Teach your children well. Their father’s hell, did slowly go by. And feed them on your dreams. The one they pick’s, the one you’ll know by. – Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
One thing you learn as you raise children is that they’re always watching, always listening, always learning—that you are always teaching them something: about what you value, about how to treat people, about how to be a human being.
I wonder if people supporting the former President and his Administration realize what they’re teaching their children; what boosting his tweets and applauding his rally rants and celebrating his legislative assaults on vulnerable people is telling them.
Whether they realize it or not, they’re teaching them…
People don’t matter. Human beings are things, wielded in battles you manufacture in order to win. The actual flesh and blood lives on the other side of your stereotypes and slurs and caricatures have no intrinsic value. The moment you can dehumanize a person you’ve never met, is the moment you free yourself from any responsibility for the damage you do to them or applaud someone else doing.
Never apologize. When you are found to be wrong or speak in error—never admit it. No matter how far afield of facts you find yourself or how grievous the mistake or how divorced of reality your initial statements may have been, simply double down, gaslight people, and attack your critic’s credibility and integrity—but never admit the error and never, under any circumstance, apologize. That is failure.
Diversity is dangerous. The more differences around you, the more there is to fear. Threats always come from those who aren’t like you. If someone’s pigmentation or orientation or nation of origin don’t match your own, they’re probably someone you want to avoid or be wary of. Never seek-out difference. Exclusion and self-preservation are the best defenses against the evils in the world.
It’s all about you. Forget the advice of your teachers and pastors and story books, and discard all that nonsense about loving your neighbor as yourself or doing unto others and you’d have done to you. Other people’s experiences are unimportant. In this Universe you are the solitary sun around which every other body revolves. The more you allow other people to be seen and heard, the less you will be able to thrive. This is a zero-sum game and there is only one winner.
Compassion is a flaw. To feel empathy is to show weakness. Sitting with people long enough to see them and understand their story and to feel a bit of their pain will only slow you down. The more callous you can become, the less vulnerable you are. The greatest virtue in this life is to simply not give a damn about other people. A dead heart is much better than a bleeding one.
America is the world. Some people will tell you that all human beings on the planet have value, that humanity is one interdependent community sharing the same home, that a child five thousand miles away is as important as one down the street or the one in your nursery. Don’t buy it. The place where you live and the people who live there are better than everyone else.
Women are less valuable than men. Consent is irrelevant. Autonomy is a myth. A woman’s body does not belong to her. She exists solely for the pleasure and purpose of men, and this is true of wives and partners and blind dates and people you pass on the street. Whatever you do to women, no matter how vile, you will never be made accountable for.
Cheat to win. The desired ends justifies any possible means, no matter how vile or despicable. Rig every system, fix every game, stack every deck—and justify it all because the victory is all that matters. Fair play and honesty and being a person of honor are all of little value. What really matters is the prize, so be sure and get it. Winning is worth both someone else’s pain and your soul.
Whiteness is better. You’ll hear a lot about equality and you’ll even pretend it matters to you, but don’t believe it for a second. God may have made all people in his image, but Caucasians bear far more resemblance. Never mind that if Adam and Eve existed, they came from a place without a Cracker Barrel—just know that your pigmentation makes you superior to the “bad people” and “shithole countries.”
Your convictions are for sale. Everything has a price: your word, your allegiance, your vote—even your soul. Don’t waste any time trying to cultivate personal morality or forming a code of ethics, or standing for anything. Those things will only weigh you down and hinder your success. Instead, find which way the wind is blowing and move that way. See who the likely winners will be and cast your lots with them. Don’t worry about your soul—take the cash.
Laws don’t apply to you. In theory, society has rules and they must be followed by everyone (well, not you, of course). It will be important to give lip service to “doing things the right way” and to “valuing the Constitution” and to “obeying the laws in place”—as such declarations will divert people’s attention from you disregarding anything that prevents you from advancement or profit. But find the loopholes and use them, that’s why they’re there.
Religion is a prop. Faith is simply a costume to put on when it profits you; a shiny veneer to cover yourself in, in order to ingratiate yourself into community with genuinely spiritual people who will think the best of you, and thus be easily fooled. Wield religious values like a rented tuxedo: wear them in public for special events and soon discard them.
When in doubt, lie. The truth is malleable. It is something fluid. You get to define it for yourself and for those who listen to you. Have no concern about facts or objective reality or data, instead—over and over and over, speak untruth with conviction. Say the lies with confidence and suddenly they will become true.
A generation of children is learning these things from the people most entrusted to show them how to be human. They are forming the lenses they see the world through from birth. It will be almost impossible for them to discern reality.
The rest of us will have to do all we can to remind them that this simply isn’t good or right or decent, and help them transcend their parent’s prejudices and preferences—and to embrace interdependence and equality and compassion.
The world we become depends on it.
As a wise woman once said, “It takes a village.”
(Trump supporters and MAGA Repubicans, you’re welcome to dispute the above assertions, just know that the former president’s own words are the greatest argument against you. The daily, incendiary filth he manufactures is recorded and it testifies loudly to his hatred for a large portion of this nation. As long as you support it, you’re declaring what you value.)
Republished with permission from John Pavlovitz.
John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. A 25-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, Low, and Stuff That Needs to Be Said.