Myths that harm us

Laura Ingraham of Fox news started a wildfire when she claimed that immigrants are “destroying the America we love”. Let’s take a look at this statement, and a look at Trump’s supporters. First of all, who is “we” in Ingraham’s statement? I’m an immigrant. I love America. I love its inclusiveness and ethnic diversity. I love that it’s constantly re-inventing itself. The America I love is not static and unchanging; it’s dynamic. Yet she seems to want to hark back to some sort of carved-in-stone version of America. Norman Rockwell’s view is but one nostalgia-suffused view of the great country. It is not a comprehensive view of all America. This leads us, inevitably, to an analysis of Trump and the hidden agenda of supposedly traditional values, which is, I have to admit, convincing at some levels. Let’s look at what is being conveyed, here, by the images. First: Trump presents as a family man who has successful children – something every parent wants for their children. The subtext is that he knows how to raise children who can succeed within the existing system. It’s true. He is, at the moment, the system, and he makes sure those children of his will succeed. And this desire for children to grow up and be successful is what powers so many parents to go into debt for private schools and colleges and extra curricular programs. It’s a powerful force in the US. Many parents buy into it. This has a shadow side. Parents are terrified that their children might grow up to be something they can’t be proud of, and so these fearful parents look at the poor, at the unsuccessful, at minorities, and say, “See, they don’t know how to raise kids. They’re the problem.” And a myth is born, all the more damaging because it’s not clearly articulated. The problem really, is fear. Parents are afraid their children’s lives will be blighted, somehow, by changes they cannot predict. So Trump supporters look at Liberals who raise their children in sometimes rather laisser-faire ways and they say, “Nope. That’s not right. Liberals are the problem.” It’s a viewpoint I have some sympathy with. I’ve worked with disturbed adolescents and seen some very inadequate parenting from those whom one might have expected to know better. Some “liberal” parents haven’t a clue how to raise their kids, and wind up sending entitled, out-of-control kids into a school system that’s already stretched. Some of those parents are branded as liberals when they are, in fact, nothing of the sort. At the same time, on the other end of the socio-economic scale poor families often have insufficient time or resources and their children are sometimes poorly socialized for school. But it does not follow that the parents are the problem, when poverty might be the major factor. Trump supporters are afraid their own children might be tainted by this perceived lack of discipline, and so fail to succeed. Similarly with abortion. The supporters of the restrictions on abortion and planned parenthood are, I’d suggest, not so much in favor of babies’ lives as afraid that if things are made ‘easy’ then their children will be out there having sex with everyone they feel like, getting pregnant – and they’ll be beyond any parental control. Fear again. A powerful fear. What parent of a teenager hasn’t had that fear? Who can blame them? America’s children are, at times, out of control. School shootings can attest in part to that. It all looks pretty grim. And that’s part of the reason that the Trump policy of separating immigrant families at the border has had so little push back from his own supporters, people who so often tout ‘family values’ and ‘Christian values’, people who, often, are extremely good at raising dutiful children. Those immigrant families are not people to them. Instead they present an imagined threat to the stability of their own families, and so should be punished. These poor people are, after all, said to be manipulating the situation, using their children, to get into our country. Once here their uncontrolled children will wreak mayhem in our schools, of course. Well, that’s the fear. Ordinary kids will have to learn Spanish to be in class with these immigrants - and such similar strange logic – and this is all part of the fear that somehow life will now be harder for the children of Trump supporters. If I’ve learned anything in my life it’s that the single most contentious issue for anyone to bring up is how kids ’should’ be raised. Any time you want to start an argument with anyone, just criticize the way they or their family treat their kids. Guaranteed conflict, right there. Trump has played into this hidden agenda of fear, fear for our children’s future. It’s the same fear that sends immigrants to our borders. They want a better chance for their children, too. They’re afraid, too. And they meet fear, our fear, which we project onto them. We see them as the problem. And so we have an evil myth that liberals and immigrants are ‘the problem’. It’s convenient. It’s not accurate. If you want to see what’s truly undermining our civil society then look no further than the internet, at the kids immersed in violent video games, confused and jangled by pornography. They’ll spend hours a day glued to their computers and imbibe those images, while they shrug off whatever is taught at school. And when their inner lives clash too badly with the strange outer realities there are always drugs to turn to.