nuclear weapons arsenal, all while continuing to divide the nation along white supremacist lines.
Surprised at the magnitude of the protests against Trump in big cities across the country? Remember it’s the Electoral College that will put Trump in the White House, not a mandate of the people. More than a million more people voted for Clinton in this election than Trump, and though votes are still being counted, her lead is only widening.
There was a time, not too long ago, that a presidential candidate who was endorsed by the KKK, who openly bragged about grabbing women, who mocked a disabled person at a rally, who named white nationalists to his inner circle of advisers, was considered an unelectable extremist. No more, which means the necessity of protest has never been more apparent. In fact, supporting Trump now, after all he has said and done this past year, is probably the most un-patriotic thing a person could do. If America is truly exceptional, truly a beacon of justice in the world, then we must all resist Trump’s authoritarian aims. The health of the nation, and the world, demands it.