Thursday, January 19, 2017

To my sons, on the last night of the republic

Little boys, I have so many things to say, and more things I don't know how to say. I'll start with I'm sorry. I'm so sorry there weren't enough of us adults who cared enough for you and your future to keep this from happening. I'm so sorry that we haven't yet figured out how to stop the hating, stop the fighting, stop the dividing and the judging. I'm sorry for any failing on my part that contributed in any way. I don't even know what I could've done differently, but I'm sorry for not knowing. I am equal parts heartbroken and furious that you may never remember America as it was under President Obama. While I do not think he was without fault or failing, I was proud to vote for him twice, and honored to call him my President. While the promises of his first campaign didn't all come to fruition, the message of hope took root somewhere in my being and carried me through eight years of progress and promise and the feeling that maybe we were going to keep our arc moving toward something better.

I've long been conscious of the weight of the responsibility of raising you to be good men in a world where those sometimes seem in short supply. Of raising you to be kind when assholes and bullies constantly get ahead. Of raising you to respect and protect girls in a culture that strips them of dignity in a thousand small ways every day. Of teaching you how to use your privilege as an umbrella to shield others rather than a weapon to subdue them. Now this weight has increased tenfold. It sits in my chest like a stone, it tightens my throat and makes my actual heart hurt sometimes. How can I carry your sweet spirits unbroken through the minefield of four years of the worst man, the biggest bully, being held up in front of you as an example of leadership and deserved victory?

I have always been an optimist, a pollyanna, a person who believes everything will be okay, but I'm scared. I'm scared and worried and angry and I feel helpless. I can feel my purpose diverging, splitting into two contradictory shapes. First, I can feel myself drawing in, circling up, pulling you close and wrapping anything I can use around you to shield you from all of this. It's my job to keep you sheltered and safe as long as you need me to do so. It's my job to let you be kids who don't have to worry about their country falling apart around them. I'm going to do everything I can to keep showing you the beauty and the good in this broken world, anywhere I can find it. Equally, I need to learn how to stand and fight. I am smart and pretty organized and really good at multi-tasking. I am not brave. I am not good at confrontation or argument. I don't like to rock the boat or tell other people what they should believe. But I owe it to you to figure out how to do and be all these things. I owe it to you to stand up for what I can, when I can, even when - maybe especially when - it seems pointless.

I have had my share of worries since becoming your mother, though admittedly less than most. I have had my share of doubts that I know what I'm doing, though also probably less than most. I have had my moments of fretting over the challenges facing you in the world as you grow up. But I never imagined I'd have to worry about this. I never realized I should fear the landscape of our country shifting beneath our feet, changing into something dark and frankly pretty terrifying. And for that, again, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't see it coming. I'm sorry I didn't know how to fight, or even that I should be fighting.

I still cling to a fierce hope that we will be sheltered and shielded from the worst of what's coming. I have to, to get through the days. I promise to do my best to carry you safely onward, to shield your hearts with mine, to shore up the foundation where it crumbles. No matter what happens, know that I love you both more than anything. You have made me and changed me and carried me, just as I have made and changed and carried you. Tomorrow I'm going to take your small hands in mine, and I'm going to face the storm, and I am not going to let go, no matter what.

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