Explaining President Trump to my Kids
I spent the evening trying to prepare the news – how to tell them, and how to help them process. This is what came to me. Hopefully it can help others make meaning out of this and keep our heads up for the work ahead.
I love you so much and it pains me to share that Donald Trump is our President starting January 20th. Martin Luther King once said that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice. He understood that justice takes time and there is always resistance and set backs. This is a big, devastating one. I was shocked and sick as I absorbed the news.
But everything I have worked for is to prepare me and others for this time and this kind of struggle. The values we believe in are worth fighting for. And we need more and more people fighting for them. The people who get attacked because of their race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or immigration status are worth fighting for. We have raised you with the values to do so. It is time for me – for us – to step up and be the change, not to withdraw. When Lin-Manuel Miranda was asked last night if he would move to Canada, he said “F*** that! I love this country and we have more to do than ever.” We joke about leaving, but we are going to stay and fight for the people and the values we believe in. It is our America, not his.
This is how social change happens. It is never a straight line. There is always backlash (or whitelash as Van Jones called it), often setbacks. Dr King and the civil rights movement lost 3 big campaigns in a row between the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956 and Birmingham Children’s March in 1963. After the change President Obama represented and created, it is sad but not surprising that there are people afraid of that change and afraid of what America is becoming. Their racism and sexism are from the past. We will ultimately prevail but we must struggle first against the bigotry, fear, lies, and ignorance Trump represents and spreads. Bob Dylan says the darkest hour is right before the dawn. The forces against change have struck hard because dawn is coming.
America is changing. It is becoming more diverse. Each generation is more diverse than the last. Younger people voted for Hillary, older for Trump. Your generation will build the future. You are the future. You are the Obama generation, not the Trump generation. You will all be voting in the next two to five years. And you all have the ability to raise your voices and to act on your beliefs now.
America is not just a place, but an idea. The idea of a diverse nation where all people have equal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness within a democratic government that resolves differences ideally through compromise rather than violence. Each generation has fought to make the definition of the equal rights promised in the Declaration of Independence more inclusive. That struggle continues to build a more prefect union where all people can achieve their potential and pursue their dreams. I know you will be at my side now and in the future to help build that.
So while of course we are justifiably sad and angry and even scared, let’s also be strong and courageous and caring and kind. We have lots of friends of all backgrounds who share and will fight for the same values. I am proud of you because of your beliefs and how you treat others. We will reject bullying of people who are different. We will seek to help and fight for others who are less privileged or face other struggles. And we will win people to our cause and not just demonize others the way he does. “They go low, we go high” as Michelle Obama said.
Donald Trump wants to take us backwards. We will continue to push forward. So yes we are sad and angry and scared, but let’s be optimistic too. This is my 9th President – he will be your third. We will elect your fourth in four years and we will fight Trump and Trumpism until then and be part of a movement that removes him and replaces him with someone who shares our values. The arc will bend toward justice because we will help bend it. Keep your heads up.