Trump: Think On It.
I have been sitting here trying to find a way to begin this article for about 45 minutes now. I type a couple lines and delete them. I have an aha moment and try to snatch it from the air only to have it burst into a thousand colorful droplets like the ones that spritz a sun-burned arm when you pop a shiny bubble from a Bubble jug on a sultry Tennessee day in July. Wanting to sound politically savvy and hoping to make a difference in the opinions of at least a few is not an easy task. Bless the hearts of the ones who do that for a living. Another 15 minutes of dwelling, researching, and wiping away line after line have left me with the one thought I had from the beginning.
I cannot, for the life of me, understand the Donald Trump movement.
My disclaimer needs to be given right off the bat. I am not politically inclined. I do not and have not ever followed any one candidate closely, and every vote I have ever cast has been based on the character and qualifications of the candidate. I know. I know. Shame on me.
The one scenario that I can’t get out of my head when I see Donald Trump giving his speeches and addressing reporters in press conferences is that of an elementary classroom...in more ways than one. Aside from the finger pointing, sneering, and eye-rolling, there are some serious lessons to be learned from watching Mr. Trump.
His tone, his choice of words, and his apparent disregard for the opinions of others have all received shouts of praise from voters across the country. I live in Tennessee and assumed, with much remorse, he would sweep the south, and he did. His campaign also managed to capture the hearts of most of the Northeast and the West. Among those voters, a single comment seems to stand out. I have seen it across social media, read it in various articles about the triumphs he promises to bring our country, and heard friends and family members say it with pride. “He speaks his mind. I like that. Our country needs that.”
I have seen countless examples over the last year of Donald Trump “speaking his mind.” He has thrown reporters from Hispanic stations out of his conferences for trying to ask questions, he has, unarguably, poked fun at one reporter’s physical disability, and he has dodged questions in debates by making fun of another candidate’s looks.
Speaking his mind. We need that. Good for the country.
Let’s take this philosophy of leadership to the classroom, shall we? You have waited all summer to see who your child’s teacher would be. You have heard such good things about her, and the first day is here! Every friend who has had a child in her class tells you that she gets the job done, and she is just what your child needs this year. You cannot wait! This year is going to be wonderful. It’s Meet the Teacher Night, and you are loving what you hear. Your baby is going to learn so much! This new teacher has promised your child will read “grade levels above what is expected by May,” will be able to solve math problems “like the wind,” and will complete a science project “to end all science projects.” This is what your child needs! Sounds so good!
School begins, and the year is off to a rocking start. You send your baby out day after day to this Heaven-sent teacher. Every day your child comes home telling you all the things you heard at Meet the Teacher Night...levels above, solve like the wind, end all projects. November arrives, and your baby is still kind of struggling, and there are some concerning comments coming home. You heard your child say the teacher called a student something pretty derogatory, but you can’t be sure. You know there is a student with special needs in your child’s room. Your baby said the teacher made fun of the way he talked a few times and several students laughed. Your child seems confused. He doesn’t seem to have that feel-good attitude that emanated from your family in August. Surely he misheard something. You’ll wait and see. After all, you weren’t there.
A friend calls one night and says that she has heard from someone whose child is down the hall from your child’s room that this new teacher is actually abrasive. She talks rough to the kids, and has, more than once now, used a couple racial slurs. Surely not. A few phone calls later, you feel better. The rest of your friends, the ones who have had students in this room, say, “Yes, she speaks her mind. She doesn’t let anything get by her, and she tells it like it is. But she will take care of things. It’s what they need.”
Your child and all the other children are watching it, hearing it, and even if it’s not directed at them, they are being exposed to it. This teacher, the one you couldn’t wait to get, the one ALL of your friends fawned all over, the one who really speaks her mind and gets the job done, is a despicable example and essentially a volatile personality. It only takes a minor infraction for her to call a child a name, belittle him or her, or point out flaws in front of others. Think about it. You are only hearing a small slice of what is really going on behind that door each day. It’s now February, and your child is further behind in math than he was in August, and you haven’t seen a reading score yet that looks promising, but she’s what they need, right? They all told you so. Donald Trump is what we need, right? They all said so.
Another common thread being sewn by Trump advocates is the “lesser of the evils” thread. It is bright. It is thick, and it stands out among all the others. I have seen this one everywhere. He is evil, but any Democratic nominee would be more sadistic, and Hillary Clinton is the most Lucifer-like of all. That’s what the proverbial “they” say. Back to the elementary classroom we go. You have been on the phone texting friends all summer because August, she’s a-comin’. You went all out this year and called the principal yourself. Requesting a teacher hasn’t been something you have done before, but this year it’s a must. Your baby will most certainly not be getting that new teacher. Nope. Not yours. He has transferred from another county, and you heard from someone’s best friend’s mother’s sister’s babysitter’s hairdresser that he wasn't asked to stay at his school when May came because his scores were low. He’s only taught one year, but that is not the point. His scores are low.
You are requesting the teacher you want your child to have. This teacher has been there a long time. Everyone has forgotten that she was moved from grade to grade for the first eight years of her career there and has been in three schools. Her scores weren’t so hot, and it took a while to get her situated. No one remembers that. Her scores are great now. (She’s the one from earlier. You know, the one who utters slurs in her classroom on occasion and belittles children.) “She is the lesser of the evils,” you said to your friends in your very public Facebook comments. Donald Trump is the lesser of the evils, isn’t he?
Now that I have gotten off and running, I could go on for hours. I don’t understand the support Donald Trump has received. I don’t get the accolades. As I said, I vote based on a person’s character. Now, if I were voting for “a” character, I might choose Trump. I vote for the person I believe can sit across a table and have a well-planned, fact-based, and tempered conversation with world leaders. That’s really pretty stinkin’ important. Politics are not my bag, as I said, but I feel safe in saying the leader of our country can’t really get by with giving side-eye to the Secret Service and having Vladimir Putin strong-armed out of a room. In my heart, I believe this might just be what Trump dreams about. From reading comments and articles over the last few months, I get the impression that a lot, not all mind you, but a frighteningly large number of Trump supporters believe this is what his term in office will be peppered with. They look forward to cheering in front of their flat screen TVs and waving their iPhones in the air after watching their president toss one leader after another and scores of immigrants out of the room and over a tall brick wall.
I teach. It’s my frame of reference, and this election will impact my job in more ways than one. I am worried, however, much less about my job and far more about the way the leader of our country presents him or herself to the world. You see, this man or this woman will be a part of our curriculum simply by default. There won’t be a specific lesson plan that any of us are required to present, but he or she will most certainly influence much more than the voting adults in our 50 states.
Our children are watching.
Doubting Thomas is reading this right now saying that my attempt to compare an elementary classroom to the presidency of Donald Trump is asinine. Let’s go back to that little plastic chair with the missing tip and the desk that has a bulging artbox shoved just inside. Sit down. This will only take a minute.
You are in the third grade and your teacher has explained to your class the privilege and process of voting. You have identified the president of our country and the man he selected as his running mate. Your school even had a little voting booth set up, and all the students got to cast their votes. It was pretty fun.
You have heard your parents talk about all the names you saw listed behind that curtain in the gym. Donald Trump is the man who won at your school. He won in real life, too. He is the real president now! Pretty cool! You had heard his name everywhere. People made fun of his hair. Some people said he looks way too tan. You heard a lot of adults at church say his name. One night at a restaurant, he was even on the television near your table, and you heard a reporter talking about the way he made fun of man. There were two pictures side by side. One was Donald Trump, and the other was a man whose arms looked a lot like a boy at your school. You knew the boy. He was nice, and you knew he had a hard time walking and running. Donald Trump wouldn’t make fun of the boy in your school would he? Hmmm. It looked that way to you.
You have really heard his name a lot, and most of it was from your parents saying he wasn’t so nice after all. You don’t know who they voted for, but you picked him. You have heard his name and seen his signs for weeks and weeks in your neighborhood. All your friends chose him, too. He won.
Your teacher has taught your class a lot about how voting works, and you know that to win the presidency, thousands and thousands of voters had to choose his name, and they did. He must be a good guy. Thousands of people wouldn’t pick a bad guy to be our president. They didn’t do that, did they?
Get it yet?
No? Well, let’s get down to brass tacks. My children (I have two), your children, our children, your friends’ and neighbors’ children will be taught who our president and vice president are in school this year. It’s always taught and has been since George Washington and the cherry tree...well...that’s another can of possibly inaccurate historical worms. American students will know the name of their president and be taught the democratic process. These boys and girls of all faiths, races, and cultures will understand far more of what comes out of our leaders’ mouths than we ever give them credit for. They may not grasp the concept of foreign policy this and domestic legislative program that, but they sure as heck will understand that this man was voted into office, and he required the approval of the vast majority of the American public.
Majority chose him = must be good.
Our kids, yours and mine, are going to see and hear Donald Trump over the next few months--home, school, television. One thing may change, though. Should he win, his name will be prefaced with “President.” They will know what that means, and they will be taught to respect the office. Along with that comes respecting the man. Think on that.
I guess I could have summed things up several paragraphs ago by saying this. If the teacher’s job gets done in the classroom but at the cost of the children’s emotional health, was it worth it? Nah. You wouldn’t stand for it. Not for one blessed minute. If the United States is run by a president who is known as much for his derogatory remarks and his lack of respect for differences as he is his business sense but gets the job done, was it worth it for your children to learn that his way was THE way?
Think on it.