When my son was born, I promised him I would make the world better for him when I leave it. I promised him that I would show him how to make the world better for others when he leaves it.
And early Wednesday morning, I felt like he had been failed.
You see, I have realized even more these past couple of days how crucial it is that I teach him how to be a kind human.
All across America yesterday and today, there have been numerous reports of harassment and assault against people of color. And it is not a coincidence when these harassers and assailants proudly tout a Trump presidency as justification for their actions.
These horrible actions are happening in schools. Schools. Children are raising their voices in hatred toward their classmates. We know where they learned this. We know who made it okay for them to do this.
But we also know that very few of these kids had parents literally say to them that it was okay to do those very things. No, these children learned from behavior. They learned from the conversations they overheard from their parents. They heard these things from their parents’ mouths, and they thought it was okay to take it public.
Over the next four years, my child will learn to walk, run, talk back to me, say no to everything, and repeat everything he hears. He will learn how to share (hopefully), maybe how to be an older brother, and how to interact with others. And it will not matter one bit what I tell him in trying to guide him through that, because he won’t be listening. He’ll be watching.
I cried over his crib at 1:00 in the morning yesterday. I cried in solidarity with all the mamas who fear for their children’s lives. The undocumented mamas who fear they will be taken from their babies. The black mamas who fear their babies will be taken from them. Because here’s the thing: I am afraid for what the future might look like for my boy, but he is a white male. In all honesty, he was always going to be okay. But I want him to make friends with people who don’t look like him. I want him to love people who think differently than him. I want him to be kind and curious with people who believe differently from him. Because only then will his white maleness not be a blinder to the privilege he was born with.
If I am faithful in my own life, seeking places of diversity, sharing with those who look, act, and believe differently, he will follow me.
But I’m still scared that won’t be enough.
I hope Donald Trump is voted out of office by a landslide in four years, but if he’s not, or if he’s set a precedent for future presidents, my son’s early elementary years will be under a presidency that will make for some very difficult conversations (as if difficult conversations with kids wouldn’t happen otherwise, I know). When the president calls a woman a pig, ugly, disgusting, or nasty, I will have to explain to him why a man we elected gets to treat people that way, but he doesn’t. When the president says that someone can’t do his job because of his race, I will have to explain to him why a man we elected gets to make “the textbook definition of a racist comment,” but that he must work not to allow such prejudices to root in his heart. When the president interrupts people all the time because he disagrees with him, I will have to tell my son that it’s not okay to interrupt his classmates or teachers for the same reasons, despite the example of the man we elected. Our leaders should not be people whose behaviors, words, and attitudes we have to actively teach against. I’m scared. And I know this is not the way of Jesus, but I’m scared. I know that fear, anger, and uncertainty are what led to these election results, but I’m still fearful, angry, and uncertain.
I want to make it clear to my friends and family members who got the results they voted for: I know you’re good people. You brought me to Jesus and you continue to bring me to Jesus every day with your words and actions. But I will not stop calling out injustice when I see it. I will not stop calling on you to speak out against the words and deeds of extremists in the Trump camp because I want the same expected of me. When Christians or white Americans commit awful deeds, I want to be held responsible for calling out those deeds, because I am of that camp.
For any hurt that I’ve caused, I want you to know I’ve never meant to direct my anger toward you. Ideologies and policies are what I hate. But if you feel that my vitriol is still directed toward you because you support those policies and ideologies, and therefore identify your self with them, then I want to find a way to deal with that. I want to find a way to believe the way we want and still sit at the same table.
I am not ashamed of my feelings. I’m deeply jealous that others in my life have found a magical way to not post their feelings on social media, and maybe I will find out how to be that girl again. But right now, I don’t want to be silent.
For those of you who, though well-intentioned, have been sharing your platitudes about how “God is still in control,” you need to realize that it doesn’t really matter. God was “in control” when 11 million Jews were slaughtered, but that didn’t stop them from being slaughtered. God was “in control” when entire native people groups were murdered and kicked off their homeland, but they were still murdered and kicked off their homeland. God was “in control” when the first centuries of our land settlement saw unbelievable violations of human rights on a massive scale, but slavery is still arguably our deepest, darkest sin that history will not let us forget. I am going to choose to hope that we will not see that level of dehumanization on this land again, but please know that whether or not God is in control, people are still going to be abused, and those words do not eliminate their pains and fears.
God is in control of the ultimate destiny of creation, but we are very much in control of the quality of life for that creation right now.
And finally, I want to say that I’m sorry for the number of times I rolled my eyes at #notmypresident or “I respect the office of the president, but I don’t respect the president” or how often you spoke of the doom our country was headed toward under Obama and the sick feeling you’ve lived with for eight years. I’m sorry, because now I’m one of you.
And finally-for-real-finally, if it’s not too late, I’m ready to listen to you, if you will listen to me.