My half-brother is nine, and he’s easily my favorite person. I don’t get to see him as much as I’d like, but, when I do I often find myself playing the role of a political teacher.
There have always been tensions between myself and my half-brother’s parents. We are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. While I normally do my best to avoid talking politics with them, he has made this nearly impossible.
The first time I noticed the political influence that they had on him was during the 2016 MTV video awards. His favorite band, Green Day, was performing, and in the middle of their set they led an anti-trump chant. While I sat silently praising their position, my brother proclaimed “I don’t like Green Day anymore because they were mean to President Trump.”
Listening to him say that, it almost felt like I failed in my role as an older sibling. I’m supposed to be my little brother’s teacher and guardian. And yet I had let him be influenced by a media that sensationalizes things and fails to take a critical view of anything.
We are in a time where blatant racism and propaganda has become commonplace. While my little brother’s parents are not members of the alt-right–they don’t go around wearing the confederate flag–they do believe the racially-based stereotypes that Trump used to win his presidency in the name of “family values.” They are ardent supporters of Fox News and Bill O’Reilly, despite the recent sexual assault allegations. More importantly, they often fall into the trap of fake news. Which encourages their beliefs by supplying them with fake facts and examples to use as evidence.
While most of my little brother’s questions and assumptions are innocent, some of the things that he says take me by surprise. He recently told me that he would never live in Berkeley because of all the violent riots that he hears about. When I told him that the protests that did occur were relatively peaceful, and that I agreed with the protesters, he was shocked. The media that he consumes only spouts one viewpoint, one that I don’t find accurate.
I know that my brother may not ever share my beliefs and opinions, and that’s OK. I just want him to have access to several different sources so that he has enough information to formulate an opinion, rather than just repeat what he hears. He’s young, but this is when what he hears will have the greatest impact. I want to take advantage of this opportunity.
My goal isn’t to brainwash him, or turn him into a little leftist, I simply want him to grow up to be a compassionate young man.