On Monday afternoon, I took Z and E to our local library to see a kids play based on Treasure Island.
Z was excited to see it but once the action started, she became very concerned. "Is he a bad guy or a good guy?" she kept asking worriedly about each character. Long John Silver completely stumped her, as he had a moral crisis halfway through and struggled over whether to grab all the treasure for himself.
"BUT IS HE GOOD OR BAD?!?!" she whisper-yelled repeatedly during Long John's monologue.
I never read Treasure Island and honestly didn't know which way the story would go, but even if I did, I think I would have answered the same way. "I don't know, sweetheart. He doesn't know either. Just watch and think and see what YOU think."
The weeks leading up to this presidential election were full of difficult questions in our house.
"Why is it so important that ------------win, Mommy? Will something terrible happen if --------- wins?"
"Why are all our friends voting for ---------- but so many signs in our neighborhood are for -----------?"
"We shouldn't trick or treat at this house, they're voting for -------------."
"If --------- wins, will Daddy lose his job? Will we have to move? Will he cut all the money for my school?"
"I don't know if I can be friends with A any more, she said her family is voting for -----------."
Z, at six years old, is a sweet, sensitive kid. She also sometimes fails to see any shades of gray. She tends to see the world in absolutes, at least at first and she has inherited my knack for anxious extrapolation. (If only it were a marketable skill! I'd be set!) She needs to be reminded regularly that the world is not divided up into good guys and bad guys.
Not surprisingly, I found that reminding her about this truth was very healthy for me as the campaign heated up in our swing county in a swing state. To regularly hear the words "He's not a bad guy, he just has different ideas for how to help our country" come out of my own mouth was soothing to my fears even when it failed to soothe hers.
I campaigned for a candidate in this presidential election. I spent time and money and effort to persuade people to vote for my candidate and I believe in what he stands for. But I don't think the other guys is a "bad guy." Sure, it'd be easy for me to pick and chose some parts of a person's history and make them into a monster, a boogeyman that must be defeated.
But what good does that serve? Even if we "win", do we actually win anything at all?
This morning, 7 am.
"I have good news for you, Z! ---------- won!"
"OH YAY! I'm so glad Mommy!
"We'd be okay, either way, right?"
"Yes, sweetheart. Either way, we'll be okay."