Teaching Hope Instead of Fear

Tuesday, as I was watching President Obama’s Farewell Address and crying like a baby, I realized that I was scaring the shit out of my kids. That’s not entirely correct. The thought of president-elect Trump doing everything he’s said he will do has scared the shit out of my kids, but my fear and my real live tears and my legitimate mourning of our current president (and, you know, FREEDOM) are not helping. At all. My children are afraid. All my flailing and worrying and mourning is affecting my kids. I, like many of us, have hoped against hope that Trump would actually be held responsible for his words and actions. We have hoped that his ties to Russia, his misogynist language and actions, his inciting of violence and bigotry would keep him from office. But he is a rich white male of immense privilege… and therefore, we all know that ain’t gonna happen. So, as much as I abhor the reality of a Trump POTUS… it’s happening, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

Except. We can act. We can be the change we want to see. We can resist. We can protect each other. We can allow our voices and our art and our strength to rise above all the hate and vitriol out there. We can resist the desire to behave the way our president-elect behaves and we can choose to go high, rather than go low. We can focus on the good.

This was part of what made me sob through President Obama’s speech. He’s still preaching hope. In spite of it all—or perhaps because of it all—he’s going forward on hope. On the belief in progress. On the belief that we have the power to make sure that our country still makes progress.

I have a lot to learn from President Obama.

So. Now I need to figure out how to stop freaking my kids out. Now I need to figure out how to find the hope in the darkness and show it to them. Now I need to figure out how to find the goodness buried deep within our dystopian novel of a country and work from there. I’m looking. And I’m going to teach my kids to look, too. And it’s there, friends. It’s hard to see through these muddy waters, but it is there. Just look around you. Look at your friends calling and writing their senators and state representatives. Look at the folks standing up for and protecting each other. Listen to President Obama and Vice President Biden. Look at the Writers Resist events taking place all over the country. Look at all the women’s marches taking place all over the country in conjunction with the big Women's March on Washington. Look at people coming together to help each other. They’re there. Especially in the face of the potential repeal of vital parts of the ACA… they’ll be there. And look at how art and music and writing respond in the face of this kind of sadness and confusion and oppression. Art rises up and holds us up. Art gives us the hope and inspiration we need to keep resisting and keep fighting.

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So this is what I’ll look for. Rather than teaching my children fear, I’ll teach my children hope and beauty and strength. I’ll teach my children to see above the hate. Not to ignore it, because we have to acknowledge it and look it in the face to fight it, but to also look beyond it to see the good that invariably rises up. I’ll teach my children that all is not lost if we are willing to do the work.

I’ll teach my children precisely what President Obama reminded me, as I cried, during his final speech. That we can’t get cynical. That we can make a difference. That fighting for what’s right is worth it.

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