This week has been a tumultuous one at best. While the collective American fate was being decided at the polls, we Canadians stood by watching and biting our nails. The mudslinging and accusations propagated by both parties, the constant updates and sensationalism put out by every media channel in the US (and to some degree, Canada) not to mention the countless #hashtags and memes put forth by anyone with a social media account lately has meant that it has been virtually impossible to escape the 2016 US Election. This is also true for us Canadians. While the election has been on my radar and causing me more concern than I’d like to admit, I was not expecting my own daughter to be concerned as well.
Many parents have been commenting on the discussions they are having with their children following the announcement of the US election results. I think this is a new precedent in our shared culture: young children – many not able to perform long division or tie their own shoes yet- are concerned about the future of their society. They are asking questions that are tough to answer, and fearing the apocalypse this presidency may cause instead of believing in Santa Claus. This says more about the state of our world to me than anything else being reported on CNN.
Young children are paying closer attention to what is happening around them than we think. Their fears and concerns are real and many parents are questioning how to respond to them. How do you answer the child who fears her schoolmates may be “sent home?” Other children are asking if this means World War 3 is about to happen, and I suspect a few adults are wondering the same. My own daughter informed me this week that she needed to skip school today so she could go to the Canadian/US border and help start building the wall to keep Trump out of Canada. She is eight. I was hoping to keep her from becoming jaded about politics until she was at least old enough to vote.
Media personalities, politicians, and voters alike beware. Out generation’s beliefs and actions NOW are shaping not only the next few years of our combined futures, but the development of the mindset of the next generation of voters that is watching in the wings. As adults, we need to think about what our decisions are portraying to them, and how we plan to explain it. Trump has shown very little sportsmanship in or out of the political ring. I do admit that I have my own fears about how he will represent the American people internationally. Is this the future of politics then? Can we expect this sort of circus to become the norm from future candidates? For the sake of both our countries I sincerely hope not.
Being neighbours means that our countries share a close connection – sometimes whether we like it or not. With one of the longest unprotected borders in the world, we have been able to maintain a cordial relationship for much of our shared history. Canada has often been viewed as a little sibling to loud big America; with similar features and attributes but calmer tendencies. While in America the phrase “Go big or go home” may run true, here in Canada we take a more stoic approach to things. Our penchant for multiculturalism, “odd” pronunciations and spellings of common English words, and a love of poutine for instance. Where Americans like to dive into situations with their guns drawn and blazing, we Canadians prefer a different approach. As is our nature, we will remain vigilant and watchful as events unfold for our American neighbours, and like good neighbours we will support them as best we can.
This is what I hope to convey to my daughter. By opening up a dialogue and sharing information in a safe and calm manner I hope to alleviate her fears for the future. I want her to know that she can come to me with her questions and concerns, and trust that I will try to help her find the answers she seeks. I won’t sugar coat the details, but I will try and keep things from being as dire as the media tends to make it sound. Children need to understand that sensationalism sells, and tends to be to overused my news media. Many people avoid the news for this very reason. We need to work harder to find the more positive stories to keep them in balance.
I hope that this election brings America the positive changes they are seeking while maintaining the respectful relationship between our two great countries. Here’s to a brighter future for all our kids regardless of gender, race or economic standing. Because isn’t that what we’re all fighting for after all?