The United States has a new president-elect, with the Electoral College having certified the election. I’ve personally struggled with much of what I saw occurring during this long election campaign, and with the division in our country that I have observed over the past several weeks since the outcome.
How did anger, hatred and vitriol all across the political spectrum come to play such a role in our politics? What happened to progress and love? I thought there were certain ethical boundaries that were impenetrable when it came to America’s democratic process.
The physical and emotional toll of the past politically angry year has, for so many people, been unprecedented. Racial, ethnic, LGBTQ, and religious tensions are high. Reports of hate crimes have increased. There are people in the United States today who are living in fear.
If we think this is having no effect on our children, we need to think again. They miss nothing—and they are well aware of the climate of the country. They are presented with it just by turning on the television, just by getting on the Internet, just by stepping outside and going to the playground or to school.
It is in this context that I would like to suggest that a look at the book Conversations with God for Parents, which I co-authored with Neale Donald Walsch and Laurie Lankins Farley, may offer some very real help as we all seek to assist our young ones in getting through this tumultuous time.
Children desire stability and comfort, but they also want the truth. In times such as these, the “truth” to which they are being exposed everywhere can seem counterproductive. It might help to remember some of the core concepts of Conversations with God as contextualized for parents: Love is all there is, There is no such thing as right and wrong, No one does anything wrong given their view of the world. There are no good guys and bad guys. You decide how life feels. And, you affect everyone.
In addressing the election result, and the potential changes that might accompany it, with my daughter Sage and my nephew Rickey, my husband and I have emphasized what we can do, rather than focusing on any sense of helplessness or impotency.
For instance, we signed petitions, donated to ballot recount efforts, and wrote letters to electors in efforts to make absolutely certain that all election results were accurate and fair to all sides. We wanted Sage and Rickey to know that one doesn’t have to simply accept everything without question; that there is always a chance that mistakes have been made, and that it is very important to stand up for fairness and accuracy for every candidate in every election—local, regional, or national.
Activism and advocacy are important to our family in living an awake and aware life. They are part of how we tell our truth to ourselves and to the world. They are also part of how we choose to “decide how life feels.”
In the adult concepts of CwG this is referred to as “You create your own reality.” By being active and choosing to make a difference, not sitting idly by, we are creating a reality in which we are helping to shape the energy in which we live. We are no longer unwilling victims of circumstances, we are active participants, seeking to shape history. And we can rest a little easier, knowing that our words and voices were heard, and that maybe we have even touched a few hearts and minds along the way.
As well, in the aftermath of this election season, when so many negative energies have been running so high, our family has been concentrating on how to spread love in the world, and how to help others feel safe and appreciated. This is the outward demonstration of the CWG principles, “You affect everyone,” “You decide how life feels,” and “Love is all there is.”
Instead of feeling helpless as we hear of more hate crimes and more minorities being treated poorly and being afraid, we can be sure to be a force of love.
Sage and I have committed to make eye contact with, and smile at, as many people as we can when we are out in public. We are intentionally starting conversations with more people than normal, in the grocery checkout lane, at the post office, on the street.
We have decided that we are going to build community everywhere we go, to combat the community-void being created through the fear that the election has brought to the surface. Sage has always been a strong advocate of giving money to people on the street, and she is now even more adamant than before. For his part, Rickey is increasing his volunteer activities around our community. These may seem like small efforts, but they feel empowering to us, and hopefully the lives we touch will be affected positively, to overcome any negativity that may sometimes fill the air.
For instance, two days after the election we witnessed an incident of racial micro-aggression toward an elderly African American woman by a group of white people in a doctor’s office. Right on cue, without communicating with each other, Sage and I struck up a conversation with the lady, in effect overcoming the other people’s rudeness. We didn’t address their behavior with a direct response, as neither of us wanted to further embarrass her. We simply did what we could to help her feel as comfortable and at ease as possible by being normal humans talking to another normal human.
Sage is scared for her friends who are of different minorities: LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, African American, and more. She paid attention throughout the election; she heard the atrocious things being said by some people about every subset of humans, including herself as a female and a “non-Christian.” We are honest with her in saying that we don’t know what is going to happen in the future, but that we trust our governmental systems. (My husband explains in depth the whys and hows of checks and balances, political power and restraint, etc. being the legal and historical buff he is.)
We then explore with both Sage and Ricky (and ourselves) the reasons the election brought out such anger and vitriol, looking at this from a spiritual perspective. Was it to wake us humans up even more to see that, while we have made progress in how we are creating our collective lives, there is still much work to be done? Was it to further expose inequality of incomes? Was it to unveil the shadow side of our culture, in which there is still an undercurrent of power and control that we haven’t addressed?
Are we more aware of racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, ethnocentrism, etc., than we were, even as an awake family, before November 7th? What about the rest of the world? Has it awakened even more since November 7th? What else can we learn from these events?
We are also now teaching Sage and Ricky about continuing to appropriately, non-demeaningly, and non-violently question all people in high leadership positions—yes, even the president—no matter who is in power. We want them to never be afraid to make their voice heard, and to always keep their eyes open.
To us, being spiritually aware translates into being politically active and mobilized. Thus, we have committed to donating to causes that protect and aid vulnerable people and the environment.
Our organizations of choice are the ACLU, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Anti-Defamation League, Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP, and the Environmental Defense Fund. Yours may be others, but whatever your choices, we feel it is important to let your children know, and to let them see, that you’re offering your time, energy, and financial support to efforts and groups that you feel are working toward the same goals that you hold.
I don’t, of course, have all the answers. I only have more questions, every day. But I find that parenting through questions, and asking them through the lens of Conversations with God for Parents, in so many cases produces a better parenting partnership with my children. This leads them to be more secure in themselves, and less rattled by the events of the world; hopefully more able to deal with their own questions, more inclined to stay involved in the process of how life is creating itself, and better prepared to be beacons of love to others.
Emily A. Filmore is the author of the With My Child series of children's books about family bonding (Withmychildseries.com) She is co-author of Conversations with God for Parents with Neale Donald Walsch and Laurie Lankins Farley. (Rainbow Ridge, 2015), and author of The Marvelous Transformation: Living Well with Autoimmune Disease, about her experiences with chronic illness. (Central Recovery Press 2015). Emily is available for personal and spiritual mentoring, and may be contacted at emilyfilmore.com