There’s no shortage of attention being given to the damage Donald Trump and his Republican cronies are inflicting on the Constitution and the rule of law. Overlooked, however, is the harm they’re doing by undermining one of the most important jobs of every parent—teaching our children a basic sense of right, wrong, and common decency. For a party famous for its dedication to ‘family values,’ there is no small amount of irony here.
As soon as our children can understand us, we instruct them to tell the truth, not hurt others, obey the rules, be kind, be fair, play nice with other boys and girls, apologize if you don’t, and help people when they need it.
As they get older, the lessons get more sophisticated.
- If you make a promise, keep it. Breaking a formal, public promise—like a vow or an oath is a very serious matter. Do that and people won’t trust you.
- If you do something wrong, accept the consequences. People who love you will support you. But that doesn’t mean what you did was OK.
- If you apply one set of rules to you and your friends and another set to others, you’re a hypocrite.
- Bullying others isn’t only wrong, it’s a sign of weakness. And no one respects weakness.
There’s not a parent in the country who doesn’t want their children to follow these precepts and grow up to be decent individuals whom others respect and admire. Yet none of us needs to stretch our imagination to see the stark contrast between these simple ideas of right and wrong—a sense of morality some would argue is central to who we are as Americans—and the self-centered and unprincipled creed of Donald Trump and the Republican party.
- Lie whenever it helps. There’s no such thing as truth. Don’t just state your lies, shout them. The louder and more often, the more likely people will believe them.
- Rules are meant or other people.
- Only saps honor promises, oaths of office, or wedding vows.
- Do everything possible to get as much money and power as you can.
- The only thing wrong with doing something you shouldn’t is getting caught. Never admit you’re wrong. Blame someone else.
- Being mean shows you’re strong. Always hit first. Never apologize.
- The idea that everyone is equal and deserves to be respected as such is ridiculous.
The message to America’s youth from Donald Trump, William Barr, Mitch McConnell, Brett Kavanaugh, and the rest of the G.O.P. gang is the antithesis of what parents try to teach every day. Parenting is difficult under the best of conditions. Republicans are making it impossible. Worse still, they’re infecting our society with moral corruption that will plague us for years. It’s important for everyone to realize, then, that one of the key—and thoroughly nonpartisan questions—we’ll be answering in the 2020 election is, ‘Which ideas about right and wrong do we want our children to learn?”