Opinion |

How Do I Tell My Children That Donald Trump Is Now President?

Tell them that every member of your family can be a hero. Needs to be a hero. Starting now.

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Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

For a progressive, it's the most natural question to ask at this hour of darkness and doubt: What do I tell my kids about what's just happened? How can I explain this?

It's a question which Israeli progressives have been struggling with for 20 years and more, election after election, crushing disappointment after heartbreaking defeat. Hope? What's that? Optimism? Not tonight. The sense that equality matters, human rights matter, generosity and social justice matter?  Look at the screen. Look at the country. Look at us.

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What do we tell our kids? 

It is a question so natural, and so profoundly frightening, that it was preying on CNN analyst Van Jones on national television as fellow panelist and Trump surrogate Jeffrey Lord crowed of the "miracle" that was the victory of the GOP candidate:

“People have talked about a miracle," Jones said. "I'm hearing about a nightmare. It's hard to be a parent tonight for a lot of us.

"You tell your kids, don't be a bully," he continued, verging on tears. "You tell your kids, don't be a bigot. You tell your kids. Do your homework and be prepared. Then you have this outcome and you have people putting children to bed tonight. They're afraid of breakfast. They're afraid of – how do I explain this to my children?”

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Protesters against president-elect Donald Trump march peacefully through Oakland, California, U.S., November 9, 2016.Credit: Noah Berger / Reuters
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Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to the crowd during his acceptance speech at his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 9, 2016.Credit: Chip Somodevilla / AFP
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Supporters of President-elect Donald Trump cheer during as they watch election returns during an election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP

As a progressive Jew, a longtime Israeli and a native-born American, I have gone through this so many times my soul drops like a rock just thinking about it. I will admit straight out that many years of parenthood in a nightmare haven't taught me much. Just this:

1. Brace yourself, buck up, and prepare. Hold them close, and hold yourself back. Don't tell them the truths flashing at the back of your skull.  

Don't tell them, for example, to get ready to say goodbye to the country they thought they knew. The laws that protect them, the democracy which keeps them safe and free. Don't tell them – even if it turns out to be true – that this is a nightmare, and it's not going to end.

If you are a progressive Jew, don't tell them that your soul once had two rocks and shields, the United States of America and the State of Israel, and that the State of Israel that you hoped for seems to be gone, and now the one anchor and buoy of the whole world, the United States of America, seems to be gone as well.

2. Do tell them that you were really hoping with your whole heart that for the first time a woman would become president of the United States. And that someday it will surely happen.

Do tell them that even if you'd told them that the guy who won had used mean and scary words, and acted like a bully and a little baby and did bad things, and didn't give other people a chance, that's when you have to be a hero, and give him a chance. That's part of being a hero.

And if he does the wrong thing? Many wrong things?

Tell them that's the other part of being a hero. When you're big enough, you have to fight like a lioness or a lion for the right thing. You have to fight – not with your fists or your nails or your teeth, but with the tools your country still has, protests and voting and persuasion and organizing – for what you know is right. And not give up. And never give up.

Do tell them that you still want to see a country where people – all people, all children and their families – have good schools and enough food to eat, and can get the help they need when they're sick, and feel safe, and treat the land and the water and the animals with respect.

Tell them that everybody here should have a chance for a good life, and that you believe that one day they will.

Tell them that there are many heroes in this country, and they will fight to keep him from doing the bad things he's said he would. And even if it takes a long time, they won't stop fighting.

Tell them you still believe, and you're not going to stop believing and working for this, just because some man has other ideas.

Tell them that every member of your family can be a hero. Needs to be a hero. Starting now.