Last week there was an automated voicemail message on our home telephone, extending a ‘personal’ invitation to attend a Romney for President rally to hear local officials speak and see (and even to board) the touring campaign bus. I thought, what a terrific opportunity for my sons to see the political machine in process.
We went and listened to speakers, ate “freedom cookies,” and cheered as our country’s flag was waved while triple-barreled questions incited uproarious chants of “Yes!” After all, who wouldn’t want a better economy? Who wouldn’t want to support families? And who wouldn’t want to renew national security by not selling it out with debt for generations to come? But what impacted my kids most? At 9 and 11 years old respectively, it was getting on the bus.
I asked them what they heard during the rally. They responded, “Romney is for families. Romney is for jobs and he has experience in business.” I followed, “What about President Obama?” They said, “He’s not.” They were listening after all. However, this example creates a challenge for us, parents. While our family constituency is unavoidably hammered by the over-simplified marketing clarion calls of political party affiliations and candidates, we must ask ourselves if we are doing the more fundamental job – helping them identify their values and to develop a voice to promote and defend them.
I was raised in a politically divided household. My mother was a vocal supporter of Kennedy/Johnson, Carter, and Clinton. My father, a Navy man and career defense industry engineer, was a quiet-but-devout conservative. I suspect that because they didn’t personally agree, neither politics nor the underlying issues were discussed or taught in our home. As a result, when the privilege of voting also became my right, I felt generally disconnected and had no idea how to navigate the messaging or propositions to establish an opinion. So, with my first two opportunities to vote, I did nothing. We have to do a better job as parents, especially teaching children how to listen, discern truth (if they can find it), and indoctrinate the responsibility to exercise their voice in the political process through voting.
The ways of politics are rocking our children’s confidence in this country and in their future. Both campaigns are overwhelmingly focused on the defamation and destruction of character, capacity, and aspirations of the opposing candidates. The message is clear, “The other guy sucks. If he wins, kiss your dreams goodbye.” Wow. Guess what? Someone IS going to win. And now as part of the political process we’ll have convinced nearly half of our united states that he is a creep. These messages are inescapable to the underage audience as well, appearing pervasively on television, on the radio, online, in social media and even in video games. This erodes national pride and any sense of security of the next generation of voters.
I do not want my sons to blindly assume my political affinity. However, I would be thrilled if they come to the same conclusions that I have, after understanding the options presented and matching those to the values that they’ll learn in our home. Then they will be equipped to exercise their own voice through voting, towards their values. If they come to different conclusions, there is still victory in our raising active, engaged voters.
Challenge: Independent of your own political stance, help to get kids on the bus.
With your child:
With your child:
• Discuss your family values.
• Identify core issues that impact our country (and especially the family).
• Help your child understand the difference between the political messaging designed to win an election by tearing down the opponent, and that of working towards a better America by voting in the candidate with who he or she has the greatest confidence and represents their values.
• Finally, we must find a way to encourage patriotism in kids independent of politics. Withholding our prayers, hopes and support from whoever wins this election (provided your desired candidate does not win) only teaches that our national pride is conditional upon one leader. It also presumes that God cannot achieve miraculous things through adversity. Both of which are not true.
God help us as parents, and God bless America.