Hypocrisy in America: An Open Letter to My Future Children
Children, oh children, I don’t know you yet and won’t for a long time, but I already want to prepare you for what I hope does not lie ahead.
I sit today in the year 2016. Nearly two weeks ago, my country (that will one day be yours) chose Donald J. Trump as its next president. I won’t lie, children, I was numb. And then I grieved. I was not surprised but I grieved. I grieved for my future as a woman, as a bisexual. I grieved for my friends and family who are those things and many many more. I grieved for the country I had hoped you might one day inherit (that you may yet build); I grieved for the progress I thought we’d made and could still.
There are many hypocrisies in this country of ours. Yes, ours, because in spite of the anger that leaks from every seam of the United States these last weeks, this country is mine and it will be yours too. I want to teach you about the things that we Americans say and do. And remember as you read: Actions speak louder than words.
THE FIRST HYPOCRISY: Love.
In your life, what I hope will be your long life, you will meet many people who say they love you. Some will mean it with all their being, others will wax and wane, and the untrue will never mean it at all.
At some point, a day will come along that proves definitively whose love is true and whose is not. The election was one of those days, as were many of the days following. (There have only been thirteen days since that day, children, and so I imagine that by the time I know you, I will have many more stories of love tested and lost.) Friend turned on friend, sibling on sibling, parent on child and some of our connections snapped under the pressure. And I will tell you why.
Those of us who ask only for equality have been utterly betrayed by people who said they loved us. Who proved, by electing this man, that although they say they love us they do not truly care for our well-being. If they did, they would fight tooth and nail to protect us — because we fight tooth and nail for ourselves, because we live in a world where we must fight tooth and nail. And so we close ranks, we protect ourselves, and our betrayers scream in the night: We love you! But we love ourselves more. (At times the refrain and the accompanying calls for reconciliation begin to sound like the Big Bad Wolf, begging the Little Pigs to let me come in!)
Some people I thought loved me have tried to defend their tolerance of this new administration, one that already shows so much hate so early (as of today, a white supremacist has been named a chief advisor; a Southern bigot from my own state is likely to be the Attorney General). They tell me they prefer to “reserve judgment,” or “refrain from commenting.” Beware these people, children. If they will not shout loud and long to condemn those who wish to hurt you — and there is no question this new administration means to hurt many, many people — they do not love you.
This is a lesson for you as well, children. If you are not willing to shout loud and long to condemn those who wish to hurt the people you love, do not lie and say you love them. Do not argue and tell them to bide their time and watch the future unfold because nasty promises may not become nasty actions — these platitudes mean nothing to people under attack. Shout.
THE SECOND HYPOCRISY: Morality.
I cannot yet say, children, whether I will raise you to any God (as I seem not to have suffered for lack of faith), but religion and morality are persistent and slippery bedmates in this country of ours. It is true that most of the Founders intended a nation operating according to their own Christian morals, but it is also true that they wrote of Africans as being less than human. Some ideas do not deserve the adherence of those who follow.
Our country has managed to evolve on many important points of morality; we no longer claim ownership over our fellow human beings, or applaud corporal punishment by schoolteachers, or refuse to allow women out of the house alone. This evolution is a good thing, children, but never be fooled into thinking that our moral work is done. The central tenet of our founding philosophy is freedom for all, and we must honor that with the reverence due a beautiful dream backed by the knowledge we have accumulated in the centuries since the dreamers wrote.
Learn to recognize vestiges of that ancient morality, those things we now realize with horror are wrong, and speak up. When you see the remnants of slavery and segregation in incarceration practices, shout about it. When you see the remnants of female oppression in abortion restrictions, shout about it. Do not be silent in the face of those who would fling us backward.
No matter what faith or lack thereof you will be raised with, children, your morality will not be by halves. If you believe in the underlying goodness of mankind, you must act on it. Shout.
THE THIRD HYPOCRISY: Fairness.
Because I love you, children (and I do love you), I will not lie and say the world is anything approaching fair. Our siblings of color are hunted, our LGBT siblings are thrown from their homes, our immigrant siblings are told they are unworthy of new lives in this country built by immigrants on the flayed backs of native peoples. Unless you are heterosexual, cisgender, white men, this complicated power structure created by heterosexual, cisgender, white men will seek any excuse to treat you unfairly. And if you are heterosexual, cisgender, white men (as you may be), I charge you with the fight for fairness in spite of — no, because of — all your advantages in this world.
Do not give in to the temptation to justify apathy because it doesn’t happen to me. That is the thinking that has kept so many people oppressed for so many long years. Nor should you give in to the temptation to call for fairness based on a person’s relationship to you. All people deserve fairness because they are people, not because they are your child or your spouse or your best friend.
When people say to you (as they will, inevitably) that life is not fair, what will you do to make it that way? What action will you take against the oppressors to fight for your own life and the lives of everyone else in this world?
Do not be afraid. Do not watch idly as those in power rend our country limb from limb. Know in your souls that all people are created equal and deserve to be treated as such. And then?