In The Face Of This Administration, Where Do I Turn For Answers?

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I find myself questioning how to address what is happening around my community—and in our country—to my children.

How do I teach kindness and respect and openness to my children when the adults in the highest offices represent none of those things? How do I explain the concept of love thy neighbor when our President is constantly misinforming the public about our neighbors? How do I teach them lying is wrong when there are no consequences for the most powerful people in the world doing the same thing?

Make no mistake, they hear about world events. They hear about our President and the Muslim ban. They hear about his Twitter tirades and his rants about the “lying media.” I don’t sit them down in front of the TV and make them watch CNN and in fact, I make a concerted effort to make sure the news isn’t on when they are around. They don’t need to see the devastation in Syria or hear our President trash our troops. But they hear it. They are listening when the adults around them are talking and they overhear strangers in stores making small talk. They ask about the signs they see when we are driving down the road. There is no escaping the political climate we live in.

Most recently, Jewish community centers and cemeteries have been targets of bomb threats and vandalism. We live in the Northeast, a reliably blue section of the country. We tend to be more diverse and multicultural than some of the red areas of the south and west. Anti-Semitism and racism live everywhere though, in every corner of the world. Yes. It does. But I can’t ever remember a time that it has hit literally so close to my home. Recently, a Jewish cemetery was vandalized in Philadelphia, about 10 miles from my home. Soon after, the Jewish Community Center (JCC)—the place we almost sent our children to preschool—was evacuated due to a bomb threat. Had I sent my children there, I would have received a phone call that my children were safe but at an evacuation site. That thought strikes a fear straight into my heart because I know that my children would have been scared like I’m sure the children that were there were. How do you explain that kind of hatred to an innocent child? I just can’t figure how to simplify that kind of hate. And I don’t know if I should.

Where do I look for the answers? My kids need answers. I need support. I need guidance. I can’t look to my President because it took him over a week to address these attacks. I needed someone to help me in the moment when my boys were asking the hard questions. He’s been busy attacking the media, celebrities and various online critics. He’s been busy making up terror attacks that didn’t happen and lying about murder rates. But he hasn’t tweeted out anything about the homegrown attacks that are very real and are targeting children around our country. Priorities.

I can’t really turn to my congress, they are literally exploding from the inside out, trying to repeal and replace a health care system that doesn’t need to be repealed and replaced. Reworked, added to, adjusted; but not repealed and replaced. My parents are planning their retirement because they fear the privatization of their jobs. My friends are busy drowning under the weight of student debt, health care costs, and the rising cost of living.

My husband and I have decided to continue to teach compassion and kindness. We will tell our children the office of the Presidency is to be respected because of the historical importance it holds. We continue to encourage them to ask questions about hard topics and share their feeling with us. We will show them how to be a good neighbor by charity work and simple acts of kindness. We will smile at strangers. We will love with all of our hearts. I will teach my children to challenge the ideas they don’t believe are correct; to stand up and use their voices for the voiceless. I will remind them that the only things we can’t change are the things we don’t try to change.

As for that guidance, I needed so much when my children were asking the hard questions, but as it turns out, they already knew love and kindness are what this world needs. In the minds of my 5-year-olds, those “bad guys” need someone to give them a hug and say I love you.

I’m pretty damn proud of that.

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Laura Birks

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