This is what happened last night when we elected Donald Trump to office:
We made women who have been sexually assaulted relive feelings of shame and impotence. We reminded African Americans who have been targeted, belittled, and ignored that their lives really don’t matter to some. We told immigrants and Muslims that they are unwelcome, mistrusted, and feared. We validated every cruel thing ever said to people with disabilities or differences. We made the LGBTQ community fear for their freedoms, their families, and their safety.
We let the bullies win.
There are many people in our country who are hurting. I’m one of them. It’s hard to feel optimistic about our future right now . So many people have fought so hard over the years to bring justice to those who are marginalized and victimized. It feels like we have just been pushed down a mountain whose summit we were about to cross.
I think many people in my generation felt as though our children would come of age in a society that was more tolerant, accepting, and understanding than it has been at any point in our history. We thought we were working for change so they wouldn’t have to. It’s a crushing feeling to think we are giving our children so much less than what could be.
But – maybe they can give themselves the world they deserve.
I haven’t been able to hide my disgust for Donald Trump from my kids. I explained that it was because he is a bully and they understood. When my eight-year-old found out he won, she was crushed – kids don’t like it when a bully wins. As I was comforting her, I asked her if she knew what we, our family, had to do now. Immediately, she said, “No! We have to say no when he tries to be a bully.”
My girl is an expert at saying no. She says it with force and conviction: “NnnnnO!” She’s been saying it to me for seven years and has pretty much broken me with it.
She also knows what it means to be kind and inclusive. So do her sister, and her cousins, and her friends.
I’ve started to wonder if, even though this election taught them that bullies do win and can win big, maybe it will also teach our children that even the smallest act of saying NO! to injustice is winning too.
I’ve also started to wonder if building a better world on behalf of our children matters less than teaching them to make their world – the one they live in now – better. The world they create now is the world they will bring with them as they grow into adults.
I’m grieving for our country, and I’m panicking over the direction our social, economic, and foreign policy will take. My fear that our society is about to become much less stable hasn’t abated.
But woven through the sorrow and fear is a thin silver thread of optimism. So much is out of my power right now, but I can do one thing: I can continue to raise girls who say NO! to injustice.