How To Talk to Your Daughters About Trump’s Win- A Canadian Example
As Canadians, we pride ourselves on principles of tolerance, compassion and civility. At some point during this election cycle however, it seemed that trashing the Trump supporter had become a celebrated right of passage. I wrote this response letter to the Head of my girls’ school as a reminder of what we should really expect from kids as students, citizens and future leaders:
Thank you for your letter. I appreciate your genuine offer to provide our girls a nurturing environment in which to express their shock and disappointment at the election of Donald J. Trump. It is also my hope that this environment includes a mature and open discussion tailored to the leaders of tomorrow.
It is simply a fact that the world our girls will be required to lead will be wrought with many opposing, often complex and poorly articulated views. On their path to success there will be people who say some terrible words and accomplish wonderful feats. Others will say all the right things and do much harm. Only time will tell whether the hysteria over this election was warranted, but if we want to help our girls succeed in defeating views they oppose, we owe it to them to set a different example from what they have seen this election cycle.
To start with, our girls must be strongly discouraged from marginalizing others with lazy labels such as “racist”, “sexist”, “bigot”. The vitriol extended to Trump supporters may have felt good but it did nothing to change a single voter’s mind. At best, its only achievement was to send them to hide in the voting booth- a fantastically effective place to express oneself in private.
I hope that we can give our girls some context as to the true issues of this election. Not only will it help alleviate their post-election anxiety, but also encourage compassionate leadership.
First of all, our girls may be comforted to know that far from ascending to victory on the wings of a surging white and bigoted flock, exit polls showed that Mr. Trump’s white electorate was virtually identical in numbers to his Republican predecessor Mitt Romney’s. The same can be said of his margin with women voters. Where he experienced an increase was with Hispanic and African American voters. Turnout for Ms. Clinton among minority voters, was far less robust than it had been for her predecessor President Obama.
While it is true that Trump support came predominantly from rural areas (whereas cities voted overwhelmingly for Clinton), it is unclear when exactly it became acceptable to categorize rural voters as less legitimate and dismiss their plight as irrelevant.
I commend our school for its inner city initiative, building bridges and teaching empathy for less fortunate communities in Toronto. Perhaps we also need a field trip to small manufacturing towns devastated by the consequences of Globalization. There are plenty of towns to choose from in Ontario too. It’s certainly easier to slap labels on groups of people than take on vast and complex topics like Globalization. The latter requires hard work and deep thinking. Our girls are capable and indeed obligated to do just that. The future of Globalization was at stake in this election. It is likely to feature prominently in future elections as well.
Another important issue for voters was illegal immigration. On this difficult topic, only meaningful discussion can lead to persuasive arguments and true leaders are required to examine issues from all sides.
To keep it grade appropriate, let’s ask the girls to imagine a scenario in which 100 girls show up on the school lawn asking nicely for admission. They had neither enrolled, nor have the ability to pay tuition and have no academic record to show. How do we feel about automatic enrolment? No doubt some of our kindhearted students would support this absorption. However, you as Head of School, the parents and some other students surely would not. Why? Pragmatism? Fairness to those on waiting lists? Financial reasons? And what if those 100 students were boys? How would we answer our daughters that enrolment of boys is simply not permitted at our school? Would we cite “The Rules”?
Ah rules. Rules are everywhere. Does it make us xenophobic to deny the enrolment? How about sexist? Let’s teach our daughters that labels are too simple to explain big issues. Our neighbours voted to end illegal immigration on the basis of pragmatism, fairness and security. Positions we don’t have to necessarily agree with to understand.
Furthermore, our kids have the privilege of attending a school that is the best of the best. We should all therefore be able to understand those who voted for School Choice- an important and sadly overshadowed election issue for American voters. Trump campaigned for the right of parents to choose their children’s school- Clinton against it. It is immoral for us to look at those who voted for a better education with anything but empathy. They are just parents trying to give their kids a chance.
Lastly, this is not the time to detract from Ms. Clinton’s remarkable accomplishments but it does our girls a complete disservice to regard her as the last bastion of feminism. Suffice it to say that Ms. Clinton’s ethics were not without controversy this election. She lost the election for many legitimate reasons, gender not being one.
I do hope the school will provide a platform in every classroom to discuss these issues fully and openly.
With much praise and admiration for your continued leadership,