I was watching the President Trump rally from Harrisburg last night. In the beginning, when he said there is another big gathering taking place up in Washington D.C. tonight, referring to the Correspondents Dinner, the audience booed. Then the president said, “A large group of Hollywood actors (more boos) and Washington media (even louder boos) are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capitol right now. I’m more than 100 miles away from the Washington swamp with a much larger crowd and much better people.” (cheers)
I noticed one of the people booing with real enthusiasm behind President Trump was this young girl, and my heart broke. She looked around at the adults to make sure she was booing at the right time and cheering at the right time, but she was obviously proud to be down in front, hating Hollywood actors and Washington media, although I’m sure not knowing why.
I couldn’t help but remember another moment when I had seen a child learn how to hate from an adult, watch the adult hate, not knowing how he should react, but then jump in. It was watching the movie “42” about the life of Jackie Robinson. There is a scene when Jackie takes the field and a father and son are sitting together in the stands, excited for the game to start, and the father yells out, “Nigger! Get off the field!” The son is hesitant. Waits for a moment, and then mimics his father perfectly.” It’s heartbreaking.
Both of these innocents putting down people they don’t know for reasons they don’t understand, surrounded by adults who should be teaching them to build people up.
In the movie, Jackie Robinson’s teammate who was playing in front of his home town crowd, Pee Wee Reese, walks over to Jackie and puts his arm around him for everyone to see. He says to Jackie, “I got family up there. I need them to know who I am. Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42. That way they won’t be able to tell us apart.”
I imagined what it would have been like in my Pollyanna world if President Trump had invited a member of the media up onto the platform, put his arm around him and said, “This guy from the New York Times is a good guy. I know I’ve given him a hard time, but ya know – he’s just doing his job – and it’s an important job.” Can you imagine the impact something like that would have had on the way the people in that crowd felt about journalists? If not that night, certainly over time?
I never want to teach my children to boo, call someone an idiot, the swamp, or refer to one group of people as better than another. I want to teach them to cheer for other people, build them up, encourage. I want to teach them the power of encouragement, how it can change the world, one person at a time.