You saw me cry the morning after the presidential election, and since I don’t often cry in front of you, I am sure that left you feeling at least a bit confused and helpless. While you were in school that day, I pulled myself together and worked to shift my mindset. I believe in honoring what needs to be felt and then moving on—I never stay stuck in a disempowering place for too long. I have been deeply introspective over the past few days, trying to find the words to express how I feel and the things I want you to know. There is so much more I want to tell you, but we will start here. I had a fear-based initial response to the outcome of the election and when you are in fear, you also tend to show up in judgment. I was responding emotionally to what I perceived to be a devastating, potentially irreparable loss for both our country and humanity in general, and for the first 8 hours I was looking for someone to blame. Instead of getting too wrapped up in the blame spiral because I recognize its toxicity, I decided to ask myself some very important questions.
- How did I want to show up in this critically important moment?
- Did I want to add fuel to the fire and feed the despair and fear so many (including myself) were feeling?
- Did I want to widen the divide of the people around me, all of whom—regardless of their political preferences—deeply, deeply love this country for reasons that they believe are the “right” reasons?
- Or, did I want to show up as the newly galvanized beacon of hope and love that I believe the world needs more than ever?
- How could I, using my moral compass and value systems as a guide, lead the way?
When you ask yourself such deep questions, you can’t turn the mirror outward. It has to sit squarely with you and you have to look it right in the eye. Blame is the easy way out. It’s an often circuitous shortcut, and doesn’t get you anywhere. Introspection and truth are so much more difficult, yet direct and effective. Instead of lashing out when faced with adversity, grief, anger, and strife, I hope you can always guide yourself to look inward first.
This election cycle has been BRUTAL for so many groups of people—women included. It has been a painful year to be a conscious woman with a conscience. I realize now that no matter the outcome of the presidential election, I was going to go through some stages of grief. There would be no perfect outcome for me, and that had absolutely NOTHING to do with party allegiance or the election itself. (*We win some and we lose some in politics. It is part of having a free, democratic society and we can’t have one without the other. For the record, I have now “lost” four times in my voting life and “won” only three. I have never cried over the results of an election until this week.) This entire election cycle was unprecedented in the way the public was pandered to, the way the fear and divisiveness was perpetuated, the way so many categories of people were marginalized and discriminated against, and the way our president elect not only views, but acts towards women. You would do well to remember this: hate begets more hate, violence begets more violence, sexism begets more sexism. No matter the outcome, I knew there was going to be large-scale civil discord. How could there not be after all we endured? All we heard? As much as we want to say we have progressed (and in many ways we have), we are still, at heart, an extremely racist and sexist nation and that is really painful for me. When you give unfiltered, unfettered hate and fear media coverage and a 24/7 stage for 18 months, it doesn’t go away quietly. That’s how terrorist groups get started—you play to people’s biggest fears and you give them a false sense of belonging, hope, and acceptance. We don’t get to just put the lid back on that box and tuck it back in the closet now. We gave the rabid dog too much leash and now we have to deal with the consequences. Hateful people have been given literal and metaphorical permission to act on those impulses by the incumbent leader of the free world. There was no way to harness that energy and get ten pounds of shit back in the five-pound bag on November 9. That is one of the things that upsets me the most. People I love deeply— people who want little else from this country than to be able to show up in their different hued skins, worship peacefully in their chosen tradition of worship, and love who they want to love without fear of recrimination—those people are now afraid. And justifiably so. They have been put in a petri dish and we have been told they are poison. Not okay.
I want to remind you of the tenets we live by in our house, because they are going to help us be the best people we can be in the days, months, and years to come. While this list is not all-inclusive, it is certainly a solid start.
- Fear and worry are wasted emotions. Nothing has ever gotten accomplished because someone spent all of their time and energy being scared shitless. And, likewise, worry doesn’t get anything accomplished either. Use that energy to manifest change and add something positive to the world around you.
- Words matter. The internet has made it way too easy for people to be reactive and fire their cyber bullets. Be thoughtful with the words you say and be respectful in your disagreements. Don’t ever silence your beliefs—speak your truth and speak it loudly and respectfully without being pious and condescending. One of the truest signs of maturity is the ability to disagree with someone while still remaining respectful.
- Trust and respect are earned. This is true of friendships, intimate relationships, and politics. Don’t blindly put your faith in something or someone that has not proven themselves worthy of your love, devotion, and your vote. When people show you who they are, believe them.
- Ask deep, thoughtful questions and practice active listening. We need to commit to listening to understand, not listening simply to respond. It is times like this, when the cacophony is more than any sane person can tolerate and everyone is vying to be heard, that the world needs voices of reason. Let the screamers scream. We can be on the other side of the curtain peacefully and maturely trying to figure out ways to listen and ways to lead.
- Be a beacon not a bystander. If you witness bullying and injustice, stand up and do something. If it’s not safe for you to intervene personally, report it immediately! I don’t want you to recklessly put yourselves in harm’s way, but we cannot turn a blind eye to racism, sexism, classism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia. As Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
- Look within first. If you are feeling triggered, look within. If you are feeling angry, look within. If you are feeling sad or vengeful or disappointed or confused, look within. It will be tempting to blame and point fingers and label, but don’t start there. You have within you the answers to almost all of the questions.
- Educate yourselves, do research, and check your sources. Nothing in life is as simple as a tweet or a meme would like you to believe. Dig deeper. Don’t pass on misinformation or rumors. Fill your minds with quality information from reliable resources. One of my favorite sayings is “garbage in, garbage out.”
- Choose your role models and the behavior you emulate carefully. Instead of reality TV stars and celebrities, let’s blaze different trails. Let’s also remember we have the power to BE the role models. The really meaningful things in life are never televised and doing what’s right isn’t always easy…remember that. We’re not looking for kudos, glory, or pats on the back—we are good citizens who are guided by a strong moral compass.
- On matters of leadership: Remember that the role of a leader is to reduce fear and increase confidence; something our president elect would do well to remember since he has really botched this one so far.
- At every turn, notice the good, live with gratitude, and keep the faith. What you focus on, grows. If you focus on negative, I guarantee you will have more negative in your life. If you focus on the positive, your life will be rife with moments to celebrate.
This is about politics, but more importantly it’s about being principled.
Politics is something I want you both to be well-informed and well-read in.
Principled is how I want you to live your lives.
What it ultimately boils down to is this: DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE. It is so, so easy to be a Grade “A” Turd—especially on the internet, but it is equally as easy to be a person of character and integrity. Choose the latter and you will never go wrong. Your father and I model exemplary behavior for both of you and we hope you are paying attention.
P.S. This whole election, from start to dismal and embarrassing finish, has me feeling powerful in ways I did not know was possible. I am aligning myself with new, like-minded people, joining groups committed to ensuring equality for all (marriage equality and equality for all POC), groups that spread kindness and love instead of hate, and groups dedicated to protecting a woman’s right to govern her own body. It is Order of the Phoenix and Mockingjay time for your Momma (Harry Potter and Hunger Games references if you are feeling confused)! Please know that my ascension into “activism” is largely for you. I cannot sit silently right now. I am woke. There is too much happening that is in direct conflict with my values and beliefs, too much at stake for you as young women. Where I don’t expect you, at your ages, to join me, I hope you will support me. Hopefully, my growth will encourage your growth in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps it will someday inspire you to take a stand of your own. My sole goal is to make the world a better, kinder, more loving place for the both of you and your generation of friends and loved ones.
I love you more…