(on the walk to school)
Me: Oh Hank, look at that yellow cascade of fall leaves.
Hank: Wow. The whole hill is yellow.
Me: I am so glad I live in a place where the leaves change colors again. I missed it while we were in Setúbal.
Hank: Leaves don’t turn colors and fall in Setúbal?
Me: Nope. Only in the north. (deep breath)
Hank: OH!!! I completely forgot to tell you. Last week at my school one of the students, I don’t know him, but he is soooo stupid…
Me: (taken aback, noticing)
Hank: On Friday, he thought it would be funny to leave the water running in the torneira (faucet) in the upstairs bathroom…
Me: (gasp, knowing where this is going)
Hank: And the water ran allllll weekend which is a huge waste of natural resources.
Hank: But also our ceilings are made of cortiça (cork) which has a lot of holes and the water came through the ceiling and ruined a whole classroom’s books and supplies.
Hank: (angry, hateful) That kid was so stupid. I mean that is like €90 per kid for their books and even the teachers supplies were ruined.
Me: He didn’t know it would cause so much damage. Be kinder, Hank. I hope that the student learns that a harmless prank can go very wrong. Especially on a Friday.
Hank: (aggressive) I hate it when stupid kids destroy things like with bad graffiti. Good graffiti, I mean that is art and I like that, but bad graffiti is the worst.
Me: (rounding the corner towards Hank’s school, confronting a busy round about) You know you have to make a lot of bad graffiti before you make good graffiti.
Hank: (puffed up and feeling superior) AND I HATE THIS GUY! ARGH! (gesturing to a car parked in front of a café, blocking traffic trying to merge into the roundabout) Why does he have to park there? He is causing traffic to be even worse. Argh, I hate Portuguese.
Me: Nope! No way. That is it. (stopping in the middle of the side walk)
Me: You hate Portuguese? You are Portuguese! If you hate Portuguese you hate your Pai (dad), your sister, your avôs (grandparents), Alllllll your cousins…
Hank: Wait mom…
Me: NO, hear me out. I know you have been exposed to a lot of hate speech as of late, on the news and at school and a bit from some family members, but you are my son and it is my job to teach you right. Henrique José Hanford Pereira, you don’t hate Portuguese, (gesturing at the parked car) you don’t like this particular behavior. You don’t like that some drivers in Portugal think they are entitled to not obey basic common sense or traffic laws. That is a behavior you detest, but you do not hate an entire nation of people because of some people’s behavior. You don’t hate just to hate and feel superior. Doing so may make you feel powerful, but you will quickly find that you become the Emperor without clothes. You are a member of a family and a community and a school and a town and a nation and the world. You are better than hate.
Hank: Like Trump? The way he hates women and people who are Muslim?
Me: (shoulders sag, defeated) I know I watched too much news in front of you this week.
Hank: Mom, it’s okay. I like to know what is going on in the world.
Me: (resuming our walk to school) Yes, but Hate breeds HATE! Hank, never be like Donald Trump. In fact, if Donald Trump endorses or praises something do the exact opposite. Look, I get it. It is easier to say you hate everything and let the world burn under your judgmental magnifying glass, but you need to protect your kind heart and not let people or the media influence how you look at the world. You don’t hate whole groups of people! Don’t buy into stereotypes.
Hank: What’s a stereotype?
Me: A misconception. An idea attributed to a whole group of people that may only be true for some individuals. Like how all Americans are fat or all French people are rude or all Norwegian people have a reindeer and stay up all night watching aurora borealis.
Hank: In my Estudo de Meio (Social Studies) book we had to describe people from other counties and had to say that Americans had long legs, were fat and ate pizza and hamburgers.
Me: I am not saying you live in a world where these problems aren’t systemic. I am asking you to be open minded and do better. I am asking you to not spread hate with your words because when you call someone stupid like your schoolmate that made a terrible mistake that I am sure he now regrets when he thought he was making a simple prank or saying YOU HATE ALL PORTUGUESE people because of the way some people choose to park their cars. (exasperated not at Hank but at the epidemic of hate in the world at the moment, deep breath) I am not asking you to blindly forgive everything. I am asking you to show dislike of a behavior rather than whole group of people. Regardless of wars or teachings or governments or elections or misrepresentation, ignorance and uninformed opinions you never hate a whole you dislike the part that can be changed. No whole group of people are bad. That is like you hating me because of Donald Trump.
Me: Because I am American and he maybe the next President of the United States (shudders).
Hank: I get it. I see what I did. I see what you are saying.
Me: And maybe I need to come to your classroom and show them that I have short legs… but, well I am not a good example of breaking the American stereotype since I am a little fat at the moment and I do love pizza and hamburgers.
Hank: (hugging my whole arm) You’re not fat, mama. You are curvy and fluffy in all the right places for hugs.
Me: Well, in that case… (hugging him back).