Can Trump learn empathy from the children he cages?

You Can Say Anything book cover

Trump…and children. When Bob and I set out to write this book, we felt it was a stretch to see the morally ambivalent Trump through the eyes of children. And yet, here we are, now — Trump floundering with one heartless policy after another directed at children. Separating children from their parents, detaining them in cages, detaining families indefinitely — all for political manipulation so he can feed the anger and fear that drives his base. About as un-American (and inhumane) as you can get.

Through all Trump’s turmoil, we wanted to end the book on a more hopeful note. One of the few hopes we saw was a more positive, caring generation of youth who will eventually replace us. We ended the book with an image — a group of kids working together for a better world. They are planting a tree as Trump looks on in bewilderment, a small figure on a distant horizon.

Would the emotionally stunted Trump learn anything from the children who demonstrate a more caring view of the world? As Bob crafted the final page and filled it with so many subtle emotions, we wondered — will Trump learn? Could Trump learn from children who are more emotionally developed than him? We didn’t know. He has a blank look in the illustration.

Now it’s clear, he cannot learn. The basic seed of empathy that grows in most children is missing in him. He crossed the line, and rather than stepping back, expressing regret at least on some aspect of his policies, he blusters ahead, rallying more fear and anger.

We are still hopeful that despite all the wrong directions being thrown at the next generation, they will grow with our caring, that the decency of most Americans will outgrow the fear of the few.

children planting a tree while trump looks on

Now on the Shelves at Wellesley Books…

If you’re in the vicinity of downtown Wellesley, MA, be sure to stop by Wellesley Books and check out our book sitting so nicely in the “Humor” section. Here’s what we wrote in a Facebook post about it:

“What happens when Donald Trump gives advice to children? Find out in the humor section at Wellesley Books. Support local bookstores, local authors and therapeutic humor!”

Yes indeed. Stop by Wellesley Books, support independent bookstores, and while you’re at it, you can make a small purchase for some therapeutic humor too!

Wellesley Books, 82 Central St, Wellesley, MA 02482

Presidential Report Card Download

How to you think President Trump is doing? Is he displaying the leadership that children can aspire to?

We have created a Presidential Report Card using many of the same categories used on elementary school report cards. You can download your own copy here, and send it to President Trump to help provide the guidance and feedback that will help him grow and mature.

Download your copy here.

Trump calling people names

Children Know: Name-Calling isn’t Presidential

If you ask most school children what the President does, they can tell you right away — the President is the leader, the one entrusted to make decisions and chart directions on behalf of all the country. And, uh-oh, looks like we’ve got a problem here if the leader is bent on name calling in the crudest ways, yucking it up on twitter as if we all just slap dashing around in some pro-wrestling match.  (Shouldn’t he be preparing for a meeting with Vladimir Putin or something?)

Trump uses name-calling, anger, and bullying as a tool to divide the country. As someone who grew up in the midwest watching pro wrestling and now lives on the east coast, I get it. He’s built on resentment. Rather than uniting the country toward a common goal, serving those who’ve been left behind, and creating the best health care in the world for all in the US, he’s fanning the flames of resentment and anger. He’s solidified a small base of people who, rather than feel hope, feel the satisfaction of anger-bashing a perceived enemy.

Any schoolchild will know that’s not what’s expected of a President. That’s not what children learn from Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. That’s not what a President does.

Trump's disparaging comments about women

Can Children Help Trump Speak More Respectfully?

There’s a golden age — maybe four or five? — when children learn there are “bad words” and may begin to test them out.  Someone is “stupid” and, yikes, they realize they shouldn’t have said that. And, hopefully, as children mature, they come to realize that what you get out of the world is connected to what you put into it, and if you’re pumping out bad feelings about other people all the time, you will often get the same in return.

But what happens when adults don’t make that connection and continue to pump out bad words and feelings about other people frequently? And what happens if they become President? And they are trying to pass legislation they think is important, and improve their standing among the population, and gain respect and cooperation from other leaders? But instead, they dwell on the bottom, calling other people “psycho”, “low IQ” and “crazy”? And look for hurtful ways to demean people physically?

Children will come to realize there is something wrong with that person. That they aren’t a normal adult, and they aren’t acting in a way that adults should act. Children grapple with these issues — and so maybe then they’d be best to advise Trump. Organize an advisory council of children, one from each state, working with him every morning on how to communicate with decorum before he picks up his iPhone.

Obama’s Lessons for Trump

Donald Trump has been criticizing Barack Obama pretty consistently since taking office, accusing Obama of wiretapping him, dismissing Obama’s policies on climate change, health care, and Russian hacking (of all things). And on each of these topics, Trump is either heading in the wrong direction or taking not a stance at all. (Is it not a concern that Russia intervened in our election? Is it ok if they do it again?)

Well, we have news for President Trump: he could learn a thing or two from his predecessor. In our book, Obama appears in the final pages to remind us what it is to have a President who can communicate with the country (and not just tweet to his followers). President Obama reminds us our country is best when “people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose.”

It’s a belief that has guided us in our book, and we hope that it offers hope for the future through civic engagement (and protest when necessary). We need a leader who leads the country toward that greater purpose.

 

The evolution of a cover

Rob and I hit the ground running after we hatched the idea for this project after the election. But it takes work to zero in on just the right image, and my credit to Rob for transforming my very (very) bad sketch into something that resonates.  You can trace the evolution here, starting with the final cover, and then jump back to the start and tracing forward…

Cover evolution gallery:

 

How we got started

It was a few days after the election, and I was despondent. “How could this have happened? It can’t be real…”  Like I had been punched in the gut, and the future only seemed to look worse as we anticipated Supreme Court selections, Congress, healthcare, etc.

On Facebook what had been cheerful posts from friends wearing pantsuits turned darker, despondent and hopeless. In the midst of that, I threw my hands in the air — what can I do?  There’s nothing…nothing…

So I started writing a list of crazy things I could do. Things so improbable and nonsensical that there would be no possible response to pull me down. And I posted it as a joke Facebook: “I’m going to write a children’s book based on the words of Donald Trump.”

(Haha…)

But I kind of liked it. It made me smile. And my friend Bob Thibeault, whose illustrations I’ve admired for many years, liked it too. We sent some quick messages back and forth — yes!  We’re going to do this!  So we got started…