To My Children (on the eve of the inauguration of Donald J. Trump)
In just a few hours Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. For weeks now, following the election, you’ve been counting down:
“At least we still have 56 more days with President Obama!”
“37 days left.”
“He’s still our President for another week.”
“Another 5 days.”
“Two days left…”
And now here we are. Another 12 hours, give or take.
On the morning after the election, the first thing you said in the dark of your room when I came in to wake you was, “Who’s the President?” You had gone to bed the night before while Papa and I were still pacing the floor in front of the tv, wringing our hands and refreshing Nate Silver’s election predictor maps on our phones every 30 seconds. Sitting on the edge of your bed as you woke up, I struggled to even speak his name.
When I was your age, I knew that Michael Dukakis was running for President against George H.W. Bush but that was it. You have known more than I ever did. You knew who the candidates were and you also knew what they stood for. Admittedly you don’t understand terms like foreign policy or health care reform — and who does, really? — but you knew, on a level befitting your age, what was at stake on November 9th. And I was so grieved to tell you who and what had won the night before.
I don’t think that I was naive going into the election, though it could certainly be argued that I was. I know the ubiquitous if often undetected nature of White supremacy that masquerades under the cloak of other, more palatable things like “economic hardship” and “Supreme Court appointments.” I know because twenty years ago I’m certain that I would have considered voting for Trump under the guises of those things myself lest the liberals win out. No, it wasn’t that I didn’t think Donald Trump could win. It was just that I had allowed myself to hope so ardently that he wouldn’t.
I know that you don’t understand everything that is going on. Some days I’m not sure that I do either. But I know you are trying to puzzle everything out and make sense of it all and it might help if you think of this election as Book 4 in the Harry Potter series.
Books 1, 2, and 3 are full of the good fight, remember? Harry and Hermione and Ron battle the evil forces of the terrible Lord Voldemort and at the end of each of those first three books, they escape the clutches of the dark lord in a narrow but decisive victory.
At the end of fourth book, however, things take a turn. In Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, our heroes have been fighting valiantly for four long years and this time the dark side WINS. It wins. Cedric Diggory dies and the dark lord rises again.
It was devastating. Not because we didn’t know the depths of the darkness that would be embodied by Lord Voldemort at the end of Book 4 but because we had allowed ourselves to believe that no matter how grim things got, the side that was fighting for beauty and truth and life would eventually win out over that which manifested fear and ugliness and death.
But it didn’t happen.
And last November Hillary Clinton didn’t win. We chose instead someone who has been cruel and petty and spiteful and behaved in ways that are deplorable and unbelievably unkind. It shouldn’t have surprised us. Not really. But it’s still desperately sad.
That’s why people were crying. That’s why people are angry. That’s why people are taking to the streets and putting up a fight. Because that’s the work of Books 5, 6 & 7. The Harry Potter series didn’t end with Book 4. The darkness won in The Goblet of Fire, yes, but the story didn’t end there. There were still three more books yet to come.
Donald Trump will be inaugurated tomorrow. And we have no idea what will happen in the days ahead. But we do know this: the story doesn’t end here. We get to live out the next three books. We might be sad and scared and angry but there’s a good fight ahead. A fight for the destruction of unjust systems and oppressive tyranny. A fight for kindness and generosity. A fight for love and joy and peace.
Come, grab your wands!