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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A time will come this year, and possibly in the years that follow, when parents of young children have to sit their offspring down and answer a difficult question: What’s a Donald Trump?

Having “the talk” about the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee won’t be easy, but it’s necessary. You want your kids to hear about him from you, not from other kids at school or, worse yet, from the omnipresent and omniperfidious man himself.

Why does the orange man want to build a wall? I thought bragging was bad manners? How come he keeps calling people stupid? That’s not nice!

If you’re a Trump supporter, the talk will be considerably easier, consisting largely of: “HE’S THE MAN WHO’S GONNA MAKE US ALL RICH AND MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN AND SEND SHILLARY CLINTON TO PRISON!!” After which you pat the child on his or her bright-red Trump 2016 hat and get back to blogging about how many people the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has murdered with her laser eyes.

But if you’re wary of Trump and his rhetoric, you have to gently explain to your child why the man who’s constantly on the television is saying what he’s saying.

To that end, writer, comedian and actor Michael Ian Black has given all Trump-concerned parents a useful tool: “A Child’s First Book of Trump.”

Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal in a style I’d describe as Seussically dystopian, this parody of a children’s book does a lovely and hilarious job of distilling Trump to his bare essence: narcissism.

Black writes: “It’s true! A Trump needs all of our noise to exist. Without chaos it shrinks to a sad, orange disc.”

And, of course: “Don’t respond to its brags, its taunts or its jeers; ignoring a Trump is a Trump’s biggest fear.”

Black said the idea for the book came to him, as ideas come to all great writers, on a trip to the bathroom. He passed through the children’s books section of a Barnes & Noble en route to the restroom and saw a chapter book about Hillary Clinton aimed at inspiring young girls.

“It sort of made me laugh because I was wondering, what possible inspirational book could you write about Trump?” Black said. “I sat down to write one, but the one I wrote was terrible. I wanted it to be funny, but it was kind of caustic and shrill. So I said let me go back and create something a little funnier and gentler and sillier.”

And that led to the rhyming, whimsical “A Child’s First Book of Trump,” with the central character looking a bit like Dr. Seuss’s Lorax with a swoop of hair covering his eyes.

As the book — which comes out July 5 — started getting publicity, I noticed Black getting blowback from a certain swath of Trump supporters. They’re rabid anti-Semites, and Black’s book was discussed on one website under the headline: “Sickening Jew Michael Ian Black Makes Anti-Trump Children’s Book for Stupid Goyim.”

This reaction all but demonstrates why it’s important to talk to kids about the Trump phenomenon. The virulent racism and xenophobia he has stirred up does not exist in a vacuum, and children are almost bound to hear about it or get some sense of what’s happening.

Black believes, and I agree, that people, children or otherwise, should know about the unsavory elements that have rallied behind Trump.

“Online, I had never experienced anti-Semitism before Trump became a candidate for the presidency,” Black said. “But suddenly, I and other people like me, meaning Jews, are experiencing that on a daily basis. I don’t know what that says.”

He continued: “My feeling is if you want to support Trump, fine, but understand who you’re in bed with. These are the people you’re throwing in your lot with. If these are the people who support the candidate you support, at least take a moment and ask yourself why, and make all decisions accordingly.”

And for those who bristle at Trump’s bluster, consider having a chat with your kids.

Whether it’s anti-Semitic internet memes or third-hand interpretations of Trump’s divisive rhetoric, your child is bound to be exposed.

Better they get an explanation of the inexplicable from a parent.

Or as Black writes in the book, “What is this strange beast you keep hearing about? Together, I think we can figure it out….”

(Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at rhuppke@tribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke.)

(c)2016 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump jokes about how difficult he says it is for him to listen to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s voice, as he holds a rally with supporters in Fresno, California, U.S. May 27, 2016.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

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