I wrote last week about how Generation Z is the most anxious, loneliest generation. I talked about climate anxiety and the pandemic. I mentioned that according to the Cigna loneliest index, they are lonelier than Baby Boomers. That index research occurred before the pandemic. Social media isn’t simply a tool for sharing cool memes, these kids are bright, and hyperaware of social and political issues.
And then… an attack on the Capitol.
My 15 year-old watched with us as it unfolded on CNN. It first looked like the protestors had crossed the barrier and would remain on the Capitol steps. Then the crowd literally broke into the Capitol Building.
My older daughter watched in horror. She said, “Mom, can you imagine if this happened during the Black Lives Matter movement? Hundreds of people would have been shot! Where are the police? The dogs? The rubber bullets? The tear gas? ”
As a former Hill staffer, I was frozen and in complete disbelief. If I were arranging a Capitol meeting for constituents, I would have to ask for social security numbers and go through two metal detectors. Rarely did I go the Senate floor without my boss — a sitting Senator. I couldn’t even bring a water bottle to the lobby.
But, these people shattered windows and raided the tunnels— during a joint session of Congress?
The scenes from the Senate floor were equally as shocking and scary. The certification voting stopped. And I literally prayed that there wouldn’t be a massacre of legislators, rioters, or police. It is a miracle that the police staved off this mob and protected the legislators from being killed.
The rioters who trashed the Capitol Building, threatened the Vice President and congressional leadership during a vote to certify an election, constructed a noose and gallows on Capitol Grounds . . . then walked out of the building and got on planes to go home.
Our children watched this happen on live television.
As new details emerge it seems more and more like this was an actual coup attempt by a sitting President who lost an election.
How do we talk to our kids about a coup attempt in the United States of America, the beacon of Democracy?
And how do we assure them the rule of law will prevail when we, ourselves, are stunned?
Here are some suggestions:
- Talk to your kids about what happened. Express your opinion and ask for theirs. Talk about your values, the constitution, and the electoral process.
- Discuss the rule of law. Explain that despite the violent attack on the nation’s Capitol during a legislative proceeding certifying a vote, the vote ultimately continued. The legislators did their job.
- Outline your values as family. Talk about the what we’ve learned as a society and what we’ve not. How do these riots differ from the protests we’ve seen on the mall, the Women’s March, the Science March, and the Black Lives Matter protests? Talk about the difference between “No Justice, No Peace” and “Hang Mike Pence.” Discuss white privilege, what it means, and how we can work to become anti-racist.
- Discuss the polarization of America. Talk about different news sites and information and misinformation online. Ask them what they know and what they think. Consider watching The Social Dilemma with them. Ask them about tech companies and their power. Ask about whether they agree with the decisions of companies to delete the President’s twitter account. Probe their knowledge of the First Amendment, what type of speech it covers, whether it applies to private companies, and what type of assemblies.
- Talk about the electoral process, how votes are certified, and then the role of the courts. How do the three branches of government work? What do the checks and balances mean?
Above all, urge them to take care of their mental health.
Like 9/11, this is a scary time in America right now — on top of a pandemic. Our kids are understandably anxious and upset. My younger daughter drew this picture the night of the 6th. Another GenZer told me that she was not surprised about what happened, just sad.
What are we doing? What world are we leaving our kids? How do we heal?
My friends provided an important reminder to me.
One texted “did you see how blue the sky was today?” And another said “I went for a walk and could see so many stars.”
Here I was, a writer about nature and environmental policy, realizing that I had spent the whole weekend rage tweeting about the outrageous actions of our sitting President who tried to overturn a lawful election by inciting a riot and insurrection. I hadn’t even gone outside, despite how I literally write about the importance of connecting to nature. I took a break and made the kids go outside, too.
We are in this together.
To heal, we must have accountability and stand up against authoritarian rule and violence swiftly and vehemently.
To address the threats of the pandemic, climate change, and systemic racism we must then work together.
This is who we are as America. We have to come to terms with it, but we must impress upon our children that the rule of law will prevail.
Because it must.
And we must demand it.
Call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224–3121 to share your views.
I urge you to urge your elected representative to impeach the President for his unlawful, reckless, and authoritarian behavior.
Make sure your kids hear you call. They’re not only watching, they’re listening.
Heather White is a nationally-recognized sustainability leader and nonprofit executive, and expert on conservation law and policy. She is the President & CEO of Heather White Strategies, LLC and former President and CEO of Yellowstone Forever, past Executive Director of EWG, and Senate staffer.
#theclimatecrisis #actonclimate #selfcare #action #savetheplanet #genZ