I’m going to be a bit transparent and bear my soul for the (electronic) world, but mostly just for you for a minute (though you can’t read yet, but you will one day soon at the rate you guys are going!). I write as your dad. And I do so knowing that not everyone your dad knows will like this letter. But I’m banking on the fact that we can be honest with one another and still be together, right? That’s what we say, right?
Look, I was disappointed in the election last night. And not because a party won or lost, but because I really wasn’t sure what to do with the candidate that won.
And now, on the other side of Michigan’s electoral votes, I’m curious about the future, but I can afford to be. Because our President-Elect (who I now pray for and who will be our President) said some things that really trouble me, though they weren’t to me. And I have to be honest about that with you. That’s not to say none of the other candidates, including the primary rival, didn’t also say or do some things that made me cringe. But he said things about vulnerable people. He said things about people with disabilities. He said things about veterans, about our Muslim brothers and sisters, about our Mexican brothers and sisters, and about our Black brothers and sisters. His VP pick has done things that hurt our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
He said things about women that I never want to hear out of your mouths.
In fact, he said those things so loudly, that it was hard for me to hear the other things that he was saying, so I’m really confused today about what is next. Confused and curious.
But I know that others did hear him, and liked what they heard (what they liked and what they heard, I’m not sure, but it’s clear they did). And they, too, are our brothers and sisters, many of them, I think, in vulnerable situations, too. And I think that we share more common values than disagreements. I really do.
But you have to know something about yourselves, boys.
See, you’re middle class white kids in a country that’s still made for you. You don’t need to feel ashamed of that, by the way. But you need to be aware of it. The current world is situated for you, and your responsibility is to start situating it for all, with all. The risk for you in the world is minimal, save for those risks we all have associated with living: cancer, natural disasters, deranged individuals, and the hazards of driving with your grandparents.
And so, what I want to say about disappointment is this: though I am disappointed (and disappointed that we do not, yet, have a female Chief Executive as an example for you, though your mom is pretty good at filling the role), disappointment is something you must get used to. You don’t always get what you want, even when you feel you work really hard for something.
But I will be more disappointed if we somehow fail to help you understand two things:
- You live in community with other people, a community that is ever expanding, larger and larger. All of the following has to do with that, because no attempt at shrinking it will make it smaller. So you must get used to this. Know your words in this world have consequences. And your actions have consequences. So you must defend the weak and vulnerable. You must have courage to be who you are. You must look after your fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who are looked down upon or who are in vulnerable situations. That is your responsibility, no matter who is the Chief Executive of our country, because that’s what God and decency requires of us. And, if they’re worth their skin, they’ll look after you. That’s how good community works, and even if we’re not yet *good* at community, you can be good within community.
- Sometimes you’re going to be disappointed. And that doesn’t mean that you get angry (though anger is natural and OK in pieces) or get even (never OK). It means that you lean into your values of cooperation and love and respect and you do what you can, where you can. And you don’t have to hate or hurt people who disagree with you. They are part of your global neighborhood, guys.
The world you’re growing up in is more divided than ever. Some of that is because my generation and previous ones haven’t really learned how to disagree well with one another. We’re struggling with an increasingly globalized world in a way that we aren’t really prepared (or mature enough?) for in most cases. We’ve been fed that we must tolerate one another, when really what we should have been taught is how to love each other. We’re not yet comfortable with that.
And no amount of platitudes will ease this discomfort. What you must do is reach out to those different from you, however that difference is made evident, and be with them. You don’t have to stand for intolerance, but I don’t want you to just tolerate anyone, either.
I want you to love people, as you’re best able. And loving people means you don’t make fun of them, you don’t assault them, and you don’t generalize them. It means you listen and have dinner with them, and you pick up the tab half the time.
And yes, you can be snarky, but try to avoid cynicism. And yes, you can have strong opinions, but if your opinion becomes a personal attack, it fails to be an opinion and has devolved into a baser form of communication, which should be avoided at all costs because, well, you’re bright guys and are better than that.
We’re going to be disappointed sometimes, boys. But know yourself, and know who, when disappointment strikes, will feel the aftershock the most. And that’s who you look out for. And not because you are some sort of savior or guardian, but just because that’s where you’re supposed to be, by God.
Love you guys. Go Cubs!