Friday, April 21, 2017

Teaching Behavior in the Era of Trump

Much has been written over the last year about the tone of the Presidential race. And now much has been written about the tone of the President himself. Interestingly enough, a recent article actually castigated comedy news such as Comedy Central and Samantha Bee for creating the acceptability of the Trump tone. I kid you not. The acceptance of Trump's behavior, apparently, according to those who cannot accept blame for their own failures, is now the fault of comedians. Comedians whose job it is, is to be obnoxious, and caustic, and condescending. Apparently, according to these pundits, the American people are simply too stupid to differentiate between funny-ha-ha and not-so-funny-social-malingerers.

Samantha Bee and much of Comedy Central, (which I don't particularly enjoy), is a sarcastic look at the world in which we live. They do not run the world, but comment on it. They do not make policy, but comment on it.  Yes, Bee made a horrible mistake with the youngman at CPAC. But she later apologized. Perhaps she learned a lesson, which is that even in the world of comedy, fact checking is a useful tool.

So here is the problem: how do we as parents of autistics teach appropriate behavior to our children in the Era of Trump? For most neurotypical children it is easy for them to decipher social rules of engagement. Not so for every child on the spectrum. It is not easy for our children to distinguish between what is, and is not, always appropriate. And to make matters worse when those in the limelight act out in inordinate ways, and garner huge amount of accolades and attention, then what are our children supposed to think?

I have written about this BEHAVIOR conundrum before (of course). You can find a full list of my articles on the subject HERE  and HERE.

The only thing I can think of is that my sons' are decidedly antiTrump. They view everything he does through a lens of contempt. They have decided that not only is he a boor, but that his manners, his lack of decorum and his puffed up ego are not things they wish to emulate. So for them he is a walking BillBoard of "not."

In a world where becoming the most powerful person on the planet is viewed as a worthy goal, but the person who holds that office as of today is thought of as the Court Jester of the world, this truly is not a good thing. The idea that the President of the United States would be held up as the butt of jokes for his behavior, and lack thereof, is not good for the country and it is not good for our children. Yes, the comedians of the past also made fun of former republican Presidents, deriding Reagan, and both Bushes. But these President's held themselves to a socially appropriate standard of behavior. So all comedy aside, no one could attack them for their decorum, and we all knew it. (Whether you agreed with their policies or not is not the issue of this post.)

But what is a parent to do about the behavior issue, if your family, your child, supports Trump? How are you supposed to explain appropriateness to your child without destroying their right to express a political opinion? And no, everyone who supports Trump is not a racist, misogynist, antiMoslem, white supremacist nutjob. Many are simply that part of the Obama coalition, that were forgotten by society. They are the middle class that were promised a future, but found that in  their reality there was no future. So they thought to go another way. Something different. Something untried. Yes, desperate people make desperate leaps of faith. If society truly cared about others in our world we would have seen Trump coming. But we are so self-indulgent that we simply did not. Yes, Trump's election is everyone's fault. It also didn't help any that the Democratic candidate was horrible as well, and for so many other reasons.

My take on behavior management over the next few years is simple. You can teach proper behavior without destroying someone's hold on what they feel is important vis-a-vis society and their own future. Do not denigrate the political ideas (arguing whether they are correct in their views is another matter), but model appropriateness. Talk to your children about differentiating between the man and the position. Whether we liked the POTUS of the moment, or not, we always honored the position, but did not necessarily respect the decisions of the man holding the position.

Yes, it's a tightrope and a fine line to walk with your children. But we do it every day when it comes to music, clothes, movies, and TV, when we try to teach our children the proper way to view the world around them. We don't like everything that culture creates, or has decided is good and better for our world. Holding up the present POTUS to scrutiny truly is no different.

I suppose in many respects it is also a good thing. Cult-like adoration of any politician is anathema to a democracy. We do not elect a King, but a temporary holder of a position, and that goes for Congress, governorships, judges, and state legislatures as well. It is why impeachment of any public official is an essential part of our society. No one who is elected is omnipotent, beyond fallibility, or excused from decorum.

Unfortunately, though, when the present leader of the free world lacks any social norms, it does make our job just a little more harder than normal. Sigh......