Friday, July 10, 2020

My Fears and Hopes of 2016 Have Been Realized

Our house on 11/09/2016

January, 2017 was a fraught and uncertain time in a way that seems almost quaint now. I kind of miss it. Looking back, it's like starting up a movie where you know how it's going to end, but you're watching anyway to see how they get there. I didn't exactly keep a diary of my thoughts at the time, but I did write a post about having to teach the morning after the election with a bad emotional (and admittedly, physical) hangover. I also contributed to a collection of short essays for Dads 4 Change. The editors at D4C asked us to write about our fears and hopes for the coming presidential term. I had a lot of fears and not much hope. Here's a excerpt of what I said:
"Like many Americans I worry about losing the progress made over the last eight years. I worry about the dismantling of our regulatory institutions, like the EPA, Department of Education, HUD, the SEC. I worry that this whole administration will be a boondoggle that strip mines the country for the benefit of the 1%. I’ve never had much faith in our intelligence agencies, but the new president seems intent on blinding them. Those are the concrete fears of today.
I hope that the Black Lives Matter sign in our yard, and seeing mommy interpreting at protests inspires my kids to avoid the apathy that cost us the last election. The one thing that could come from this is that they are turned into activists, that they feel compelled to be a part of the political process, that they never think that their vote doesn’t count. I cling to the idea that they will be the ones to help drag the country back out into the light."
You can read through the piece and those written by other dads and see that none of us were off base. What we feared came to pass. The country is divided. Hate crime has been on a steady rise. Kids are in cages. Intelligence and watch dog agencies have been dismantled. The country has erupted in protests over police brutality. There's also some kind of contagion loose, but I haven't had time to read up on that one. 2020 has seen all the sins of "but her emails," and over indulgent faith in polling come to a head. There isn't a single worry we had that hasn't become a reality in one way or another. It's numbing and enraging all at once.

Lou in Ferguson (2014)
The thing is, as we enter the latter half of what could be the last year of this particular madness, the hope has begun to manifest as well. T has continued to march. When the George Floyd protests took off, T was out there every night. She believed that she needed to put herself out there as a white body on the front lines to face down the police who might do harm to BIPOC protestors. Her aim was to shield them and I admired her even as I feared for her safety. They needed her, she needed to be there in that way, but we need her too. I need her to make it home. 

Seeing her example has also inspired the kids. They want to march. They make signs. They talk to us about justice. We've had a couple large marches go past our house. The kids were desperate to join in. I was concerned about Covid and even though everyone we saw had masks and was distancing as much as possible, it took a lot of asking before we relented. Then the kids went to a nearby action that had been organized by other kids. It was small and from what I heard, went about as you would expect a kid led protest to go. They marched circles around the park and made some speeches that were difficult to hear. But they had the experience of getting people together, taking collective action and getting their message out to the world. Buddy and Lou were inspired and decided to plan their own protest. 

T helped them with supplies and guided them through thinking out what they would need. The kids planned the theme, Black Lives Matter with a focus on LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities. They planned the route, the program and looked up who to invite. The kids wrote a solicitation inviting people to participate, speak, donate supplies and act as medics and marshals. Reading their email made cry.

We are two kids ages 9 and 11, and we are organizing a protest. We are hoping to show people that the current system of how we treat Black and Brown people is not okay, and that police brutality needs to be stopped. We especially want to call attention to queer people of color and disabled people of color.

We were wondering if you could provide some help with making sure we have the resources to do so. We're not sure how large this protest will be, but we want to be ready for a large event. We will need food (small portable snacks), water, and hand sanitizer. If we find that we have more supplies than are needed, we will give the rest to a shelter and/or another protest in the future. It would also help if we had some volunteer marshals to help organize.

We would also be very grateful if you would like to send a speaker to be part of this event. It will take place at (Time, Place, Route). We are hoping to have a short rally with speakers at both ends of the march. We will be providing ASL interpreting and there will be easy access for wheelchairs.

We're very thankful that you are taking this into consideration.

Buddy (they/them) and Lou (xe/xir)"
This email encapsulates all the hopes I had for them. They're aware and active. They want to be involved. They want to lead. They want to focus on specific communities within the larger movement. This is key. It's not "All Lives Matter," it's "These lives within the greater set of Black Lives will get particular focus today." It's notable because it brings in and includes LQBTQ+ and disabled BIPOC communities into the movement. It's uniting rather than dividing. They made sure to include interpreters, and a route that is accessible to people with mobility issues. They already understand inclusion and intersectionality better than I did when I was 30. 

The part that really got me was the signature. They signed it with their pronouns. They are so comfortable with who they are that they're not afraid of putting it right out there in a cold call solicitation. Whether they planned it or not, including the pronouns is also a final way of telling the reader, "You're safe here. You're safe with us." It's such a beautiful and subtle touch, it's probably the part of this that hits me the hardest. These are good kids.

The march was yesterday. The solicitation worked. People donated masks and supplies. They had volunteer interpreters and some marshals. T and I helped with publicity. It helps that I run Facebook groups and twitter accounts with over 10K followers. Our city council member came and said a few words. I'm not great at estimating crowds, but I'd say they drew 50-100 people. I'm proud of the kids for putting in the effort. As much as I'd like to see them rewarded with a big turn out, I know that they'll learn things from this that we may not have taught them otherwise. In taking on this project, they are learning to write professional emails, to engage with stakeholders, to research local organizations and how to plan with diversity and inclusion as foundational pieces rather than last minute add-ons. Most important, they saw something wrong in their community and they took action. 

I have hope.

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