My six year old daughter recently asked me a question I’ve been dreading: “Mommy, what do you write about for work?” I don’t give my daughter simple answers. I told her that I write about our government, and the men and women involved who lead our country. “Like Michelle Obama?”, she asked. Mrs. Obama had appeared on an episode of Doc McStuffins, so the kiddo was familiar with her. I told her that we had recently elected a new president, a man named Donald Trump. “Is he a nice man?”
How do I answer that? How do I explain to my kindergartner that our country elected a man who is most definitely not nice? This is a man who cares nothing for our environment, what the world will look like when she grows up, the air she will breathe or the filth she’ll be surrounded by, or the natural wonders of our country that he’ll sell to the highest bidder before she even sees them. This is a man who has thrown more tantrums on Twitter since he was elected than she has in her entire life. This is a man who has helped spread hate by claiming that some neo-Nazis are “good people”, but thinks that most undocumented immigrants are criminals. This is a man who thinks its ok to just kiss beautiful women and grab them by their crotch. My daughter doesn’t even know the word our President used on that infamous soundbite, but she does know touching people without consent is wrong. How do I explain to my little girl that so many of the adults in this country voted for a man who isn’t nice at all?
Well-known progressive pastor, John Pavlovitz had one of the most striking responses to Donald Trump to ring in the new year:
If you voted for Donald Trump, you owe my children an apology.
You owe them an apology for making them grow up with a hateful, incompetent, petulant, predatory monster as their President. For placing their safety in the hands of an impulsive child, who trolls world leaders with nuclear weapons and wields our military like an insecure coward brandishes a gun at a party. For unleashing the fierce tide of bullying, racism, bigotry, and homophobia they have to see in their classrooms and ball fields and neighborhoods—because the man you chose has repeatedly encouraged and legislated it. For making them do “shooter drills” at school, because you’ve sanctioned a man who is fully in bed with the NRA, who removes barriers to mentally ill people getting guns, and who does nothing to prevent military weapon proliferation. For the terrifying images of a crowd of emboldened, violent, torch wielding Nazis terrorizing a town—and of a President who coddled them afterward. For the inexplicable disconnect they see in a man claiming to be Christian—while being so devoid of anything remotely resembling Jesus.
You owe my daughter an apology for excusing his reprehensible words about women when voting for him; for ignoring the multiple accusations of sexual assault against him, for placing a man with such clear disregard for her at the highest level of leadership in the country she calls home. You owe my son an apology for taking someone with a lifetime resume of filth and misogyny, and asking him to look up to that man as a leader; for rewarding the very sexist, ignorant, repugnant behavior we implore him never to engage in or abide in those around him.
You’ve let my children down by thrusting them into an America that is far less secure, less compassionate, less decent, more fractured, and more violent than it was a year ago—and because that truth alters children immersed in it. But lest you think this is just about me, about my family, about my children—be assured it is not. Yes, you’ve surely failed my children with your vote, and more so with the way you’ve doubled down on the toxicity released over the past year—but you don’t owe an apology to them alone.
You owe your children an apology too.
They too are inheriting this jagged, hateful, angry nation you’ve co-created with your vote. They too are reminded every day by their President, that honesty and integrity and empathy and kindness are of little value; that going low gets the intoxicating applause of the crowd and the affection of the ignorant. They too will have their personalities, their priorities, their sense of safety, and their very identities formed in the crucible of this scalding hatred Donald Trump presides over and continually cultivates. If your children one day become ill, they too will have a difficult time affording care or staying alive without going broke. They too will have to breathe the air and drink the water and reside on the planet that this President leaves to rot. They too will be saturated in the enmity and the callousness of this country—and make no mistake it will change who they are. It will change the way they perceive truth and the way they respect differences and the way they value people’s bodies and well-being.
And not just my children and not just your children. You owe an apology to every child who has to spend their formative years in an America that is defined by: fear of the other, an epidemic of cruelty, a poverty of decency, a deadly allergy to facts, a Christianity of coercion and malice, a defiant resistance to diversity.
You owe an apology to every young woman growing up in an America where celebrity preachers vilify assault victims and defend predators, where accusers are tried and offenders elected. You owe an apology to every young man who forms his identity in a culture where men can do whatever they want to women and they will rarely be held accountable; where gentleness is a liability and brutality an asset. Yes, this horrible stuff existed long before this year, but it’s never had such a powerful and uncontested cheerleader with such an ability to ratify it all—and that’s something that’s on you and that you’ll have to own. That’s just how it is.
So yes, you can puff out your chest online, and posture and boast all you want. You can cling to the fading lie that you’ve won anything here, or that you’ve somehow struck a blow for America or Jesus or patriotism. You can tell me to suck it up and to let it go and to f*ck off—which I’m now quite used to. But at the end of the day you’ve simply let a lot of people down: My children. Your children. The children of this country and the planet. They all have lost because you were irresponsible with one of the greatest responsibilities you’ve ever had in their lifetime, and now they have to live with the terrible fallout—and you owe them all an apology.
I’m well aware of what your likely response to all this will be. I don’t imagine an apology will be forthcoming—so I’ll apologize to them on your behalf. Then, I’ll spend every day living that apology.
I’ll remind my children your children and all children, that there are lots of adults who still believe that people are inherently valuable and stunningly beautiful—that not all adults fear brown people and gay people and foreigners and immigrants. I’ll remind them that there are still people committed to the truth and to equality, and the richness found in diversity. I’ll do my best to make them feel safe and loved and hopeful here, even on the days that I don’t. I’ll even teach them to forgive people who fail and hurt them, because I know how difficult that it is right now. And I’ll remind them that even when bad people are rewarded, doing the right thing is still the thing most worth doing. I’ll teach them that when hatred seems the most treasured currency, that love is still worth more than gold. I’m just sorry that they have to live with something (and someone) far less than they deserve—and they didn’t have to.
Like John Pavlovitz, I think that if you voted for Donald Trump, you owe my daughter, and all the other children in the country, an apology. Were any of Donald Trump’s supporters thinking about the future when they cast their vote for that man? Were they thinking about how his leadership will effect our children and maybe even our children’s children? Or were they so hung up on supporting an outsider that they didn’t care about any of that? If nothing else, they should have thought about what type of role model such a disgusting, misogynistic, racist, hateful man would be when he became president. I’ve lived through the presidencies of men I didn’t agree with before, but I’ve always respected those men. Donald Trump is impossible to respect, mostly because he respects nothing. How are we supposed to explain that to our children? They deserve better, and Trump supporters failed them.