People everywhere want to treat their political leaders as ideal citizens and great people, models of personality and leadership. Character is one of the most important traits that voters look for in a candidate. Many parents are Trump supporters. Imagine telling a child about Donald Trump, as a man and as a candidate.
American presidents represent for children an image of manly achievement (thus far anyway), a dream of greatness: “One day you could be President.” When I grew up, kids learned about the President from portraits in our classrooms, surrounded by the patriotic enthusiasm of public school curricula. President and flag were one. We were sheltered from any flaws in Presidential character, lest they distract from the lesson that America was wonderful and its leaders extraordinary.
Nowadays anyone with a phone can find out the latest political news. The facts of Trump are out in the cloud for everyone, even toddlers, to see. When parents decide to support Trump, what do they say to their kids?
Parents used to teach children to be polite to others, sometimes invoking the Golden Rule. But times have changed. Now Trump parents can explain why it’s best to insult anyone who disagrees with you. Call people you don’t like liar, loser, fool, lightweight, dishonest, stupid, hypocrite, dummy, a total joke. Those are just the insults he’s thrown at leaders of his own Party.
Modesty is usually a virtue to instill in the younger generation. Not any more. Bragging is the new humility. Trump has made talking about Trump into an art form. Tell your kids: it’s all about you, every day, every way.
Bragging brings us to lying, because for Trump they’re the same. Much of what he repeatedly praises about himself is not true: that he graduated first at Wharton, that he is worth $10 billion, that he met Putin. “They love me” is one of his favorite refrains, especially about groups of people who actually dislike him.
Explain how lying can be a useful life strategy. No matter how big the lie, some people will believe it. The lesson for kids is how to use lying to win.
The most important values to pass on are family values, meaning “traditional” marriage for Republicans. Trump multiplies that lesson: many marriages are better. Marry Ivana when she’s 28, start an affair with Marla when she’s in her late 20's, marry her, then have an affair with Melania at age 28. Boys, keep looking for those 10's.
In particular, Trump moms will need to explain to their daughters why women’s bodies are their most important attributes. When considering running for President in 2000, he said, “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.” While he was married to Ivana, but dating Marla, he said, “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write, as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” That phrase about women is one of Trump’s favorites.
Boys and girls, here’s the scoop on fatherhood. “I mean, I won’t do anything to take care of them. I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids. It’s not like I’m gonna be walking the kids down Central Park.”
One constant in American politics is respect for military service. Our children are constantly given messages, in school and out, that military service represents the highest form of patriotism and that veterans are heroes. Now Trump parents will need to explain that being captured and tortured, as Senator John McCain was, doesn’t make you a hero. It’s better for kids to get real military experience without risking their lives, like Trump, who went to an expensive military-themed prep school, where he got “more training militarily than a lot of the guys that go into the military.” He compared avoiding a sexually transmitted disease during his “dangerous” life as a single man to serving in Vietnam: “It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”
Donald Trump thinks his privileged civilian life is just like military service. That’s why he believes, “I’ll be so good at the military, it will make your head spin.” Trump parents now have an easier time counseling their children on how to be brave soldiers: you can either join the military or fool around at home.
That’s the lesson for the kids: a life of wealth is as hard as it gets. So get rich, really rich, by saying anything that helps you, ignore all the inferior people who don’t “love you”, hit back harder, cruder, meaner when anyone points that out, tell everyone at every opportunity how great you are. It’s a tough life, but that’s the way to be.
If Trump parents help their children see what life is really all about, we might look forward to a generation Trump. So go ahead, Trump fans, put a sign in your yard that proclaims your allegiance to this man. Then start working on those explanations for your children.
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, August 9, 2016