As the mother of a very impressionable, inquisitive little girl, I have been closely following the recent media coverage about bullying in schools. Kids are apparently being taunted, made to feel inferior and even threatened, for going against the grain or having a different point of view. Wait… were these stories about school bullying, or media and political bullying?
In a well-publicized incident, co-host Joy Behar of TV’s The View called Nevada Republican senatorial candidate Sharron Angle a curse word that I would NEVER want my daughter to accidentally walk by the television and overhear. Behar called Angle this word repeatedly and even insisted that Angle was “going to hell.” Never mind that Joy Behar had never actually met Sharron Angle yet still felt compelled to call her these horrible things based on one of the candidate’s television campaign commercials (Angle, incidentally, sent Behar flowers in exchange for the insults). And never mind that Behar is supposed to be a professional broadcast journalist – and a grown up, at that. What struck me, is how the same broadcast media that seems to be perpetually scratching its head at the epidemic of bullying in schools, is setting an awful good example of it themselves.
Another example can be introduced with two once innocent words that used to refer to a favorite imaginative game played by little girls like my daughter – Tea Party. Now look what kinds of emotions those two little words spark, especially when the flame is fanned by the media! A group that was reportedly started to voice concern over a government that is growing and spending too quickly has become a magnet for sarcasm, taunting, and anger, even spawning counter groups, whose purpose is simply to mock it. When I watch the media coverage of the Tea Party and other “hot button” political issues – bullying is evident on all sides.
The end result of this media feeding frenzy is media coverage of politics – on this Election Day in particular – that deserves a “PG-13” rating at the least. Rather than allowing your kids to watch political coverage on TV “unsupervised” and come to their own conclusions (such as “the candidates who bully the most get the most votes”), use this very interesting time in our history as an opportunity to start a conversation about the political process. Teach them that just because two political candidates or members of the media disagree about something, doesn’t necessarily mean they hate each other. Remember that kids, especially younger ones, may naturally assume that if two people are yelling at each other, they must be enemies. This can be very confusing and upsetting. This is also a great way to remind them that just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t make you a bad person.
I will leave you with one final example of public political behavior, but on the opposite end of the manners spectrum. This is the kind of story I hope you will share with your kids. Here in my home state of California, Republican senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina, while battling her political opponent Senator Barbara Boxer, has also been battling breast cancer. This campaign has been just as heated as any other in the midterm elections, and neither candidate has pulled their punches. But when Carly was recently hospitalized for a post-surgical infection, her opponent, Senator Boxer, was quick to wish her well in her recovery. Common manners do exist – even in the often harsh world of politics. This is what our kids should be focusing on.
Use this Election Day as a way of reinforcing what is great about America, our country’s REAL values, and our process for electing people to public service. And maybe, just maybe, our politicians and the media who are supposed to be covering their campaigns (not influencing them) – will eventually learn those lessons themselves.
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