America the Beautiful.
Yesterday, beneath our spacious skies, blowing through our amber waves of grain, shouting from our purple mountain majesties, and rolling across our fruited plains, came the voices of a nation in despair.
Americans so disenfranchised, angry, and exhausted, that they demanded change. Donald Trump was for the white, working class in 2016 what Obama was for African Americans in 2008: a motivator. However, this particular type of motivation for change has brought with it a very real set of consequences.
Not consequences related to politics or agendas, though there will be many. Not consequences born of policies or referendums, though these are also certain. But consequences affecting the way we raise and teach our children.
One’s character is a pattern of behavior based on universal principles, moral strength, and integrity. It is evidenced by the lines you never cross. Through his words and actions, Trump threatens the very core of how we teach our children because he unapologetically crosses lines. Lines parents and teachers battle to uphold day in and day out. Lines families pledge to model despite growing challenges facing today’s youth. Lines within which Americans provide a safe space for children to grow, learn, and become. Lines which sustain the basis for dignity and civility in the classroom, living room, boardroom and beyond.
For a minimum of four years, not only will Trump be the most powerful man in the nation, arguably the world, but he will be the example of character and leadership to our children. John Adams advised, “Society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” President-Elect Trump does not yet seem to have read this memo.
Our ability to raise and redirect our children comes through instruction on morality and ethics. Can discipline be upheld when the man sitting in the oval office is demonstrating destructive behaviors without consequence? Can we facilitate growth of all students when our highest leader insinuates limited respect, if not overt disdain, to large sections of the population?
Your eight-year-old daughter makes fun of a classmate with a disability.
Your 12-year-old son jokes a neighbor is bitchy because of her time of the month.
Your 16-year-old son uses racial slurs toward a stranger and makes accusations regarding that person’s clothing and religion.
To instill character, each of the above incidents begs correction. But can an entire generation be subject to expectations of conduct blatantly incongruous with those of the president of the United States of America?
The founder of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, reminds us, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Trump continually crosses lines of decency, self-control, and respect. While this in no way points to the presence of evil, it most certainly points to an absence of character.
Parents, are you paying attention?
Religious leaders, are you taking note?
Teachers, are you concerned?
A nation without character is a nation on its way to demise. We often cannot see how history is shaping us until it is already our history. We can choose to fight each other over politics and stand in a place of hurt, anger, or fear. Or we can choose to accept each other in humanity and move forward in a place of strength and presence. For the love of our children, we all must stand together for character. There must be acknowledgment across all races, classes, and political leanings that character, justice, and mercy are what we as the United States stand for.
The future is unknown. So if/when injustice arises, I implore you: Stand, Fight, Be Heard! But for now, America, allow God to shed his grace on thee. Let us be crowned in good with brotherhood. Let us hear the pains of our fellow Americans so that we can heal. And from this place of healing, we will move forward. But this must be forward together in civility and honor and, despite what has been modeled by our next president, with character.
Jennie Willoughby is a former-school-teacher-turned-mindfulness-warrior from Washington DC, whose passion is the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability for all students, young and old, to reach their highest potential despite adversity. After quitting her job and selling off her possessions to travel the world, Jennie began writing and speaking about the benefits of mindfulness, meditation, owning your choices and creating an intentional life. Her work facilitating an orgastic future can be found at Borne Back Ceaselessly.