The last few years have held a lot of horrible events like mass shootings, people driving cars into crowds, public calls to violence, and insults/attacks aimed at those protesting the political.
So the question for me has been: how much of this do I explain to my boys? For Alex, I'm not sure how much he hears and understands, but he certainly repeats what he's heard, so I need to help him to understand that some slogans, no matter how catchy, are not appropriate. For Nathan, I'm walking a delicate balance between informing him to give him a chance to ask questions and making him worry about events which are out of his control.
It's been a tough set of decisions. At first, I thought I would just leave them out of it aside from a brief commentary: X happened, so you may hear people talking about it, but you don't need to worry because the police caught the bad guys.
Then I found Nathan playing an online video game which consisted of defending Trump tower from Hillaries (yes, characters who looked like Hillary Clinton) with big blaring warnings of a Liberal Attack Wave and Social Justice Warrior Attack. That's when I knew I had my work cut out for me.
I didn't ban the game (because I don't want it to become a forbidden treat) but I talked about how Hillary Clinton was a real person and how it must hurt her feelings to see games like this where people are encouraged to attack her. We talked about Donald Trump and I told him that I thought Trump was acting like a big bully, using his power and position to attack people who disagreed with him. I explained that Social Justice Warrior was a mean expression, used to attack people who stood up for those who have been hurt by our system.
Since then, I've had to have conversations about whether or not it's okay to punch Nazis (for the record, my opinion is that I have no problem with using violence to defend myself or others, but I am cautious about how seductive it can be to give oneself permission to attack a group. Violence is easy, immediate and emotionally satisfying but it does not bring about real change), the difference between crazy people and those who use weapons (cars or guns) to attack innocent people (the mentally ill need help and support and those who attack others are cowards looking to make themselves feel important), and why words are important (how the same event can seem entirely different depending on the words chosen to describe it).
It's a lot and I'm not sure how much is going right over their heads. After all, appropriate responses to the world are something that most adults spend a lot of time trying to figure out. But mainly, I want them to learn that the people doing the talking are not always to be trusted, that they have their own agendas. I want to teach them to be skeptical and insist on research (including source checking). But I also want to emphasize that for every horrible person, there are a dozen who are trying to make the world better. People who help the wounded, defend others, and stand up to offer both compassion and insight.