It’s Red Ribbon Week at my kids’ school this week. The week is all about making wise choices with regard to one’s actions—saying no to drugs, making healthful food and exercise choices, and last but not least, being kind and not bullying.
In fact, because the kids are fairly young (elementary age), a great deal of the focus is on being kind and not bullying. It’s a good focus, I’d say. Great, in fact.
But I’m struck by the sad absurdity of the contrast in what we are teaching our kids and who they are supposed to look up to. So struck, in fact, that I’m not really sure whether to laugh or cry.
In my lifetime, the office of the President of the United States has always been the highest in the United States. It’s the ultimate that we were always taught to look up to. The president leads the country! Children are encouraged to aspire to become president one day. And yet, at this point in time, we have a president who is an unabashed bully. And so, we can Red Ribbon Week all we want, but we certainly can’t tell our kids to look up to the person holding the highest office in the United States if we want to point them toward a role model.
I was always taught that even if you don’t like the sitting president, you respect the office. Unfortunately, I’m having a really hard time doing that lately. Make no mistake: I respect my country. I am proud to be an American. I respect the people who fight for my country. I respect the people who keep my country safe. I respect our bipartisan system of government. I respect the majority of goals the Founding Fathers had for our country.
But I do not respect our president. Not one bit. And in fact, I find him so utterly deplorable that it has made it difficult for me to even respect the office. He’s made a mockery of it—turned it into a bully pulpit. And I can’t respect a bully pulpit.
I know the argument here: the media villainizes President Trump. I cannot argue with the fact that we live in an era of incredible media bias on both sides. I take the news I read and see with a very large grain of salt, knowing this. However, the media has nothing to do with the president’s tweets. Nothing at all. They are straight from the horse’s mouth, as the saying goes. And in fact, that’s what Trump loves about tweeting—by his own admission, when he tweets he can speak directly to the people, without media influence.
This is precisely the reason I read his tweets. I would like to hear exactly what he has to say, because maybe—just maybe—he’ll say something that makes me thinks he has a shred of common decency. That hasn’t really happened yet, but you never know.
So let’s look at some of his tweets during his presidency thus far:
- He has repeatedly referred to Senator Bob Corker as “Liddle Bob Corker.” Whether that’s a reference to Corker’s height (5’7″) or his moral character, I don’t know. Maybe both. Either way, it’s no better than a schoolyard bully would do. We’re all adults here: do any of us publicly make snide jabs like that at our colleagues? I didn’t think so.
- He has referred to “Wacky Congresswoman Wilson.” Again, no better than a schoolyard bully. Do any of us publicly refer to our colleagues as “wacky”? I didn’t think so.
- He has referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man.” Again, schoolyard bully type of taunt. (And don’t get me started on whether it seems wise to publicly taunt a volatile dictator… I’m just talking about bullying here.)
- I can’t even count the number of jabs at “Crooked Hillary.” Okay, they’re political rivals. Mudslinging happens. She’s not innocent of making jabs at him, either. But I guess I hoped the president would take the high road. Evidently not.
- He’s famous for attacking celebrities, too. Like when he referred to “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” [Brzezinski] and “Psycho Joe” [Scarborough]. That one fired me up so much I wrote a blog post on it.
I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. In a July 2017 tweet, Trump said, “My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!”
Okay. If you want to make social media part of modern-day presidency, how about using it constructively, and not as a bully pulpit? There is nothing presidential—modern-day or otherwise—about using your platform to tear other people down. If you really want to “Make America Great Again,” how about making the office of the president something we can have our kids look up to?
You know where they teach responsible social media usage? The elementary schools, especially during Red Ribbon Week. It’s rather ridiculous that we essentially tell our kids, “Here’s a tool where you can connect with other people and organizations, but be sure you’re respectful when doing so. Don’t be like the president and use it to make nasty remarks.”
My son wants to be president someday. I hope he is. And when he is, I hope human decency has long since been restored to the office. For now, I will teach that “when they go low, you go high. Always.” And I will encourage him to go higher than the current president, which really won’t be difficult. After all, the current president hasn’t set the bar very high as far as common courtesy is concerned.