3 Ideas To Transform Ourselves & Our World, Inspired By The First Time I Lied To My Daughter
I’ll never forget the first time I lied to my daughter. As I tucked her into bed on November 9, 2016, I told her that before she woke up, a woman would be elected president for the first time in the history of the United States. I thought about how she’d never know what it was like to live in a country that had only elected men to its most powerful office. She would become aware of the presidency as a woman sat in the Oval Office. For her generation, becoming president would seem more possible to a wider swath of people than ever before.
Instead, reality hit. I cried that night, and I cried again in the morning when I woke her up for school. My heart sunk when I tucked her into bed the night after the election. I remembered how hopeful I’d been just 24 hours earlier.
We’re a few days shy of seven months into the Trump presidency, an era that has been marked by bizarre tweets, outright racism, xenophobia, and not-so-subtle misogyny. His presidency has underwritten intolerance, allowing it to rise up like one of his buildings. It’s blocking the light, just like his buildings.
It’s true that this isn’t a new problem. Just as mushrooms are only a small visible part of the mycelium they spring up from, hate was there before Trump used his presidential campaign announcement as an opportunity to stoke unfounded fears about immigrants from Mexico.
If you’ve kept reading up to this point, I don’t need to go on. You and I agree that intolerance is wrong and on the rise in this country. We agree that this isn’t something we want our children to grow up with. So, what are we going to do about it?
We have to pay attention. Sure, the media does plenty of sensationalizing, but there’s absolutely crazy shit happening. We need to take action. I believe we will. I believe our children will grow up in a world more loving than we can imagine, especially in the current state of things. Maybe their children will be the ones who live in the world envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr, who wrote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
In order to create that world, we need to take action right now. Here are a few ways we can do that, as parents and as people:
“Go Over the Mountain”
My daughter and I went to a rally in our Connecticut town. Where we live, people are kind to one another. People drive fuel-efficient cars, pay for strangers’ coffee, and say hello in passing on the freshly-paved bike trail. In our town, it’s easy to believe Big Peace is possible because we have regular, direct experience with peace.
Our experience might not be the reality in communities just miles away, over a mountain that separates our town from the rest of the world. At the rally, a deacon from the local Catholic Church elicited applause when he told us we need to “go over the mountain.” Wherever you live and whoever you are, there is a mountain in your life. There’s a “them” to your “us.” Go make real friendships over the mountain. Go listen to people whose life experience is unlike yours. Some might have benefitted from the status quo more than you, others less.
As parents, we’re largely in control of how much our child sees the mountain. Is it possible to raise our children not to see the mountain? We can try.
The youngest of our children still dwell in the understanding we were all born with: we’re all one. Your fate is my fate. As we grow, we’re socialized out of this understanding. To adults, it might seem like an idealistic dream. Through working to regain this understanding for ourselves, can we keep it alive in our children?
Listening to NPR one spring morning, I heard an interview with a man who had served the US Army as an interpreter in Afghanistan. Because his work put him in danger in his home country, he moved to the United States. When he arrived here, he thought he would be met with gratitude. He said he thought there might be a special tea to welcome him. Instead, he was treated like a criminal. His body was searched and he was interrogated.
Not long after I heard this interview, I saw a post in one of the local moms groups asking whether anyone had job leads for the father in a refugee family. I messaged the woman in the group to say I didn’t have any job leads, but I’d like to have the family over to my house or meet them at a playground. That turned into a playgroup for refugee families to meet families who have lived in the area for a longer time. I can’t take credit for the life this idea took; a few other parents in the community joined together to make it happen.
Social connections are so critical to our well-being and give us greater access to opportunity. Newcomers to this country aren’t going to get ahead nearly as quickly if they aren’t integrated into existing communities. I understand the sad truth is many are afraid of being “replaced” by newcomers. Fear-based thinking isn’t based in truth. The truth is, there’s plenty for all of us, especially when we live collaboratively.
Moms need community more than anyone. We need to trade stories and baby gear. We need to feel like we’re part of a community that will benefit our children. There are refugees in nearly every area in the country. There are immigrants everywhere. Develop real friendships with people who are new here. The play group worked out really well in our area; look into starting one near you.
I’ve benefitted from white privilege in more ways than I’m consciously aware of. I’ve internalized societal hatred for women and thoughtlessly used it as a sword to cut other women down. I’ve used it to cut myself down.
Those of us who grew up in the society that gave rise to our current president internalized racist, xenophobic, and misogynist beliefs along the way. They don’t go away the moment we become “woke.”
Here’s an ongoing practice for anyone who wants to transform themselves and the world: monitor your thoughts. Even if you’ve taken a stance against hate in all of its forms, you learned how to think in a culture that didn’t. When a fear-based thought comes up, acknowledge it. Acknowledge that fear still exists inside you, inside the world. Choose a love-based thought to replace it.
The fear-based thought came from the part of you that’s been conditioned to think that way. That’s not the real you. The real you is love. Love will transform you into the person you want to be. Love will turn our world into one we want to live in.
Love will change the world by inspiring us to action. Some of us will take actions that are bigger and bolder than the fear-based versions of ourselves ever could have imagined. In becoming the people we want to be, we’ll teach our kids it’s possible to be the people they want to be. Collectively, we’ll transform the world.
I know this list is incomplete. Please share your ideas in the comments and social media. If you have an idea for a guest post sharing your own perspective let’s talk!