Politics Through a Child's Eyes by Andy Schmidt

August 31, 2016

The older I get, the more I realize how little I know—or maybe more accurately, the more I realize how much I’ve forgotten. There are things that we as children understand, but as we get older—and often more self-centered⎯we tell ourselves that life is more complicated than that, and we start to bend rules and maybe even break them, rules we know in our bones we shouldn’t bend or break.

When we see in others the strength not to bend those rules, we either admire that strength, that conviction, or we rail against it in some way. The story of Jesus is a great example of that. Whether you’re Christian or not is irrelevant. Here was a man who refused to bend to unjust laws. He followed what he knew to be true—that being poor didn’t mean being bad, that being from another place was no cause for hate or fear, that being weak didn’t mean there was no strength of character. And those in power hated him for not bending. They hated him for refusing to say what they wanted. And so they killed him.

My kids understand right and wrong. It’s not complicated to them. My son’s elementary school is made up mostly of Caucasians, African-Americans, and Hispanics. After listening to some kids in school, my son asked me this: “If Trump becomes president, will I have to start being mean to other kids at school?”

It didn’t take long to get to the bottom of where that came from⎯Donald Trump’s speeches, his plans to build walls, his bigoted remarks. It’s already had a negative effect on our nation. This was months ago and my son’s question just hung with me. The answer is of course that it’s never okay to be mean to other kids at school. At that time, I was trying to keep an open mind about Trump as a candidate. He hadn’t become the Republican nominee yet, and I was trying to decide whether he might be good for business, or if he had a good plan in this area or that area.

But at that moment, the election was over for me. I was doing that thing we do as we get older—I was complicating things. I was saying, “I don’t like this but I like that.” I had that come-to-Jesus moment right there in the car with my son sitting beside me. It’s not complicated. Kids know it’s not complicated. Jesus knew it wasn’t complicated.

Trump says we need to separate ourselves from one another. That we need to build walls and kick people out of our country—he says they don’t deserve to be here. He’s wrong. He couldn’t be more wrong.

And here we are. The people who will vote in November. The reality is, either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump will be our President in a few months. And here in Kentucky, polls are showing that Trump is likely to win our electoral votes by a landslide. I don’t want to believe that.

The things Trump stands for are things I don’t want my kids to believe. If my kids come home and tell me that brown people should leave their school, they’re going to get an earful from me. I teach my kids basic principles. Things like we aren’t to be mean to other people. Things like we help our neighbors because sometimes they just need help. We welcome newcomers, whether that’s on the street, into our home, on Sunday morning at First Presbyterian Church, or the newly immigrated Syrian refugee family that, through the same church, we’re helping prepare for school and life in Kentucky. We as a society teach our kids these simple truths. Be kind to all others. Don’t be mean. Don’t be greedy. Help others. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

As we get older, we tell ourselves that life is complicated. But it isn’t. It’s as simple as it was when Jesus lived. It’s as simple as it was when we ourselves were children.

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Turn the other cheek. Love your neighbor as yourself. Those words have immense power. They are not complicated things. They are simple things. They are self-evident things.

A leader who would lead us away from these simple principles is not a true American.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. A vote for Trump is a vote against our fellow man. A vote for Trump, even if you don’t like his racism, is a vote for racism. A vote for Trump is a vote against the poor. It’s a vote against African-Americans. It’s a vote against Hispanics. It’s a vote against women. It’s vote against free speech. It’s a vote against our own Constitution. And yes, it’s a vote against Jesus.

If you’re thinking of voting for Trump, take another moment to think about it. Maybe you think he’ll protect the second amendment but you don’t buy into the rest of what he says. Maybe you don’t trust Clinton, or you think Trump will be good for business. But we don’t get to pick and choose which of our President’s ideas will show up to the White House. All the President’s ideas will show up there. A vote for Trump is a vote for bigotry, brutality, and “Might makes right.”

I want my kids to grow up in a world where hope prevails over fear. Where men and women are equal under the law. Where our country saves lives by admitting (and properly vetting) refugees. “Bring us your tired, your poor, your weary.” That’s the United States that I believe in. Not just the land within our borders, but the idea within our hearts.

Make America great again? My America has been great every single day of my life. This is the place where dreams come true. This is the place where hard work pays off. Any change in ideology is going to pull us away from what makes America great right now.

Have that honest moment with yourself before you go to the polls in November. Realize the impact that this election will have on our great nation—a nation that is great because of the ideals it upholds, not because of the wealth it accumulates. If you wouldn’t teach your kids to say things that Trump has said, and I know I wouldn’t allow mine to, then please do the decent thing and find someone else to vote for. Find someone who has some decency. Cast your vote for that person.

Andy Schmidt
Shelbyville, KY
August 2016

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