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"You know if there were no
immigrants, I wouldn't be here."
As he often does as we walk home
from school, my 10-year-old was telling me about what happened at recess. Only
this time it was not four-square or tag or getting yelled at by the yard duties
for running on the blacktop. He was replaying his comeback to a classmate's
comment during a schoolyard debate about Donald Trump.
"Not you," the other child had told
my son. "You're like third-generation."
But I knew something about the
conversation had gotten beneath his skin. It's not the first time I've talked
about Trump with elementary school students. Before Halloween, I was chatting
with a group of kids and asked them what costumes they were planning to wear.
If Donald Trump becomes president, will Ah Ma and Ah Gong have to leave?
These were 9 and 10-year-olds.
No one—including (or especially) children—has a shortage of opinions about
The Donald. They may be too young to understand most nuances of politics, but
they are instinctual creatures. They're fascinated by his comb-over and finger
pointing. They can see through BS, yet they are transfixed by oversized
personalities. They latch onto catchy phrases, but don't have life experience
to separate chest-thumping from action plans.
I realized that many of the kids
who were talking about Trump were Asian or Latino, and their parents or
grandparents were immigrants. And I can only imagine what it's like to be a Muslim
child hearing his comments about banning people from the country based on
That night at dinner, my son
brought up the topic again.
"If Donald Trump becomes president,
will Ah Ma and Ah Gong have to leave?" My 10-year-old asked, referring to my
mother and father, as we were just sitting down to dinner.
I launched into a long explanation
about the fact that they were legal immigrants who came to America on student
visas a long time ago, then became naturalized citizens with all the rights that come with
it. Then I realized that instead of defending my parents' status, I should
really talk about the fundamental problems with Trump's anti-immigrant drum
beating. You know—civil rights, constitutional law, checks and balances. He
doesn't acknowledge that the presidency is not a dictatorship and neither do
his fans. But we do. And we will vote and speak our minds and be active
participants in democracy.
The bottom line, I explained, is that Trump's ideas
go against the principles of democracy. They're just flat out un-American.