The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
What lesson is the supposed party of family values teaching our country’s children when its leaders put money and power over the good of the country? What are kids today learning about truth and honesty, integrity and the dignity of all, when propaganda is pandered as news by people who know better?
Sarah Jones wrote astutely in early October about the effect the Donald Trump campaign was having on our nation’s children. Now, in these post-election weeks amid the daily horror of who Trump is nominating to positions of power and the ongoing discovery of all that went wrong leading up to the election from voter suppression and count inaccuracies to the betrayal of some of the highest office holders in the country who turned a blind eye and deaf ear to reports of Russia’s tampering with our election, we must focus on the values we seek to pass on to the next generation that makes for a more peaceful world.
Children are vigilant. They are attentive to what is said and done not only by parents, guardians, and caregivers, but in the culture around them at school, daycare, malls, and doctors’ offices. And they are especially tuned into the online world of social media. Plus, there is for some celebrity and Hollywood culture and sports culture for others. But for all, there is the world of current events from presidential politics to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
What are the children and youth of our country supposed to think when President-elect Donald Trump’s conspiracy-laden and fact-free tweets get more attention from the media than nearly any other story? What did it teach the next generation as they watched, as Sarah Jones reported, the media hyperventilate about Hillary Clinton’s emails and run with Republican accusations, which proved unfounded, and reporting on emails that were hacked and possibly doctored, per Russia’s usual dirty tricks—while pretty much glossing over the fact that Russia was interfering in a U.S. election?
It is not a leap to say that most youth who have had a science class or two or perhaps watched a video of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining the wonders of the universe know more about science than the climate change deniers in Congress. So what are these environmentally conscious youth to learn from lawmakers who deny this reality, while ice melts, sea levels rise, and storms becomes more extreme in their intensity?
And why isn’t the media covering climate change with the vigorousness it gave to Secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails? Climate change is a far greater danger to our national security than any of her emails ever could have been. Our children and youth need to know the state of the planet that they will soon inherit stewardship over.
Never mind the despicableness of Republican policy positions, especially as it comes to the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Never mind the underhanded tactics of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and his cronies to eviscerate the benefit programs seniors and many of the most vulnerable count on for their livelihood. Never mind that these “reforms” are so popular among the American public that they must be done in backroom deals while the media distracts the citizenry with some faux scandal. Did Trump tweet another lie? Never mind the bait and switch tactics, the economic lies, and the promise of coupons. Instead, think about the values that underlie these deplorable schemes. Think about the greed and power plays at work and the message that sends to our young people, who will inherit this economic and healthcare disaster.
Our children are watching and they too are struggling with how to live in these unprecedented times as they see the struggle in us. What will be our witness for them and for the history of this time? What are the deepest moral values that will serve the common good of all for generations to come? May our collective action in word and deed be a resistance to all that is unjust in our world today from bigotry and rape culture to the distribution of economic, material, and social resources.
I hope the genuineness of President Barack Obama and his passion for the next generation will continue to inspire our work long after he has left the White House.