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Bernie in Bangor: Talking to kids about politics, fairness, and American democracy

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Photo credit: Dan Howard, Unsplash

The last time we had a local visit from a major politician, I wrote about how I planned to avoid talking to my kids about Donald Trump’s visit because, well, I just don’t feel he sets a good example for our children.

But, today, Bernie Sanders is visiting Bangor, and I feel like he’s a good example, perhaps the best example, in American politics. So, as a homeschooling mom, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to talk about our presidential election.

Just a few weeks ago, my youngest overheard me talking about the election and asked me, “What happened to Bernie Sanders? I thought you were voting for him.”

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It felt tough to talk to him about what happened. I told him that Bernie didn’t win the first round and didn’t make it to the final round. So I told him we now have to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

This was much harder to explain than I thought it might be, and I think that the way Bernie lost is what’s making it so hard. As we all know now, the deck was stacked against him, and the system wasn’t fair. I’m not saying that Bernie Sanders would have won the Democratic nomination if the system had been fair, but it sure would have been nice to find out. Finding out about some of the unfair practices of the Democratic National Committee has made it harder for many Democrats during this election cycle.

So to talk about Bernie Sanders losing means I have to talk about how our system isn’t fair. And maybe that’s important. I mean, life’s not fair. I’m pretty sure my mom told me that about a million times when I was growing up.

At the same time, it feels important to talk about how Bernie has handled the situation because, well, I think he sets a good example for all of us–a good example about moving forward and thinking about what’s best for our country.

If anyone should be angry at the injustice, it’s Bernie Sanders, but he isn’t—at least not publicly. And he’s visiting Bangor today to speak on behalf of Hillary Clinton. I believe he’s doing this because he feels it’s important. It would be nice to have big change the system, but, right now, the only big change seems to come in a really dangerous package. So he’s doing what he feels is most important for our country and urging his supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton.

This is the first election in which my oldest son will be able to vote. I took him to his first caucus, and it was cool to see him excited about the election. I think I have since seen a lot of disillusionment in him, and I worry. His generation already seems quite disillusioned. My son has grown up with the internet and with connections all over the world. In some ways, he is much wiser than my generation at that age, but I worry about a kind of hopelessness this generation feels about how rigged the system is to favor the wealthy. In my experiences as a mom and a teacher, I think this is having a profound impact on young people today.

So maybe Bernie’s visit gives us a good impetus to talk to our older children about how our democracy works and how they feel about the system. Maybe we should find out about how they are feeling about things. Maybe we can offer some hope about what Bernie was able to add to Hillary’s platform. Maybe we can talk about the importance of voting.

And maybe Bernie’s visit gives us a chance to talk to our younger kids about winning and losing and how to handle yourself with kindness and grace. And maybe we can talk about the changes Sanders was able to make even though he didn’t win.

It seems wise that the Clinton campaign asked Bernie Sanders to visit us here in Maine. The race is close here in Maine, and in rural Maine, I see a lot of Trump signs in yards. When I get into town, I still see a lot of Sanders stickers. I think Bernie is the right person to remind all of us how important this election is and to remind those people who are afraid of a Trump presidency that you really just have one choice come election day.

I think the example Bernie Sander sets for us can help people understand that better. He puts his concern for the people of this country before his concern for himself. That’s the kind of example I want my boys to learn about.

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