A note to my sons on the night before the Women's March
Hi, guys. I've been thinking a lot about this march, as you know, this week...and last week...and the week before...and as the day gets closer, I'm feeling pretty anxious about leaving you and traveling to Washington. I know you will be safe with Dad (winter camping! how awesome), and I'm going to do everything I can to keep myself and your Aunties safe in Washington. I've been reading and preparing and talking to everyone I know who's ever been involved in a protest march, so at least I'm ready mentally.
I wrote that long post yesterday, full of all the high-minded reasons that I'm marching. As I thought about it last night, I felt uncomfortable with that post. Like it was a re-hash of all the things other people have written. Even more, I feel like a phony-baloney. You know I'm not really an activist, or at least I haven't been. For example, I cried and cheered when the Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality for gays -- I was so happy for people I love who finally had the same rights as me! -- but the truth is, I didn't do anything to bring about that change. Others did. Other people fought really hard and gave up time with family and friends and spent lots of money and had horrible things said and done to them in order to gain those rights. And that's the way it's been through time. People like me stand and cheer for the ones who really sacrifice. But we don't get into the mix.
Change is coming. Likely really big change, social and economic, and some of it will be painful to witness. Freedoms will be taken away from some people in order to make others feel better. The truth is, though, it's unlikely our family will be directly affected by the changes that this new government wants to make. This is our privilege. Our family is white, middle class, college educated, and heterosexual. We have many options.
But here's the thing that's changed in me over the last couple of years: I have realized the responsibility that comes with privilege. I know that even if I'm not personally adversely affected by a law that's overturned or enacted, or even if I enjoy some benefit from that change, someone else will suffer. And I'm not okay with that. I believe, as Martin Luther King, Jr., said often, that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We need to take care of one another. And I need to get into the mix.
You know how I read a lot of WW2 and dystopian books, right? I think I'm so fascinated with these books because I always wonder if I have what it takes to stand up for other people, knowing that it could mean punishment, suffering, or death for me. Would I be able to harbor a Jew in my basement in Nazi Germany like the family in The Book Thief? Could I be strong enough to keep my family alive through starvation times, like the sister in The Nightingale? Or, like the other sister in The Nightingale, would I be brave enough to lead strangers through the dark and cold to safety? Would I even be smart enough to know how to help families flee to safety, as in Number the Stars?
I don't know. And I hope I never have to learn. What's in my heart, though, is love and peace, and I'm going to do all I can to let love and peace guide my actions in the coming years. I have lived long enough to realize that love and peace don't just happen by accident. Remember Monday when we talked about Martin Luther King, Jr.? You both told me you'd seen his "I Have a Dream Speech," and your teachers talked about how he worked for peace. Do you remember what I told you? Martin Luther King, Jr., worked against injustice. He was hated by many people, feared by those in power, because he threatened their comfort and way of life. He did not sit around patiently singing hymns and waiting for justice, though; he wasn't the pacifist "can't we all just get along" man that's been portrayed in recent history. He actively spoke and risked and ultimately died opposing laws and beliefs that he knew were wrong.
I'm not going to Washington to yell about Donald Trump. I've told you that more than once. I'm going to stand up for justice for all people. One of the tenets of MLK's nonviolent protest is this: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people. This is a really important concept that we have to keep reminding ourselves throughout the next few years. I might need you to help me remember this, too, because sometimes I just get so angry! It's really easy to get mad at people, though, without realizing all the forces at work around those people. So let's remember this together: Fight the forces of evil, not the people who do evil. Think about what happened to Anakin Skywalker, right? He was a regular person who became fearful and angry and turned toward hatred for power. Darth Vader was definitely a bad dude. But ultimately, he was just a dude. And even he realized, in the end, that he'd been on the wrong side of history.
In our country right now, the forces of evil -- fear, hatred, anger -- are motivating a lot of people and making them feel powerful, starting with our new President and trickling right down through our neighborhoods. And those forces are acting on people like me, too, who consider ourselves liberal and progressive and on the right side of history. I am afraid, no question, and I am angry. But we're all just people, no matter who we voted for our what we believe to be right. We need to do all we can to resist those forces of evil and to remind all people that love is so much stronger. Love is much easier to bear in the long run, too.
Love and peace, when activated, will spark justice. And tens of thousands of people resisting the forces of evil will show anyone who's paying attention that we mean it. That's why I'm going to Washington.