Kids Whose Parents Fight All the Time

The fighting didn’t start January 20th or November 8th or even two years ago; it’s been going on a long time.  The volume was turned up when Republicans decided they would vote “no” on any Obama proposal.  After the 2017 inauguration it exploded to an unbearable decibel level.

If this were your home, and you were an adolescent who had grown up with years of fighting all around you, you would be traumatized. In moments of clarity, you would see that your parents fight over anything. Even when something as clear as day occurred, like the trash pickup accidentally spilling garbage on the street, they would argue over whose fault it was that the can was too full or it wasn’t placed in a correct position.

Likewise: for three days we have listened to arguments about blame.  Today you can read a well-researched article on assigning blame to “alt-right” and “alt-left,” based on historical and statistical analyses of how extremists on either end have engaged in violence over the past 50 years.  WTF?  says the teenager.  As if that would stop the fighting?

So, three points.

Point 1: Listening to this day and night is not good for us; we need healthy choices. What would the guidance counselor advise the kid who is stuck in this impossible household for 3 more years?  Work hard, get good grades, plan your own future.  Learn from the mistakes around you.  Don’t take drugs or drown your sorrows in binge TV.  Join a club at school. Volunteer for an organization on the weekends.

You get the analogy.

Specific additional advice for our situation: Ignore those quadrated screens of commentators saying the same things every time there’s another fight.  If you must get the news, check it quickly in the morning (not before bed, it damages your sleep), ask yourself if this is worthy news, then go on with YOUR day.

Point 2:  This is like a captivating magic show; we are the gullible audience.  You know how the magician works: he keeps his hands moving around the objects on the table or waving the wand, saying “Watch!  Watch!  You see it, keep watching!”  (Watch Russia v USA. Watch Kim v Trump. Watch alt-R v alt-L.)  But the action is happening where you aren’t looking – in the magician’s other hand, or his feet, or on the other side of the stage.

While everyone’s attention is distracted, be smart!  Look at what’s going on elsewhere, backstage. That’s where you find the directors with scripts, stage managers, and the crew – mostly the group called the “Cabinet.” Orders are being given, the scene is being redone as they try to create a society in Trump’s image.  But unless you look hard, you won’t see those folks until the end, when they come out to bow for the credits – and try to get their boss re-elected in 2020.

Point 3:  Learn from what has happened. This could be a teachable moment for people, for any of us who thought “there’s always a way to work with a situation.”  For example, the CEOs who quit acquiescing to this administration are thinking differently. Maybe this is a time when those who think mainly about management – of money, resources, people — can think together about ethics, about fairness, the public good. Maybe they will listen now to people other than big shareholders who want to make megabucks.  Charlottesville was a very loud wake-up call.

The fighting could become worse, and that’s the fear that arises, in a child or in us. If we give into fear, we become paralyzed.  But we aren’t helpless.  Day by day, we can make good choices.

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