Sunday 13 November 2016

The psychological impact of Trumps' victory

An awful lot has already been said about the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. One thing that really struck me was a comment by the US political commentator Van Jones.

In his reaction to Donald Trump's unfolding election victory he said "It's hard to be a parent tonight for a lot of us. You tell your kids 'don't be a bully'. You tell your kids 'don't be a bigot'. You tell your kids 'do your homework and be prepared' ... Then you have this outcome. You have people putting their children to bed tonight who are afraid of breakfast in the morning. They're afraid of 'how do I explain this to my children'."

The point he raises is an extremely good one. How is it possible to explain to children what has happened? It's not just the parents of American children who have been left asking this question either. Pretty much any child with access to a television or the Internet will have had countless hours of exposure to contemporary liberal American values and they'll have also have seen clips of Donald Trump behaving atrociously (like this one my kids showed me).

Practically every American kids' TV series is rammed full of moral messages promoting tolerant socially liberal values. The rude, bigoted, dishonest and lazy characters always get their comeuppance, and there's almost always rewards in store for characters who choose honesty, kindness or hard work. These are undeniably the cultural values American TV has been instilling in generation after generation of children all over the world.

The election of Donald Trump as President is a massive betrayal of these heavily-promoted liberal American cultural values. American kids have been indoctrinated into believing that the virtues Trump was so sorely lacking will be rewarded, and that bigotry, laziness and dishonesty are impediments to success. Yet despite having these cultural values drilled into them on a daily basis, American kids have just witnessed the adults around them prove American cultural values to be a load of rubbish by rewarding Donald Trump with the highest office in the land.

This betrayal is much worse than kids finding out that Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy are a pack of lies. Finding out that the presents and cash actually came from the adults in their lives is a disillusionment, but at least the kids know that the lies came from a parental desire to make them happy, and that their parents love them. There's no underlying positivity to finding out that the cultural values you've been instilled with for your whole life are a sham.

The brazen negation of so many almost ubiquitous cultural values that was necessary in order for Trump to succeed is going to have a profound psychological impact on millions of children in the United States and further afield too.

One obvious implication is that of millions of kids all over the world have been shown that bigoted and narcissistic loud mouths can and do get what they want. How many of these kids are going to see Trump's victory as a vindication of their own rotten behaviour? How many kids are actually going to be inspired to begin acting like bigoted bullying little loud-mouths in the hope that they too will achieve great things like Donald Trump?

The fact that Trump's victory is teaching kids that dishonesty, bigotry, bullying, narcissism and arrogance are not vices, but recipes for success is not even the worst of it.

The worst of it is that millions of kids have had the adults around them prove themselves utter hypocrites who constantly promote one set of cultural values, but when it comes to something as important as the Presidential election they went and endorsed a candidate who negates pretty much every socially liberal value there is.

Any parent will tell you that it's possible to get away with being a lot of things. Grumpiness, forgetfulness, clumsiness, bossiness, busyness ... but one of the most vital things you should really try to avoid doing in front of your kids is being a total hypocrite, because when kids see through your hypocrisy they inevitably lose faith in you, and that makes things incredibly difficult for everyone (yourself and your kids).

Hopefully only a small minority of kids will end up seeing Trump's victory as an inspiration to behave like dishonest and narcissistic little bigots, but any teacher will tell you that it only takes a small minority of disruptive kids to wreck an otherwise productive classroom.

The problem obviously gets a whole lot worse if a significant proportion of the other non-disruptive kids are suffering disillusion at the fact they're surrounded by a bunch of brazenly hypocritical adults who always seem to expect kids to constantly behave in a decent and respectful manner, but just rewarded Donald Trump with the highest office in the land for doing precisely the opposite.

This sense of disillusionment at the hypocrisy and double standards is bound to have long-lasting psychological impact on children. Every time an adult tells them to behave decently and respectfully, it is natural for them to want to ask "why should I?", and every time they suffer criticism for not being prepared and trying to bluster and bullshit their way through life, they're obviously going to see the utter hypocrisy of it if their critic is a Trump voter.

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