The hardest part of our recent election came for me the morning after. Hungover from a long night of drinking in disbelief and fear, I woke up, listened for movement in my children’s rooms, lingered in the idea that I didn’t have to tell them. Maybe I could spare them the news, spare them the fear, the confusion, the truth that our country was clearly entering a darker time. I took pause in the absurd. I could ignore the situation. Election, what election?
I scrolled through headlines. Parody. Satire. I was looking at The Onion, right? Surely, NPR was playing a practical joke. My son entered the room. Almost as tall as I am, this ten year old is starting to resemble more teen than kid. “Who won?” he said frankly, hands deep in the pockets of the blue fleece bathrobe he loves.
Here it was. I wanted to first tell him he’d be safe, we’d be safe, the country would be fine, but I could tell he just wanted the one and only fact I could give, “Trump won.”
What else could be said? When you’re ten you don’t add an expletive after Oh. That was the only thing to add. Well, that and maybe, We are ______.
A couple hours later, after we dropped his sister off at a class, he and I would go to breakfast, talk about what all this meant. One of the perks of homeschooling, he wasn’t about to get on the bus; we had time to talk. Right now though, all we could do is look at each other and listen to the unknown in our silence.
He turned, went back into his room. His audio book, Goblet of Fire, clicked on. I heard his door close lightly. The bigger of our two orange cats smacked my hand with his paw. Not caring how I felt, how little I felt like moving, he reminded me it was time to be fed. His sister joined him, meowed, and started a dialogue between them aimed at moving me. I heard the dog stir patiently in her crate. I had to get up, face this day.
I walked past her room. She stirred. Let out one of her big I’m awake yawns. I took a deep breath, wondered how I should tell my six year, already a worrier, a man who speaks hate, assaults women, stirs violence, who doesn’t care about so many in our country and world won. How do I explain the most important values their father and I, the community we surround ourselves with, try to teach and model: acceptance, kindness, tolerance- not need apply to the Commander in Chief of our country.
“Mama, who won?” Were the first words out of her mouth. This time I did say we were still safe, assured her we would be okay. She didn’t understand how he could win. Asked if this meant everyone would have lots of guns.
Now, almost two weeks later, I am still unsure how to answer their questions and my own without dipping deeply into darkness. The future feels bleak. I wonder if those who voted for him are listening, hear his revised plans, the truth that he will make a better life for himself and the wealthy, for big corporations, and the majority of us workers will pay, in many ways, for them to prosper. I wonder as our planet’s fate spins even more into the hands of climate change deniers and pipeline pushers, how to keep myself from falling into passive living. It feels too big, too hard; it would be so much easier to ignore, tune out, and pretend I’m watching reality TV.
It’s our immediate future I’d be tuning out. It’s too big to ignore, and my family, all of us, will be a part of it no matter how much I wish to pretend otherwise. I wonder how many times in the coming days, months, years my kids will hear and see hate. Will it continue to be painted on our bike trails, on buildings, continue to come out of our “leader’s” mouths? I realize my children have never experienced racism, bigotry, misogyny, hate. I remind myself how many people in this country, how many children, don’t have their same story.
I know we will be changed and we get to choose how.
I know I need to listen to my children and for what they might hear.
I know I need to watch for what they might see.
I know I need to tell my children and myself, we must, more than ever, be light bringers, and then make sure I’m being one.
I know we must stand on the side of love and seek out more ways to help, accept, and give. I know we can’t just talk about it.
I know if we are determined to meet hate with even more love, we can change this country. Stop the spinning backwards. Propel us forward again. The conversations we have, the words we choose, the places we spend our money, our actions, and our contributions, matter.
Last week they saw the new rainbow bridge leading into our town; told me they loved it each time we passed. From the backseat, they agreed with each other, we need more rainbow bridges in our world.
They see safety pins, the one their father adorned with a little silver feather; they have their own, know they stand for help and hope and we are in this together.
They seek little signs of hope, like I do, and reminders of what can be done. The last two weeks, when things felt too hard, and all I wanted to do was shove the cats off the bed, tell them to fend for themselves, pull the covers up over my head, tell the kids we’re all just fine, I needed these reminders. I will continue to need them.
I can’t lose sight. We can’t. I remind myself of the privilege, my privilege, of having so much choice and freedom, and the hard work needed to keep light from burning out in our country. I choose to get up, speak fierce love, be informed, open my eyes and heart, help grow light. I choose over and over to work for and believe love trumps hate, always. For me it doesn’t feel like a choice, but it is, and I have to choose it, we all do, over and over again.
~ Kelly Sage