The Trickle Down Theory of Bigotry

kids with instruments-01Enough.

I  know it’s been an interesting ride. We’ve never seen a political candidate like Donald Trump before. He gives vent to the inner two year old, the child who knows he’s better than anyone else and doesn’t let logic, truth, or empathy get in his way. He wants what he wants, and he will say and do whatever it takes to get it – classic two year old behavior. Watching him is like spending a day at the circus.

The problem is that he is a bully, a liar, and a bigot – traits which spit in the face of American ideals like equality, opportunity, and freedom of speech – and our children are watching. When our children see us supporting him for the highest office in the land, they might reasonably believe that we think bullying, lying and bigotry are acceptable.

They are not.

In a speech on caucus day in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Trump told his audience that he would pay the legal fees of followers who beat up protesters at his rallies.

After two brothers in Boston who beat up a homeless Latino man said that they were inspired by Trump’s anti-immigrant message, Trump suggested that the men were well-intentioned and had simply gotten carried away. A two on one well intentioned beating?

Last November, Trump supporters attacked an African-American protester who was chanting “Black lives matter.” They hit him, knocked him down, and continued to kick him after he was on the ground. Afterwards, Trump suggested that their behavior was justified. “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” he was quoted, “It was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”


It reminds me of the sixth grade bully, gathering his friends behind him to beat up the unpopular kid, then trying to shift blame to the victim.

The Washington Post wrote that “Trump in this campaign has gone after African Americans, immigrants, Latinos, Asians, women, Muslims and now the disabled.” He physically mimicked Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital joint condition that affects the movement in his arms.

Can you imagine sitting in the Principal’s office, hearing that your child had done such a thing?

How are we to explain to our daughters that brains, talent and hard work are more important than breast size when the man we are considering for president says that “it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.”

Last, most of us agree that teaching our children not to lie is an important part of parenting. Mr. Trump’s truth rating on the Pulitzer prize winning site Politifact is 2%.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, teens in Merrillville, Ind., at the predominantly white Andrean High School recently chanted “Build a wall” at their counterparts from predominantly Latino Bishop Noll Institute during a basketball game. Similarly, fans of Elkhorn High School in Wisconsin chanted “Donald Trump, build that wall!” at a girls’ soccer game against Beloit Memorial High School, whose team is largely Latina or black.

A survey of 2000 K through 12 teachers done by Teaching Tolerance reported an increased anxiety level and an upswing in bullying, harassment and intimidation among kids inspired by the appalling misbehavior throughout this campaign.

A kindergarten teacher in Tennessee wrote, “a Latino child—told by classmates that he will be deported and trapped behind a wall—asks every day, “Is the wall here yet?””

The “trickle down” theory of bigotry and bullying. If my parents admire this man, and this man says that Mexicans are rapists and women are disgusting animals, then it must be all right for me to think that also.

Most of us do not dream of our children growing up to be bullies and bigots.

Dr Martin Luther King said it better than I ever will:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

So, enough. Remember the basics: respect for our fellows, equality, honesty, justice…

Your children are watching.

Domesticated Momster

My God, not Yours!

kidsfightingIt’s been a bad week for religion in my house. I spent the last four years writing a book on parenting. It is everything I have learned in 30 years as a pediatrician, everything I care about. It is the crib notes on how to raise a happy, confident, brave child who knows he or she is loved and has the self confidence to take on the world. It is my heart and soul, torn out and put on a page.

A relative of mine just told me that she cannot recommend it to anyone, because she has serious reservations about its content. She said that it was without even the most basic, decent principles. She hates this book so much that she cannot bear to even open it and read a single page.

Yep, you heard that right. She never read a single word, but she knows it is terrible, because I do not belong to her religion. I believe differently than she does, therefor I am wrong and she can learn nothing from me.

Religion is like the lunch table in the high school cafeteria. Everyone has a table at which they feel welcomed and at home. This is the best table in the room. This table, at which the football stars (cheerleaders…drama club…goths…science geeks…) sit is the best place to be. My group knows the way things should be, the correct way to do things. They know what really matters, because they believe the same things I believe. They are right, and everybody else is wrong.

We know how this story goes, because most of us have lived it. A person has to be pretty oblivious to overlook the agony of high school.

In order to be in the “in” group, somebody else has to be out. We cannot be “better than” if we do not define someone else as “less than.”

Let’s agree for a moment that all religions are basically the same: perhaps they all preach respect for life, honorable behavior, caring for our fellow man, living in peace (which, oddly, they do…), why then do we join a specific one, when all are equally uplifting? Why then denigrate the others, when we actually agree with their basic philosophy?

It is the fault of our inner two year old. That raging toddler wants to be special, and particularly loved. He wants to sit at the grown-up table. He does not want to be one of the masses, no better or worse than any other toddler.

In order for him to be special, someone else has to be inferior. By pushing someone else down, he can climb up. He can be in the privileged group, the one that has it right.

To maintain this position and keep the group intact, people outside the group have to be different, and wrong. They have to be wrong even though they are saying basically the same things he is.

Like in high school, where everyone else actually wants the same things you do: to survive, to have friends, to learn how to take charge of their own lives – the others have to be wrong so that you know you found the right path. Into the lockers with that geek! Laugh at that football player when he gets the answer wrong! Trip that homely girl! Feel that little boost in your own self esteem!

I, too, have a dream. I dream that we can all respect each other as equal human beings and let go of that need to be special, and better than; that we can deal with our own insecurities without needing to stomp on someone else; that we can perhaps intervene when we see weak, insecure bullies attacking others simply because they are present in greater numbers and they can only see their own path.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn from each other and expand our minds and hearts, rather than letting them shrivel into dried up husks of judgement and bigotry? Imagine if, when we met some one of a different culture, religion, or sexual preference, we could say “Interesting! What’s that like?” instead of “You’re going to burn in hell because you don’t enclose yourself in my style of box!”

When that geek (drama fan…athlete…homely girl…atheist…) walks by your table, kick out a chair and invite him or her to sit down. Be a better person instead of just getting your group to tell you you are.