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Teaching Faith in our Democratic Process


Politics bring out the best and the worst in people. Tuesday's election had been heated since the beginning. People on all sides are frustrated with what is happening in politics and ready for a change. People are concerned with how the campaigns were run and the way in which politicians function in this country.

For a variety of reasons this election fueled a record number of first-time voters. It fueled third party candidates and social media frenzies. It fueled memes and tweets and calls for jail time. But, when I woke up Wednesday morning, what this election left me with was how I will talk with my children about what happened.

I want my children to grow up to be active citizens and participants in our democracy. I want my children to grow up to critically examine and question the world around them. I want my children to stand for what they believe, to not be silent, and to be resilient. I want my children to be tolerant and loving and kind to those around them, even if they do not have the same beliefs. But, I think all of this is very difficult to do.

So, what do I say to my children when for the next four years we have a man as the leader of our nation who has bullied so many people? How do I talk about how I value a process, but that does not mean I have to support or stand quietly as someone is so openly cruel to others?

I am no political scientist, but the first thing I want my children to know is that our democracy works. We do not have a dictatorship. We do not have a system that allows one person to control everything that happens in our country. We have a series of checks and balances put into place by our founding fathers to stop such things. Everything that Donald Trump says he will do will not be done. There are many false promises made during this campaign and I believe that our democratic process will not fail due to one person.

I will tell my children that although I honor this process, I will actively fight sexism, racism, ableism and homophobia. I will tell my children that bigotry is not a democratic value. I will tell them that we will fight to not be part of a world where people are persecuted for their religious beliefs, their sexuality, their skin color, their gender, or anything else that makes them considered by some to be a threat.

Credit Rich Egger
Rebekah Buchanan

I will tell my children I will fight for Lucy to have the right to control the choices she makes regarding her body. I will fight for Jack to learn that we do not solve conflict through fists and guns and that government is put into place to stop war, not start it.

I will fight so that women like Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Alice Paul were not beaten and jailed and tortured in vain. I will fight for the memory of my father whose multiple sclerosis made him stronger than anyone I know and who I would never think of making fun of or belittling. I will fight for the undocumented students at WIU and in our communities. I will fight for my friends in same-sex marriages who have an even more difficult time talking to their children about the election. I will fight for my black and brown friends who continue to live in a world of modern day slavery and systematic racism. I will fight for the Islamic Center of Macomb. I will fight for all the women who have ever been harassed, raped, or abused.

I will tell my children that it is important to live in a world where everyone has the right to express their views, but that we will not threaten or intimidate or demean those who have views that are different than our own. Instead, we will stand up and show the world what it means to be truly democratic. We will be active citizens. We will help our neighbors. We will keep fighting for what we believe to be right. We will not teach hate.

Now more than ever is a time for action. When I talk with my children about this election I will talk about the ways in which we can make our communities ones that are places for people to feel safe to disagree. We cannot just talk about what we are concerned about, we must actively fight to engage in our democracy. We must actively fight against hatred and towards progress.

I will not talk with my children about moving to Canada because I believe in the system we have in place. I believe in the right to vote that so many people died for me to have. I believe that our system allows change to occur. It may not always be the change that I hope for, but that doesn’t mean we’re not changing. It just means that I have to continue the social justice work I do to push forward a life for my children where they are active in their commitment against hate.

I am tired today. But, I also walked this morning with a dear friend who pointed out that this morning the sun was out, the leaves were changing, and we got to walk through the town we both love and hang out with her dog. Then, I came home and listened to The Smiths and Morrissey sang, “It’s so easy to laugh, It’s so easy to hate, It takes guts to be gentle and kind” and in all this I know that this is all true and that for my children I will fight for love and kindness.

Rebekah Buchanan is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Illinois University.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the University or Tri States Public Radio.  Diverse viewpoints are welcome and encouraged.