When I was a kid, I concerned myself with kid things. I had to take a minute to think back to what those are, but I did like dolls of all types: baby dolls, Barbies, you name it. I was a school junkie, so I concerned myself with all things “school.” And of course, family. When you’re a kid, the goings-on in your immediate family pretty much defines your world. If I ever thought about anything other than these matters, it was the exception to the rule, believe me.
I was at one of the Gwinnett County parks the other day, taking advantage of one of those gloriously sunny days we’ve enjoyed recently. I walked for a little while, and then I let my dog run and play at the dog park with several other pooches who were battling cabin fever. When I watch dogs play like that – chasing sticks and running at a full-out sprint, juking, stopping and starting on a dime – I have to smile, even laugh. Is there anything more carefree than dogs enjoying the outdoors, playing with other dogs?I doubt it.
I stood alone as I watched my four-legged baby race around the park, doing her best to keep up with a dog that looked to be a cross between a greyhound and one of those fancy new Chinese bullet trains. She was running for all she was worth, but the bullet was always a length or two ahead of her. I was completely engulfed in watching those two; it was a wonderful afternoon.
While I was watching the two dogs rip around the park, kicking up turf and barking now and then, a group of kids no more than twelve years old, I’d guess, gathered and stood near me. I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation. They rambled from talking about all the days off from school they’ve enjoyed, to the football playoff game (the Jaguars had yet to have their hearts broken by Tom Brady and his band of evildoers), to the most recent improvements each had made to his bicycle since Christmas. I was amused and entertained by their boyish banter, until one of them made a remark that surprised me, to say the least. It went something like this: “Well my dad said that people that voted for Trump are just dumb, that they didn’t go to school.” Inevitably, another boy answered, “My dad said that people who hate Trump are lazy and aren’t supposed to be here anyway.”
Now maybe those sound like innocuous remarks, chatter bandied about by kids too young to understand the many layers of a person’s political choices. And certainly what someone says in his own home is his concern. But then it came to me again, the question I’ve been asking myself ever since publishing my last book. The topic, when all is said and done, boils down to racism, hatred, and bigotry. And how these things factor into a person’s, a family’s, and a nation’s ideologies. Standing there in that park enjoying a rare warm, sunny day, I think I heard the answer to the question that’s haunted me for almost two years now: “Will this country ever overcome the racial hatred and bias that has plagued it practically from the beginning?”
Thanks to those young boys on whom I was eavesdropping at the park, I believe the answer is both simple and frighteningly profound. This country will move past its trademark hatred when her people, individually, can do so. Hatred, it seems, is not taught through political speeches. It isn’t learned while playing video games or during football practices. It is taught at home, around the dinner table. It’s taught during family time. For that reason, I believe it may be next to impossible to erase hatred, whether it’s based on skin color, or religious principles, or political beliefs or financial standing. It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?
For the hatred of specific groups to be eradicated from this country – blacks, whites, Republicans, Democrats, Men, Women, Christians, Muslims – the change will not start at the “top” of our governmental system and seep down into families. It must start with our families and radiate upward, to the “top.” It’s a principle that defies the laws of physics; nevertheless, it’s what must happen. At least, that’s what I’ve come to believe.
The boys at the park ended their barblaced conversation, put it aside, and continued about their afternoon no worse for wear. Only, maybe they were affected by their words, just a little. You see, at least one of those boys lives in a home that supported one candidate, and at least one of them lives in a home that supported another. So the conversations and casual remarks won’t stop. Dad will make an offhand remark about a protester he sees on TV, and his son will hear it. A mom will joke about a news story, blaming the outcome on this candidate or that, this group or that. And the beat goes on.
We have every right, as parents, to teach our children what we believe to be sound principles. In fact, we have a duty to do that. But to teach them hate? Ridicule? Stereotyping an entire population because of the actions of a few? I read a quote the other day, by a man named Mike Klepper, and I think I’ll hang onto it. It reads:
“Difference in opinion does not imply a difference in principle.” For myself, I would do well to remember this, and to conduct myself accordingly. I will continue to teach and model for our children the principles in which I believe, but I will make doubly sure to leave out the characterizations of those who disagree with me. I will be sure to call hate-mongering what it is when I see it and to call statesmanship what it is when I see it. In a generation or two, who knows? Those at “the top” may pick up on the trend.
Ah, out of the mouths of babes.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was named Finalist for 2017 Georgia Author of the Year in the Detective/Mystery genre. Her previous three books are written with loving humor about the South. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she's not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family, and life in her beloved South. www.caroletownsend.com. Follow Carole on Facebook (Carole Townsend-Author), Twitter @caroletownsend, or Instagram @carole.w.riter.