A Letter to My Children After the Election
It’s the week after the election, and I’m still reeling. It’s an abnormal week in an abnormal year, and we’re all standing at the edge of an uncertain future. I’m going to break with my typical format this week, and read to you a letter I wrote to my children about the results of the election and how we can move forward into the future together.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Dear Hannah and Gabe,
I have been waking early these last days, filled with a hot dread in my gut that makes it impossible to sleep. A man whose presidential campaign has been characterized by hatred, sexism, racism, and the politics of rage and exclusion has been chosen to lead us. Already, the hatred is bubbling earthward like a seething lake of lava. Some of his supporters are finding it permissible to harass, intimidate, threaten, and bully anyone they perceive as weak or different. In the middle of the night, their hatred, born of rage, can feel overwhelming and impossible to bear.
But I must bear it, for your sake, the sake of our neighbors and friends, and for people everywhere, indeed for the sake of the whole planet itself. The planet needs us right now, to stay the course of our own beliefs, to love this world radically, and through that love, to transform it. Our planet needs us to resist becoming disfigured by rage. It needs us to remain open, to stand peacefully against hatred, to speak truthfully out of love, and to hold each other up. We can be angry—and we are—but we can’t allow our anger to burn itself into hate, because hate is a self-consuming flame. It will turn our hearts to ash.
I keep thinking this morning of the example of your Great Grandma Teddy, and how she went down to Selma, Alabama at another time in history when it seemed hatred was ascending. There she joined hundreds of others to march peacefully with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Just days before, marchers who tried to cross that bridge were tear-gassed and severely beaten by Alabama State Troopers. Children were blasted by fire hoses in the streets. These images played across TV screens all over the country, just as images of hatred and violence are flashing across our screens today. It would have been easy for GG Teddy to stay where she was, cushioned by her privilege, her wealth and her whiteness. But instead, she traveled down to Selma, where a black family hosted her, and where she went to hear Dr. King speak at the Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, and where the next morning, she linked arms with the crowds and marched defiantly across that bridge to meet the state troopers waiting for them on the other side.
Dr. King turned that march around that day, once they reached the edge of the bridge. They didn’t make it all the way to Montgomery—though later, another group of marchers did. And while there was no violence on the bridge that day, there was later that night, when Reverend James Reeb, a UU minister from Boston, was beaten to death by a mob of angry, ash-hearted men. But the marchers had made their statement—peacefully, non-violently, determinedly. And in doing so, they made love and justice triumph. That movement—Dr. King’s movement—forever changed the course of history.
We are at a similar juncture right now. And we no longer have Dr. King’s physical presence to help us. But we have his shining example, as well as GG Teddy’s, and of leaders of all kinds alive today who know what is right and good, and who are fighting for it. I take heart in their example, as I take heart in both of you, who know what’s right, and who show your own ways of loving the world in the kindnesses you commit every day. This is the way forward. This is the hope.
For now, we focus on doing what we can. You are children and should remain children, while we adults tackle the adult world. But even in your own worlds, there are gestures of peaceful resistance you can make—ways you can stand against hatred and speak truthfully out of love. You can make art and share it. You can resist bullies at school, refuse to react to their provocations. You can strengthen yourselves by being with your friends and family, singing, playing music, and just playing. And you can continue to learn by reading, listening, and thinking for yourselves. Finally, you can dream about the world you want to create, and about how you will bring your own gifts to help make that world a reality.
Meanwhile, Dad and I will be working to do what we can to bless this world in our own way. For as long as we live, we will protect you, love you, and do our best to guide you. Your loving goodness shows us the way.
Dr. King once said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” To this, I say Amen, which means, “So be it.” Together, we will work to make it so.
With all my love,