An Open Letter to the Kid

It's been hard to write.

It's been hard to write fiction (gosh, my villains seem much too benevolent all of a sudden), it's been hard to write blogs (see last week's Amplification Day), and it's been hard to write to the kid.

The kid is still a toddler, and barely understands that there's a difference between dirt and chocolate. Politics is still a few months away.

But I feel like there needs to be something, you know? Something for the kid to look at, even after the fact, that might help make sense of times like these. So this is kind of a letter, I guess. In the form of a blog-post. Cross-genre, we'll call it. That sounds intentional and cool, right?

(Content warning: many of the links are to descriptions of horrifying acts performed by real humans. Also, hey, politics. Additionally, please note that the linked deaths are not by any means an exhaustive list of the times that people have been murdered for being the wrong color, having the wrong gender, or showing the wrong ability.)

Last weekend, in Charlottesville, VA, a group of white people, mostly--but not entirely--men, marched through the streets carrying torches and changing old spells to make people afraid.

The KKK was with them.

The group that has sometimes been called the "alt-right," but ought more properly be referred to as Nazis, that group was with them.

They had a permit, because we as a nation have decided that everyone has the right to peaceably assemble.

They had guns because Virginia has open carry laws, and apparently no one official was concerned enough to consider that the dubious marriage of "peaceable" and "handgun" might not end in wedded bliss.

There were counterprotesters, too.

They were religious leaders of multiple races.

They were veterans.

They were men and women and non-binary people.

Across the nation, white people watched, aghast, at this open display of hatred and baseless rage. Across the nation, people of color were unsurprised.

This isn't new. It's only recently less easy to ignore.

And yet, some people still ignore it. "I don't pay attention to politics," they say. "It stresses me out."

I try to be compassionate. Everyone everywhere is doing their best, I try to remember.

Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, a young man doing his best took a car and deliberately drove through a group of protesters. A young woman--32--was struck and killed. Her name was Heather Heyer.

Because she was white, and pretty, the nation noticed.

(Amadou Diallo, Ronald Madison, Kendra James)

On Facebook--will the kid have Facebook someday?--Heather's last post was "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention."

I saw the remarks her mother, Susan Bro, made at Heather's very public funeral. She was gracious, and kind, and firm. She asked that the watching nation stand up for good, and said that kind of legacy would be a good one for her daughter.

And I thought, what if it were my kid? What if I had to stand in front of thousands of people all looking to make my child into a martyr, even for a cause I believed in? Could I be so generous? Could I speak through the ice that would take hold of my heard, and beg people to be kind?

I hope I never find out.

I hope I never find out, but I also want to make sure that, whether I could show the grace Susan Bro has shown or not, my kid always believes that I could.

My child cannot apparently grow up in a United States that honors the history of those who have consistently been erased.

(Trayvon Martin, Duanna Johnson, Eric Garner)

But I am determined that they will at least grow up knowing that their mother will fight her own biases and those of others, and will not stand for oppression. They will know that my mother never got a chance to know her grandfather, because he died in Auschwitz. They will know that no one should ever have to experience the horror of losing a family member or friend to hatred and murder, regardless of cause, creed, race, or anything else. They will know that their duty, as a human being, is to learn and listen.

When they are afraid.
When they are angry
Even when they hate.

Learn. Listen.

Never let anyone convince you, any of you, that murder is in the service of a noble cause. There is no cause noble enough to justify a life removed by force.

Whatever happened to Heather Heyer after she died, or Alton Sterling, or Shantel Davis, or Islan Nettles, the people who love them wake up every day with a ragged hole in their lives. They have trouble breathing, sometimes, from how heavy this new, empty world is on their lungs.

"It's a fringe element," say the willfully ignorant. "No one is actually racist anymore."

Meanwhile, in a college classroom, a girl with dark skin and straight black hair is told to go back to Mexico. She was born here. Her parents are from New Delhi.

Meanwhile, in a recruiting department, someone tosses a resume into the recycling bin because it comes under the name "Haddaq." Later, at the bar, they joke: "I mean, I wouldn't even be able to pronounce it. Awkward!"

Meanwhile, across the world, people refuse to believe in the evil humanity is capable of, until it strikes them, until a pretty white girl is murdered for daring to say that hate is bad.

In the words of Douglas Adams, this is not her story.

It's the story of all of us. And now we must write the next chapter.

Let's make it a good one, hey? Love triumphs over all, all that jazz.

No matter how hard it is to write.


Also this music video: