On my son’s bus route there is a sign that reads, “Entering Trump County.”
Throughout the election season, a row of houses decorated their properties like used car lots. Instead of selling cars, the neighbors sold Donald Trump with red, white and blue balloons, pennants flapping in the fall breeze and billboards declaring, “Make America Great Again.”
Throughout the bus ride, my son listened to his friends talk about the election. A handful of fifth and fourth graders hoped Trump would win. My son asked them why?
“I think Hillary Clinton forced mentally ill people to go to work,” said one little girl.
“Clinton is going to let ISIS and other terrorists come into the U. S.,” said another girl. Another child said Clinton is going to let Mexicans come to America to sell drugs.
My son listened, and although his school election declared Clinton the winner, each night as I tucked him into bed he’d ask me, “Why Mom? Why do people want Trump to be president? He seems like a big bully to me. All he does is yell and pick on people.”
I didn’t want my son’s bus ride to become some town hall debate. Trump supporters on the right side of the aisle, Clinton supporters on the left side and the poor bus driver pulling over to stop the squabble; a substitute Anderson Cooper with a commercial driver’s license. I snuggled close to my son, wrapped my arms around his warm body. He was strong and muscular. The little kindergartner from five years ago was already knocking on puberty’s door while dealing with adult discussions on the bus.
“You won’t always agree with people’s beliefs and opinions. That’s okay. Everyone comes from different circumstances and life experiences. Just listen, show some compassion, but always stay true to what you believe in.”
In one week, our bedtime stories were about racism, sexism, religion, abortion, gay rights, Benghazi, and emails. I tried to be objective and my current events knowledge was tested.
When Hillary Clinton lost, another flurry of questions delayed bedtime.
“A bunch of kids on the bus were celebrating.They were being really obnoxious. Hooting and hollering that Trump won. Why do you think Clinton lost?”
I sighed, trying to make sense of the election, trying to understand America — a red meat sandwich on a blue bun.
“There are a lot of angry people in the country who do not like liberal people. Secretary Clinton and President Obama are considered liberal.”
“Remind me what liberal means,” asked my son.
I stared up at the large, floating paper mache Milky Way galaxy hanging from my son’s ceiling, “Liberal people tend to want equal rights for all people. Donald Trump is Republican and Republicans tend to be conservative. Conservative people are more traditional in their thinking and they don’t like change.”
My son considered all of this talk, “What are you and Daddy?”
“Daddy and I voted for Hillary. We voted for Barack Obama so we would be considered liberal. Conservative people are angry at them and angry about life in America today.”
“Why aren’t they happy?”
“They aren’t happy about same sex marriage, or pro choice rights or how the current president is handling international affairs.”
“What else do conservatives not like?”
The bus route passes several homes the size of castles. Giant mansions with turrets, helicopter pads and personal putting greens, heated pools and tennis courts loom over orchards and a view of a neighboring city.
“Some of the people that live in those castles voted for Trump because they are rich. When a Democrat politician is in office, taxes go up and that falls on rich people. The taxes pay for programs that benefit people who are not rich. People voted for Trump because they hope he lowers taxes. But that means programs for poor people will get cut back.”
Our conversation also got into the selection of the Supreme Court Justice and how Trump will select the next judge who will be conservative and likely vote in laws that might discriminate against people.
“What does discriminate mean again,” my son asked, trying to delay sleep a bit longer.
“To treat someone badly because they aren’t like you. They don’t look like you or think like you or act like you so you treat them badly or deny them a chance.”
“Donald Trump discriminates. He says bad words.”
“Yes, I think he has discriminated against people. But he will be our president. I can only hope that he will realize that this job is bigger and more serious than he anticipated. Maybe he will sober up come inauguration day.”
Since the election, bedtime talks have shifted to mean kids at school. Just as the election results magnified the country’s tensions, I have noticed my son coming home to talk about kids in school not being nice.
“Tony tried to knock my basketball out of my hands at the bus line. He asked me why I was holding a basketball.”
“What did you tell him?” I asked.
“Because I can.”
Another day my son tried to join a flag football game at recess and was turned away.
“Did you ask them why?”
“Nah, I just played four square. When Rick got out he refused to leave the game and kept on playing.”
I smiled, “Don’t take any nonsense from people. You have a good heart. You are a fair person and the kids know it.”
I kissed my son on the head, breathing in his Suave shampoo scent. I know in the next four years as he navigates middle school under a Republican presidency he will know mean kids and frustrated kids who are coming from angry homes, conservative and liberal.
“Kill them with kindness, shrug off their anger and you will be fine. We will be fine and maybe this country will be fine.”