Dr. Corinne Masur
In a story about Mar a Lago, Donald Trump’s Florida home, the New York Times reported that there is a nursery, the walls of which are lined with tiles depicting story book figures. Years ago, when showing visitors baby Ivanka’s room, evidently Mr, Trump liked to tell them that the tiles were painted by a young Walt Disney. When he would tell the story, his long time butler would roll his eyes and after the visitors left, Mr. Trump would say to his butler, “You don’t like it when I do that, do you?” and the butler, Anthony Senecal, would say, “No, I don’t. Its not true” to which Mr, Trump would reply “Who cares?”
So…..the truth isn’t important? OR the impression one makes is more important than the truth? There is a temptation after reading this story to think, “Well, if Donald Trump can do that sort of thing and get to be President, why can’t I?”
This type of invitation to exaggerate or even to lie if it makes us look better and if it impresses others is tempting. Where previously we preferred to stick to the truth, now a pesky thought enters our minds: perhaps it really is OK to exaggerate, even to lie when it suits us. How soon until the thought becomes more commonplace and leads to action? Our sense of what is right, what is permissible, what is acceptable and what is sanctioned is subtly influenced by the examples set for us by our leaders. When I read about the lonely hours Mr. Obama spent each night in the Treaty Room reading over every brief sent to him that day, I reevaluated my own work habits. When I read about the pain and suffering John F. Kennedy experienced while also performing his duties as President, my own pain and illness were put into a different perspective.
So, what effect will it have on us as adults to have a President who seems to care less for the truth than for the impression his statements make? And more to the point, what will this say to our children?
We have to think about this now.
Do children hear from President-elect Trump that it is OK to fudge on the truth? And what else do they glean from what he says and does? Do they learn from him that immigrants are bad people? Do they generalize to their friends and thus look down on those who are from other countries or even those who just appear to be from other countries? Do they hear and then feel that it is OK to question others about their origin and then to question their right to be here?
Do children hear that it is OK to bully others – for boys to be mean to girls, for richer children to look down on poorer children, for lighter skinned children to be mean to darker skinned children? For children to say to other children “Go back to Mexico/Pakistan/Syria?”
As parents and those who care about children, how do we speak about the choices our new President makes in his speech and actions, and how do we respectfully suggest to our children that they consider other ways of speaking – and of being?
How do we counter our children’s question, “Well, if the President can do it, why can’t I?”