Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Letter to Help with this Hate

Earlier this year, I performed in a devised theatre piece, Self-Evident, directed and curated by Melissa McNamara, and created in response to the 2016 presidential election.

As part of that piece, I performed a letter I wrote to my 4-year-old daughter, Lena. In it, I tried to explain to her what's going on in the world post-election. I looked at it again today, sure that my words would be far too simple and easy to describe what happened in Charlottesville, what's happening everywhere. But I still believe what I wrote a few months back, I still think that it's our collective aversion to fear that fuels the anger and hate. I look into the vengeful, self-righteous white faces of all those tiki-torch toting men, and I see the little boys they used to be. Little boys who were taught that it wasn't ok to be afraid. Little kids who had to swallow their fear and put in its place pride, and anger, and rage.

So I'm offering this simple letter, written to my 4-year-old, as a way to think about how to talk to our children, and as a way to think about our own fear today. It's not THE answer, but it's an answer. It's a framework, a lens, a little piece of something to help us get started.

Dear Lena,

I love you. I know that ever since Jonah was born, you've had to share that love. But I think you know that I love you. I hope you always know that. I hope you always feel it. Sometimes I think my love will be enough for you to live in this world, but I'm afraid it might not be.

Do you feel afraid sometimes? I wish I could tell you that someday that'll go away, but the truth is, everyone feels afraid sometimes. Not just little kids like you. Big kids feel afraid too. And grown ups, even me.

When we feel afraid we have a choice about what we do. Some people, when they are afraid, they pretend they are not, and they talk with a louder voice, and they become mean, and they become angry.

You asked me why I don't like our new president. Let me explain it this way. I don't like our new president because he's one of these people who, when he's afraid, pretends he's not, and then he uses a louder voice, and he becomes mean, and he becomes angry. And when a person is angry, it's hard to listen, and when a person doesn't listen, it's hard to learn and it's hard to understand why he's afraid. When we don't understand why we're afraid, we're stuck feeling afraid. When we're afraid, it's hard to be kind.

And I believe that the only way all people can really live in this world together, is for us to be kind to one another.

So there's another choice we can make when we're afraid. It's what I try to do when I'm feeling afraid. I reach out for those people who love me, like Dada, or Aunt Erin, or Aunt Sarah, and I tell them, I'm afraid right now. And then we talk about it, and I do my best to listen, and understand. And the more I understand about why I'm afraid, the less afraid I feel. And when I feel less afraid, it's easier for me to be kind. I really wish that everyone would make this second choice.

Lena, when I first told you that I didn't like our new president, do you remember what you said to me? You said, maybe he just needs more time, mama. If he is new, maybe he just needs some time to work on being nicer.

I hope you're right, honey. I hope you're right. Your hope, that he can be better, your hope that people can be better, it makes me think that we're going to be okay.

And you know what? I think I change my mind about what I said before, I think that our love... Our love IS enough for us to live in this world.

I love you so much.

Always always,
Your Mama

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