Yesterday, I was full of hope and excitement as I took my girls with me to vote for what I hoped would be the first woman president. I even let them go to school late so we could have a celebratory breakfast at our favorite diner after we were done. They have been following this election since the beginning and have only known Barak Obama as President. I brought with me photos of my mother, both of my grandmothers, and my great-grandmother. We wore white under our coats. 5 generations voted yesterday.
I told them all about the ballot. I told them how it all worked. They got to see for themselves democracy in action. I told them of course Hillary would win.
We all know what happened next. In the depths of the night, in the hour of the wolf I kept thinking…what am I going to tell them tomorrow? As I got them up and made their sandwiches this morning I kept thinking…what am I going to tell them? I felt like I/we had failed to keep them safe, that as a nation we had let. them. down.
I drove them to school so they could have a little extra sleep in time after a long night of homework and tutors and papers and watching election returns…. I had 20+ minutes.
This is what I told them…
I told them that we were going to do what Michelle Obama told us to do at the Democratic Convention (speaking through a lump in my throat) “When they go low, we go high”.
I told them that yes, Donald Trump had won 270+ Electoral Votes and was now President-elect of the United States. I told them that Hillary had won the popular vote and that more people voted for her than for Trump, but that the Electoral Votes are the only ones that count. I told them that the races were so so close in almost every state which means that he did not win by a landslide or a huge margin and we are still a nation deeply and bitterly divided.
I told them that we MUST be thankful that we live in a country that has free and fair elections. No one has to know who you voted for. You will not be threatened with death if you vote for the wrong candidate. You will not be told for whom who to cast your one precious vote. You will not be threatened or imprisoned for simply voting. I told them that our tradition of peaceful transition of power MUST be maintained as that is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. I told them that other countries are not so fortunate.
I told them that Republicans now effectively control two of the three branches of government in our country, which means that maybe there will be no more stonewalling. Then, I explained stonewalling. I told them that this President will be appointing at least one and most probably more Supreme Court justices who will decide the law throughout the land.
I told them that their reproductive rights are in jeopardy because of the potential to appoint conservative judges who could overturn Roe v. Wade in a court challenge. Then I had to explain what reproductive rights are (I thought we’d already covered that). That the leaders of our country will most likely try to de-fund Planned Parenthood and what exactly that organization does. They were irate at the idea that someone was going to tell them what to do with their body, and that healthcare would be cut off for millions of women.
I told them that there was a potential for the court to roll back the Marriage Equality Act, making who you love effectively illegal.
They asked if their friends parents would be deported because they are not from this country and if the parents get deported, do the kids have to stay here without parents…and can we take in some of their friends if this happens (insert heart breaking here).
They asked if a wall was going to be built to keep out Mexicans. They asked if their muslim friends would be deported. They wanted to know how it would work that all immigrants would be sent back (I corrected them that it was only illegal immigrants that were being spoken of but…who knows).
I told them to be kind to everyone at school today. I told them to be especially kind to their friends who may be very worried about their families and what this election could mean to them. I told them to hug their friends extra well today.
I told them that my/our ancestors came to this country from England fleeing religious persecution hundreds of years ago. I told them one of my/our ancestors was executed, accused of being a witch at Salem. I told them that my/our ancestors were involved at the start of the American Revolution, were Sons of Liberty, and succeeded in throwing off the yoke of tyranny that England had settled around the Colonies. I told them that my/our ancestor was John Quincy Adams, Vice-President of the United States. I told them my/our ancestors had fought in the Civil War, in the wars in this century and have defended our right to be free. I told them to be proud Americans today as their heritage demanded nothing less.
I told them to always stand up and defend themselves. I told them to call out hate and injustice. I told them to never ever let someone take their freedom. I told them to be kind. I told them that Love Trumps Hate.
I told them that in the next Presidential election…they will be 19 and voting…and to remember today.