I did not want to get out of bed this morning. I did not want to face a day so very different than the day before. I did not want to take my kids to school, and risk having them deal with uninformed kids gloating about who won and who lost. I wanted to protect them.
But try as hard as we might, we can’t protect our children from the realities of the world around them. We can deflect the worst of the blows, we can prepare them to face challenges, but we cannot encase them away in a bubble with the delusion that it will never break.
The reality of the life we live is that, yes of course, bullies often do win.
Political leanings aside, there can be no delusions on this fact. At the end of the day, our next president is absolutely a bully. I cannot find a single person that condones his rhetoric or tactics. Plenty that will ignore it, or say that the end justifies the means, or say that he is better than the alternative, or point out that it will be mitigated by others around him.
But I can’t find a single person that will stand up and say, “This is the right way to treat each other!”
Do those people exist? Absolutely. Hateful, ignorant, scared and destructive people are out there. I just keep better company than that.
When my kids woke up, they were happy. They were excited to face the day. My daughter immediately wanted to know who won the election and was sure that they would talk about it on Channel 1 News at school. She had been so excited that a woman could actually be president. (Though they had bristled the day before about kids not being allowed to vote, and basically proposed communism as the ideal system of doing things.)
I told her that I knew the answer and asked if she want to know it now, or talk about it first at school. It wasn’t until I was making their lunches, fifteen minutes later, that she decided she wanted to know before she got there.
I turned around to face her and sighed. “Trump won. A lot of people voted for him, and so he won by a lot.”
I have never seen my daughter deflate so quickly. I have never seen such a look of sadness and defeat ripple down from her head to her toes. “He did?” she asked, not quite believing me.
“Yes. But it is going to be ok. You are going to be ok.”
“But my friend is going to have to go back to Mexico…”
“No he is not!” I insisted. “Nobody is sending your friends away. This is your job today, ok? You go to school and you be the best possible friend you can be. You do that regardless of a person’s color, or gender, or who they wanted to win the election. You go to school and if anybody picks on any of your friends, you stand up and say ‘Stop it! This is unacceptable!’ and then you go get a teacher. Can you do that? Can you be the best friend to everybody today?”
She nodded and left the kitchen. I turned around and cried. I cried for all those kids waking up this morning, having to face what my white daughter never will. I cried for those kids who are waking up with no more hope. With the fear that now they will be sent away. That they are not welcome. I cried for the harsh reality of the world my daughter had just caught a glimpse of.
When I say that I cried, please understand that I firmly believe my tear ducts might be broken. My eyes fill with water, my eyelids grow puffy, and my throat gets tight. But that is about it. I have not actually cried a good cathartic cry in many many years. This is as close as I get, and then I have to turn around and be the dad again.
So my kids and I talked, as I signed their homework and double checked their bags, and shined a flashlight up my sons nose because he said something was stuck up in there. We talked about how bullies do exist, and sometimes they win. But that we have to be better than that. We have to stand up and say “This is not acceptable.” Then we talked about how the government works, and that one man cannot make everything happen. We don’t have a king, I told them. We have three branches of government that exist to keep everyone in check.
But yes people. BULLIES DO WIN.
That is the reality of our human existence and despite faerie tales and Hollywood movies, history has proven this to us time and time again. A bully will win until his victim has nothing left to lose. A bully will win until people get sick of his bullshit. A bully will win until someone he steps on decides that they have had enough and fights back.
Bullies win, because we let them. Because we don’t want to be the next one to be targeted. And they know this. They get off on the power they have over others. Of course they win, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be bullies in the first place.
So now we have a bully as our next president. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. People had the chance to stand up and say “This is unacceptable.” many many times this past year. Some did. But not enough. Not the right people, clearly. We the people have chosen a bully to lead us.
Personally, I think this sucks. It was all I could do this morning to keep from sniping at people I passed at the school. I didn’t dare say, “How can you be so happy! How can you laugh and celebrate the damage we have done?” But I didn’t. I respect those people. I like those people. They want the same things as me, what is best for our kids. We just come at it from different sides. We have different upbringings and experiences. And who knows, maybe they are just as bewildered as I am. Maybe they laugh because they don’t want to cry. After all, they are the ones who now have six hours to handle all the kid’s fears and questions.
And maybe… Hopefully, it won’t be so bad. Maybe he really has been a lot of bluster and hot air. Maybe he just plays the game well. Maybe some ideas will work and maybe some stuff will get done that moves the country forward. Maybe good people will manage to block his worst impulses and desires. Maybe we won’t be overwhelmed with hate and greed. Only time will tell.
But yes, bullies do win. Because no matter what we teach our children in elementary school, it just isn’t easy to stand up to them. We want to believe in a world that is fair, that good things happen because we are good people. That isn’t the truth though. Life happens. It doesn’t give one whit about being fair.
On the way out the door, my daughter said “Forty years is a long time to have a president…”
“Four years. Not forty, thank goodness. But yes. It is a long time. We will make it through it, though. Let grown ups worry about the how. You just know that your job is to be a good friend, to learn as much as you can, and to remember that one day you get your turn to make a difference. And I promise you, in your lifetime, a woman will be president. I place my money on a pretty awesome lady named Elizabeth. History seems to favor that name.”
“Maybe you should president Dad. People would vote for you.”
“I don’t want to be President, kid. I never have, and I told my own father that 30 years ago.”
“Well then. Maybe one day, I will be president instead.”
You go girl! And yeah, #Imwithher on that one. Now it’s my job to build her up, help her succeed, and deflect the worst of the blows. But it is also my job to slowly let her see the reality.
Bullies do win. But not forever.
Eventually, when their victim has nothing left to lose, when enough people stand up and shout, “This is unacceptable” even the biggest bully will fall. And at that point, personally, I would rather be the one that has always been standing up to them.