To my beautiful sons,
Today, Donald Trump took the Oath of Office and became the President of the United States of America. He is now our President. These past few months my heart has been heavy with things I want to say to you, but, the words just wouldn’t come. The weight of the election has been like a muzzle on my soul. But there are things I want you to hear from me and I want you to know.
I saw Donald Trump say to a crowd recently, “I will be your voice.” He is not my voice. He does not speak for me or represent me in any way. You know enough not to be surprised by this, but still I want to be completely clear: President Trump does not speak for me. While I respect the office of the presidency I hold no respect for the man who now holds it. The vast majority of what he says stands in direct opposition to everything I believe. Over the next years, as you continue to grow into fine young men, you will be witnesses to deplorable behavior from our President. I know this, because we have been witnessing his deplorable behavior for months now. And, I am so very sorry for this. I can only hope that growing up in these days might inspire you more greatly toward goodness.
I have watched you as you have watched him during the election and in these weeks leading up to his inauguration. It has been especially difficult to see how it has impacted you, Ethan, for you are old enough to understand more fully. You watched debates and convention coverage with dismay. We had some difficult conversations about border rhetoric, the villainizing of Muslims, and disrespect toward women. (I never imagined it would in the context of discussing our future President that I would explain sexual assault to you.) My heart broke to see the look on your faces the morning after the election when you learned he had won. Ethan, you looked at me with tears in your eyes, puzzled and said to me, “Are you joking, mom? How can that be? I just don’t understand.” With each outrageous thing he said and with every hateful tantrum he publicly went on, I saw the confusion on your faces as you struggled to understand. How could someone with such bad manners become the leader of our country? After all, you guys would be grounded for months for speaking to people the way he does and about people the way he does. How could he be rewarded with the highest office in our land for such bad behavior?
It especially broke my heart to watch you try to understand how people you love could be supporters of his. Good people who have taught you how to be good humans voted for him and it confounded you. It confounds me too, boys, and I don’t quite know how to make sense of it either. I do know that our love for others should not be contingent on how they voted. And I do know that now more than ever, we have to figure out how to talk to people who think differently from us in ways that are for the common good. We have to think critically and be guided by kindness and compassion. We have to speak up and speak out, but also speak with humility and with grace. I am hoping we can help each other as we learn how to do this better.
As I’ve watched how Donald Trump has behaved and as I’ve listened to things he has said I am troubled. I am troubled by his lack of character. Most importantly, I am troubled because I don’t want you three to see his bad behavior as normal or acceptable. It is not. Never is it okay to mock people with disabilities. Never is it okay to objectify people based on their appearance. Never is it okay to impose yourself sexually on another person without their consent. Never is it okay to use your power to silence people who oppose you. Never is it okay to villainize groups of people to advance your agenda. Never is it okay to name-call or bully. Never is it okay to fear someone because they are different than you. Never is it okay to only think of yourself and your own gain. Never is okay to treat your words as if they do not matter. Never is it okay to act, or speak, or behave as you have seen Donald Trump act, speak, and behave. It is not normal. It is not presidential or patriotic. It most definitely is not Christian. It is not okay.
I am also troubled because I don’t recognize the America he talks about. However, it resonates with a whole lot of people and that makes me curious about their pain, about what has brought them so low. He talks about how bad things are and how he will lead a movement to “make America great again.” It is the “again” part that I really get hung up on because I’m not sure what point in America’s history he’s trying to return to. And no matter what point in our history it is, I am certain I don’t want to go backwards. I don’t want to go back to when we bought and sold humans as slaves, to when we denied people of color basic human rights, to when women were denied the right to vote or the right to make decisions about our health, to when discrimination was legal, or to when the marriages of gay and lesbian couples were not legally recognized. I believe our country has continually progressed toward truly being the land of the free – not freedom for some select group of citizens but freedom for each and for all of us. And that makes us already pretty doggone great. And yes, there is more work to do to continue to progress toward the ideals upon which this nation was founded.
You may grow up to hold very different political beliefs, and ideological beliefs, and theological beliefs from me. I hope you will feel free to grow into your unique identity without worry of my approval and love. I will love you regardless of whether you mirror my liberal, Jesus loving, social-justice advocating self or not. My disapproval and disappointment with Donald Trump is about far more than politics. It is about him as a person. I hold no fear that you will become such an immoral person. And I hope that how you live your life will by your very nature stand in opposition to the darkness Donald Trump is emblematic of.
I know that you are a little scared about what Donald Trump will do as President. I want to tell you that everything will be okay. But honestly, I have no idea what will come to happen under his presidency. He will have a lot of power. My only hope for him is that he will show better judgment of how to yield such power than he has yet shown us. I can tell you that I am not afraid. My peace and my hope are not dependent upon the actions of our Presidents. While he has great power, he does not have power over my soul. My peace and my hope come from God alone. And everything I know about God, everything I know about what it means to follow Jesus, tells me that I am to stand up for the poor, the oppressed, the imprisoned, the stranger. The very people our President speaks such fear, hatred, and disrespect of. The foundation of my understanding of who God is, is love. So, I will continue to love in the biggest, and bravest, and boldest ways I know. And I hope you will see that, and will find that love worthy of mirroring in your own lives.
I can’t wait to see you help change the world for the better. You have so many advantages in life. I hope you never take them for granted but rather use them for the common good; that you never suffer from an poverty of spirit that shows itself as greed or fear; and, that you use all of your heart, soul, mind and strength to serve the God we know as Love. For there will come a time when you are the ones whom children will be watching. Don’t, not even for a second, be fooled by the power of President Trump into being like him. Be you. Be the lovely and loving Ethan, Turner, and Carter that I know could teach Donald Trump a thing or two about being a good human.