Dear Emma (a letter to my 8-month-old daughter)

Dear Emma,

Though you were born here in America, your roots go much deeper. Coursing through your veins is good red American blood, but also good red blood from Portugal and Lebanon, from Wales, and Germany, and from the forests of indigenous peoples in Brazil. “Emma”: universal. But you are, also, “Ponderosa” — born to a specific place and time: here, in 2016, beneath the towering pines of Coconino National Forest, Arizona, the United States of America.

I am glad you are an American. I love America. I was raised in the eighties, with my hand over my heart and that one gladly stand up song playing at school assemblies and a glossy vision of our nation’s inherent and exceptional greatness. I was taught to be proud that we were “the world’s melting-pot”, and grateful for the freedoms which set us apart: of religion, of press, of free expression and peaceful protest and presumed innocence and a fair trial, and the vote. I was taught that to be American was to be decent, and welcoming, and respectful, and honest, and that anyone who worked hard and pursued their dreams could be an artist or scientist or astronaut or president.

It is true that as I have grown older, I have realized that America is not all good, and that liberty and justice here are not actually for all, and that much of the goodness America has afforded me is because I lucked into being born a certain sex, and class, and color. But? The allegiance I pledged has not wavered, and my gratitude has never waned. America is beautiful, and because I love her, I want her to be her best.

At this very moment, we are swearing in Donald Trump as our President, and I want you know, when you study American history in high school, that today I oppose him. I have never said this about an American President before. I do not oppose him because he is from a different political party, or because he has different ideas than I do about what is best for America — those disagreements are normal in a democracy, and I cherish them.

I oppose Trump because he’s selfish, and mean. He lies, and humiliates other people to make himself look better. He encourages violence, tries to oppress people who are different from him, and attempts to silence people who disagree with him. This is not leadership. He is neither honest, nor decent, nor respectful, nor welcoming, and he certainly doesn't want all people in America to have an equal shot at their dreams. He has no concern at all for the future of the health of this beautiful planet we are handing you. I oppose him as America’s leader because he stands squarely against those American values I pledged allegiance to all those years ago.

There are many reasons that people in America in 2016 (the year you were born, Emma) voted for Trump as president. A few voted for him because they had one issue or another in mind and didn't feel they could vote any other way. A few voted for him because they actually crave violence, and chaos, and hatred, or because they thought he would make them, personally, more powerful or rich. But most Americans didn’t. Most were hurting, or scared, or frustrated, and believed Donald Trump when he promised he could make America a better place. I want to understand those fears and frustrations, and talk with these folks to find solutions to their very real problems — but this is not the way. Violence, and corruption, and lies, and hatred are never a real solution. Choosing to elect Trump, whatever the reason the decision was made, will bear ugly fruit in this country for years to come.

I’m sad, Emma, minha filha, that you will be growing up in an America that I no longer feel like I recognize. Today, I am discouraged. But tomorrow, I will fight, will learn how to fight — always nonviolently, always with people’s dignity in mind — to tear down systems of oppression, and seek peace & justice, and care for the oppressed.

For you, Emma, and for all of us, I will fight to restore the breach — to make America good again.

With love,

Isaiah 58:9–12:
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
If you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to dwell in.