Skip to site content

Not OK! Our Leaders Teach Bad Lessons to Our Kids

A video went viral recently showing a young African-American woman being removed from a presidential campaign rally.

She was pushed and prodded by numerous campaign supporters while others voiced insults or filmed the incident on their phones.

No one stepped in and said, “This is a human being. Show a little respect for the human race.” Not one person defended her. No one spoke out.

I refrained initially from writing about this event because I didn’t want to seem political or partisan. I’ve kept most of my writings free from a focus on politics, campaigns and opinions on government and court decisions.

I was determined to do so until I realized that the issue is not about politics. It’s about humanity.

As I watched that girl get pushed and shoved, all I could think was, “What are we teaching our children?”

As I’ve seen presidential candidates make fun of all manner of people – other candidates, people with autism, people of all races and creeds – all I can muster up is, “What are we teaching our children?”

As I’ve heard words of hatred and fear and bigotry pour from mouths that at the same time proclaim Christ and Christianity, I cannot help but want to shout, “What are we teaching our children?”

There are no free passes because these things are attached to politics. There are no circumstances in the world that make these words, actions and attitudes morally or ethically right.

This country has spent the last several years creating and investing in entire campaigns against bullying in our schools.

This work is being undone in a single presidential campaign by the very adults who are supposed to be the examples to the kids.

It is not OK to physically harm other people because you are angry even when you feel your cause is right.

It is not OK to viciously make fun of people. There’s absolutely no leeway with that. It’s called bullying, and if you do it in elementary school, you get suspended.

It is not OK to express your frustrations with the government and your grievances with the political system by attacking or threatening people of different races or intimidating those who disagree with you.

I realize that I am only adding a very small voice to a very large group of people that are saying similar things.

But to remain silent in the face of such outright and flagrant disregard for humanity is to add my voice to those who give assent to the actions.

I become like those who hold up their phones and take a video of the brutality, rather than having the courage to step in and say, “This is not OK!”

I can no longer hide behind the flag of “I don’t want to be political.” Rather, I have to state the obvious and say, “This is not about politics. This is about human decency and I, for the sake of my children and all future generations who are seeing these things, must say, ‘I am not OK with this because this is not OK.’

Lest we fool ourselves into thinking our kids are oblivious, we need to know that our kids have seen this video and others like it.

They’ve seen the ugliness that is being carried out in our country today. They hear the insults and the veiled threats and the disparaging way our soon-to-be leaders are speaking about each other and about other people.

Let’s make sure we tell them, “This is not OK. This is not who we are called to be. This is not normal. This is wrong.”

I’m not here to tell you how to vote. I’m here to remind you there is a lot more at stake than the political office.

There is an entire generation learning how to approach life and seeing, hearing and observing despicable things while watching us tape it on our phones.

And whether we realize it or not, we are teaching our children by our failure to tell them, “This is not OK.”

Christina Embree is director of children and family ministries at Nicholasville United Methodist Church near Lexington, Kentucky. A longer version of this article first appeared on her website, Refocus Ministry, and is used with permission. You can follow her on Twitter @EmbreeChristina.