When my son was young, Bart Simpson hit the air waves. I hated how the characters on the show talked and how they disrespected each other. It incensed me to the point that I refused to let my son watch it, despite a considerable amount of begging. The conversation ended briefly. I soon discovered that he would go to his friend Dennis’ house to watch the show. It wasn’t until that point that I agreed to watch the show with him. It opened the conversation. We would discuss what he found funny and what offended me. Although he still preferred to watch it at Dennis’ house without my commentary, at least he understood my perspective about the importance of respectful interaction.
The election of Donald Trump to the position of President Elect of the United States has stopped many conversations. Coming from a Canadian stance, it is largely incomprehensible how someone who has overtly disrespected and discredited woman, Latinos, Muslims, Immigrants and the LGBTQ community could be selected for public office, in part by the people he targeted. I needed to step away from being personally offended by his hateful rhetoric, in order to come to the conclusion that this was not just a win for misogyny, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and a fixation on the gun culture. This was a democratic election and the leader was chosen by the 55.6% of the population who opted to exercise their democratic right to vote.
It has pushed the need to ask questions to what is happening south of the border that has created the palpable anger and commanding voice for change? What is a “protest vote”? What is the “status quo” that has created such a reaction? Who voted for Trump? Did gender play a part in preventing the election of a woman? How did the close alignment with bankers and sizeable payouts to prevent bank failure impact public opinion? How much impact would Bernie Sanders have been able to make on what happened in a Clinton government? What was the impact of the votes garnered by Jill Stein and Gary Johnson? The list goes on.
As a vice principal in a school, I spend a large chunk of my time engaging in conversations about respectful interactions. The rules of the game in school are intended to prepare them for life.
- Tell the truth.
- Tell the other person your thoughts in a respectful way.
- Take responsibility for your behaviour.
- Empathize with the other person you are in conflict with.
- Don’t make yourself feel big by intimidating others with words, physical proximity or force.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote a letter to third graders at Tecumseh thanking them for their work to welcome Syrian refugees to Canada earlier this year. In the letter he told them that their voices and what they do matter right now. I believe our children internalize these messages that their voices matter, just like they internalize the rules of respectful engagement when they live it. My hope is that our children fully participate in the democratic process by voting and holding elected officials accountable for their conduct, actions and decisions. My dream is for them to assume roles and responsibilities in the future where they are able to conduct themselves with integrity, intelligence and kindness to create a world based on respect for peace and justice.