DEAR READERS: I rarely bring up political topics head-on, as I tend to wait for your questions and respond accordingly. However, I find myself in an unusual position today, in part due to the unusual nature of this moment in American history, and in part due to the timing for my family. I have a daughter in the seventh grade whose class hosts a mock election each year. This year, her class represented the Republican Party. They worked hard to represent their party's interests and perspectives.
The students were required to watch the first debate to gain insight into the presidential campaign. That's when things got complicated. The students came to class fervently ready to add commentary to their arguments, often regurgitating things they had heard the Republican candidate say about others. As they tried out their points, they were told they could bring up any policy ideas they wanted, but they could not disparage, belittle, defame or otherwise speak disrespectfully of their opponent or any segment of the American people.
This was confusing for these bright young people, who were simply trying out what they had just heard, either during the debate or in the news, on each other. And therein lies my problem: How do I guide my child through the next days, let alone years, when what she has heard from virtually every news organization is about commentary spewed through every type of "ism" that exists? How are we to interpret the mudslinging quality of this presidential race, which ended with some measure of decorum, to be sure, but also with lingering, festering open wounds thanks to hyperbole, lies, condescension, potential crimes on both sides of the aisle and a wellspring of anger?
We are all supposed to be better than this, especially our leaders. I have spent decades coaching people on how to present themselves effectively, and I am dumfounded by the recent events and engagements of our highest leaders. As I have talked to lower-level government office holders, clergy and other smart people, what I have heard the most has been a rallying cry for democracy to reign, along with a hopeful faith that we all will reach for our higher natures.
What else? We need to teach our children to speak up for what they feel is right or wrong. Their voices cannot be stifled now. If they like what they hear, they must say so. If they do not, they absolutely must use their voices to echo their heartfelt sentiment.
Just as I have taken my daughter to vote with me from the day she was born, I am beginning to teach her about writing to her members of Congress and even to the president of the United States to articulate how she feels about what is happening in our country. To hear dialogue worthy of our listening is to require it. So, parents, friends, relatives and other aware individuals, I implore you to speak up every time you think our country needs a course correction. Let us stop nodding our heads when we don't like what we hear or turning a blind eye because it takes too much effort or we don't know where to start to be heard. We must figure it out. Otherwise, our children will believe -- falsely -- that it is OK to demean their neighbor or vilify the child or adult who is somehow different from them. Let's not allow that on our watch. Let's be better than that -- starting now.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)