These are the first words my five year old uttered the morning after my compatriots voted a racist, xenophobic, sexist, bully as America’s next president. I’d been up all night thinking the same thing.
My Dutch and German friends had already sent word that they had extra bedrooms, as they offered condolences. My husband merely muttered, “Well, look at it as a chance to start anew. Now we have an excuse to go most anywhere.”
Like our ancestors, the thought of escapism has never been far from our reality. Our family survived because my great grandparents, and in Eddie’s case, parents ran from unchecked power rampaging eastern Europe. But despite my threats of leaving when W and his people muscled their win from the Supreme Court, despite the renewed frustrations when he actually won again, I have stayed here in the United States. One’s heart country exists in the soul. We breathe our citizenship. We feel the power of our highs and lows in our guts.
But this vote feels different. My boys, children who have lived their lives knowing an African American man can be our leader, watched the election results come in last night. They cheered when our state upped Clinton’s electoral votes by 55. And they fell asleep believing that they would see a woman win this battle. And as they dreamed of scoring soccer goals, I sat on my couch wondering how to deliver the news gently, without rubbing in the fact that our country, the one they gleefully cheer for in World Cup events and the Olympics, voted for fear and hatred and bullying and intolerance. The exact traits I have worked hard as a mother of boys to undo.
An activist friend said to drill Martin Luther King Jr’s idea to “realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” And yes, as an activist, I want that to be a lesson I teach my boys–that together we fight against intolerance and hatred.
But I also don’t want them to think that it is ok to support a democracy that has been usurped by the fascist ramblings of a narcissist whose supporters have spray painted nazi symbols across our country this morning.
So I am looking toward other lands for guidance, wondering, like my five year old, where we can go to continue teaching our boys to be good men. I want the essential components of multiculturalism that we thrive on in our community to be a no-brainer. I want them to be able to marry who they want, and accept others who choose to follow paths unsanctioned by the religious right. I want my boys to know that it is not alright to grab a woman’s pussy, or insult a person’s disabilities, or hate someone because their skin is darker than theirs. I want them to understand that we are citizens of the world and our actions have larger impact than we know. I need them to live in a culture that aims to lessen the impact of climate change, working together to heal the planet. But I don’t know how to continue to offer these lessons in a country filled with hate and fear of the other.
This morning, when I think of protecting my sons, and helping to raise them to be the best humans I can, I think of the Niemoller quote that I have taught in my university classrooms for years: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I am here to speak for my boys. And in that place as a mother, I wonder if leaving the land I love before it become a wasteland is sometimes the best way to endure.