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Teaching kids about good and evil in American politics



I’m up in Seattle with family, including my young niece, Jackie, and nephews Joey and Jamie, all under the age of 12. They’re bright, curious and aware kids, and we (their mom and dad and I) tried to explain to them why yesterday was such a dark, evil day in America’s history.

I refer, of course, to the Senate’s craven, malicious vote for a “skinny repeal” of Obamacare. While it’s true that, as I write this on Tuesday evening, we have no idea what this tea party Congress wants to do with the Affordable Care Act, this much we know: this was not an attack against Obamacare so much as an attack against Obama. I firmly believe History will record it as the violent lashing-out of a mentally ill political party in the final throes of derangement.

The pathological liar now occupying the Oval Office—temporarily, I expect—lost little time celebrating his “victory.”

He’s not very good at governing, but one thing he knows how to do, after a lifetime of practice, is insult the many people he perceives as his enemies. “I applaud the Senate for taking a giant step to end the Obamacare nightmare,” he tweeted, later in the same paragraph referring to “the Obamacare disaster.” That this is meant as a personal insult to the 44th president is clear; ever since Obama skewered him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in May, 2011 (“Like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened at Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”), Trump has hated on Barack Obama and promised himself revenge. Do you remember that night? Obama so poised, so charming, so funny, and Trump’s dark, scowling face, incendiary with fury; it looked like smoke was coming out of his ears. I believe that was the moment Trump, a good hater, elevated Obama to the top of his “Must Destroy” list. Yesterday was the culmination, so far, of that diabolical vow.

Not that it will work. Obama, the most personally secure and emotionally mature of men, will laugh it off, confident in his belief that History will vindicate him, and repudiate Trump. Still, for those of us who revered Obama, and believe in his liberal vision for America, and in the moral arc of America, Tuesday was a sad day. It represented a very ugly detour: the end of Weimar Germany and the rise of Hitler’s nazi regime is the closest parallel we have in modern times.

The hardest thing to explain to young Jackie, Joey and Jamie—who, of course, have so little context in which to interpret these times—is that their natural inclination to believe that, in any dispute, there is good and bad on both sides, is, in this case, inapplicable. They understand that World War II was a fight between Good and Evil. They struggle to understand that today’s struggle between the Republican and Democratic parties is similarly one between the forces of light and progress (Democrats) and hatred and regression (Republicans). Their Dad, Pete, was a lifelong Republican, but he told me that, after watching Trump’s first six months and reading Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money,” he’s changed his mind and, at the age of 45, is re-registering as a Democrat.

I take this as a positive sign. Even Pete has seen the corrupt, morally vicious core of the Republican Party. This has been a big step for him. I only hope and pray that there are millions of Petes out there who have been revolted by this shameful degradation of a political party that gave us Lincoln and now has offered us a heaping, stinking platter of Trump. As for Jackie, Joey and Jamie, I hope and pray I’ve had some influence on them, and that when they’re able to vote, the last thing they’ll ever do is cast their ballot for anyone who has an “R” after their name.

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