By Mary Parry
You know the saying, “don’t mess with a mama bear?” This was a rough week for me as a parent – and as a person. After a very… long… election… season… we finally reached Election Day 2016. I knew that most all Americans across party lines were surely glad this brutal contest was coming to a close, especially here in the battleground state of North Carolina. And, as an adult, I knew that much was at stake in this election. What I didn’t anticipate was my son’s raw outpouring of emotion at the results. He is only 11 years old, after all. His top concerns are typically related to what’s for dinner and how his favorite sports teams are faring. But this was different. He was shaken and nearly inconsolable until I tucked him into bed. Aside from the tears in his eyes, I saw fear.
All of the nastiness of this election season has come to a head. In addition to the serious issues we face in partisan politics, our children were hurt by the vitriol hurled on the never-ending campaign trail. Despite our best efforts to shelter them from it, our kids absorbed the dominant messages offered for the months leading up to Election night – messages about race and religion, gender and immigration status. As my son watched the election returns, he wasn’t worrying about whether or not he had correctly predicted the winning candidate – he was imagining what the election result might mean for how the world will treat his friend who has darker skin and practices a different religion – a girl and an American citizen, for that matter. He was processing the many remarks and retorts that built up to the final Election Day decision. He wanted to be proud of his country, but instead, he was scared and afraid for his friends.
As I read reports of an impending Klu Klux Klan parade in North Carolina and an uptick in hate speech being shared within local communities and on social media, I hope that anyone within arm’s length of harmful and despicable acts will stand up and speak up – especially those responsible for ginning up such controversy in our country. Like I said, “don’t mess with a mama bear.” We don’t tolerate hate.
Mary Parry is an author and communications consultant from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her career has been dedicated to advocating for women and girls through non-partisan organizations and participation in the political process.