Leaving a Legacy of Civility
I’ve been looking at this photo a lot lately. It seems to be popping up in random places as I’ve been around the internet, taunting me, almost. It’s iconic in a way that can define a Presidency, not only that, but a man. It is a legacy. I wish I could have been a part of that moment. I wish I could have taken my daughter to be part of that moment. I see that picture and there are words that rush to my head that I find myself longing for now, words that inspire me now to action.
Earlier this week I mused on twitter that I am afraid of the day that I have to explain the transition from President Obama to President Trump. Becca is six, so she understands a lot for her age, and we’ve already had plenty of conversations about the Presidency, and she was pretty upset when she found out who “won” on November 9th. She has a short memory span though, so of course she quickly moved on to other things. Some day, she’ll understand more of what is going on, and it’s that conversation I’m afraid of. It’s the “Dad, how did we get here?” that I’m just not sure I’m yet equipped to be able to fully explain.
Since her birth Becca has been a part of communities that have celebrated inclusion of a variety of racial backgrounds. She spent the majority of her first five years in a non-profit daycare that my wife works at which offers free childcare to single mom’s so that they can go to school. Becca, a Caucasian girl of mostly Polish descent, was in the minority (currently six out of twenty-three children are Caucasian). She met her best friend Anayah, who remains her best friend to this day there, and her heart for people of all colors is inspiring to me in ways that I cannot fully quantify. I have never heard Becca utter a word asking about why someone looks different than her. It’s almost as if she legitimately does not notice. This year she started Kindergarten in our neighborhood’s public school — a decision I’m even more proud of now that we have someone who is Anti-Public School as our Secretary of Education — and while the demographics of her class are now significantly more slanted white (two-thirds of her thirty-student class is Caucasian), she still has the same “love everyone the same” attitude.
This week, when our current President told a Jewish reporter to “sit down” and refused to answer his very legitimate question, or asked a black reporter if she “knew the Congressional Black Caucus” and followed that with “can you set up a meeting with them?” I was shocked. I was disappointed. And I was sad. How did we get here?
I found my mind wandering back to something Van Jones said the night of the election. He spoke about how, at least in part, the election of Donald Trump was a “white lash.” I don’t pretend that is the only reason, I know it’s not. But when I hear our President treat people of different faiths and different racial backgrounds with such disrespect, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Mr. Jones knew what he was talking about. I know plenty of people who voted for Trump, some who are wavering for various reasons, and some who are sticking with him, and I can’t say with any certainty that this would apply to them, but I can’t help but wonder when our President treats people this way, what kind of message does that send to the rest of the country? To our children?
I want to get back to that picture at the top of this post. That’s the kind of country I want to leave for my daughter. It doesn’t have to be a democrat (though at this stage of my life I’d certainly prefer it), it just has to start with being a good person. You and I don’t have to agree on anything else, I just want a good person in the White House, and the civility that comes with being a good person. To get there, the work needs to start now.
I know I’ve made my mistakes in the past of being hyper-partisan, and I’m going to do my best to keep that to a minimum. Instead, I want to offer alternatives, and bring back civility and hope. But I can’t just sit on the sidelines and offer arm-chair quarterback molotov cocktails from the comfortable safety of a keyboard. It’s time to get in the game, and I don’t just mean with my wallet or a protest sign (not that those things aren’t important… they certainly are, I just am challenging myself to do more.)
Over the next several weeks and months, my “activism” will begin to take a more tangible shape. The commentary will transition more to action, and I’m looking forward to what that looks like. I can’t share exactly what it looks like yet as not all of it is mine to announce, but it is something I have long wanted to be a part of. I will say this; unity is still possible. Even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything, we all can still treat each other with respect and be good to each other. We need to continue to listen to each other and try to find common ground. It starts with civility.
Let’s get back to leaving a legacy that we can proud of. One that we want to share with our children.