The context of the work of Operation Respect, dedicated to bringing up and educating children in an environment that is caring, loving, safe and respectful – free of bullying and ridicule – is no longer what it has been since our inception.
The vitriol that has emerged amongst adults, post this last election, is now being emulated by children who repeat what they hear adults saying – not only the adults who are leading this country, but also adults in their families, on TV, in social media, everywhere.
The work of Operation Respect, and other organizations that pursue a similar goal, has become more important and more critical then ever.
We must offer children an alternative to the growing insensitivity, lack of compassion and empathy that threaten the heart of our country. We must not allow greed, bigotry and cruelty to be normalized. Our children must grow up to value themselves and others for what’s in their hearts and in their character as opposed to “worshiping” material possessions and fame earned only from media attention.
And, yes, we must heal this country’s divide, not only because it endangers our country’s democratic institutions, and not only because both sides of the political spectrum are deeply distressed and painfully weary of fiercely traded animosities, but because our children are now attacking each other in ways, and to degrees, unknown in the past. (So says, among others, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s report on this phenomenon.)
We can do this. We are not, despite what we hear and see every day, inherently a divided nation. We may think we are but recent experience has proved to me that this is an understandable, but erroneous, misperception. Given the opportunity for a safe space in which to listen to each other and to not respond defensively, friendship and even love of each other reveals itself to still be most Americans’ bottom line.
Alas, we have been otherwise persuaded by the media, but this hatred can and will be dissipated. Have faith, keep on keepin’ on, see the courage and dignity that is emerging from those who are battling the darkness of our times, and join in the struggle – not with frustration and incredulity, but with love, optimism and the determination we need to get through this together as we focus on what is good in each other and tune out all information to the contrary.
For the moment, let’s make sure that the wounds that our children are sustaining do not continue and thereby make the long term healing of our country ever more difficult. Let’s focus on this task. And so we are, and will continue to do so at Operation Respect.
We have our work cut out for us, but we can do it. We are a good people. I know this as surely as I have known anything in my advocate-singer’s life. Trust that this is the case and join us – and let’s stop focusing on the battle that’s raging and live the legacy of goodness in our hearts for ourselves, and for our children’s sake, and the sake of our future.
Co-founder and President Emeritus of Operation Respect