To my nephews,
I have been thinking about you a lot during this week where Donald Trump became President Elect. You will both come into adolescence during his first and hopefully only term as President, and I feel I have some explaining to do. Amidst the toxic masculinity already in the world, you will see men emboldened by Trump’s raw, tantrumy hate, and I feel I have some explaining to do. All your grandparents likely voted for him, and I feel I have some explaining to do. I’m not there everyday to plant sedition and non-grasping love in you, and I feel I have some explaining to do.
I realize you may not read this letter for many years–right now your lives are full of forced Jesus, yelling adults, multiple moms and dads who love you but are hurting, and a chess game you were not given the rules to. However, if you need them, if you want them, I want you to have access to my words one day; they carry just a small portion of my great love for you.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a man, young or old. I have never been one. In fact, men have hurt me very deeply in the past, which is something I should acknowledge at the beginning of this letter. But, as I begin to rewrite the narrative of who men can be, in part by uncovering myself in the last five years, there are a few things I want you to know.
- Not all men are spectators, riding the winds of opportunity looking for loopholes and weakness to take advantage of. Don’t reward people with your love, your trust, your intelligence, because they’ve done or not done something for you. Risk getting hurt. Be active, even if it’s just by listening to someone you have nothing to gain from. The distant, manipulative man you might have seen and wish to become, is not a man, but the version of God you are witnessing in this moment. However, please believe that even god, should you chose to believe in him/her/it/they/us, is bigger than humans have made him/her/it/they/us.
- Not all men compartmentalize the world and then assign value judgements to those compartments. Men are capable of integrating many truths, holding contradictions and knowing there is truth at both ends, and ASKING QUESTIONS without an answer already in mind. Men can stay without running when worlds collide and the order they believed in becomes messy. My dear, sweet, hearts, there are so many places to explore in this world, and only a handful of them are geographical. Don’t stay fixed if and when you are beckoned.
- Not all men use their strength for aggression. Though I can’t imagine someone fearing for their safety in the face of you, times change quickly. You are going to see a lot of sickness surface in a Trump America, some so subtle it will be easy to ignore it in largely liberal California. Some of it will come from popular boys or girls that you want to be around. Some of it will come from insecure members of your church. But please, please, don’t ever be someone that people feel they have to hide from. The further you go down that road, the more your own loneliness is assured. Cry when you are hurt, both inside and out, and point your anger at the forces that come to steal from the powerless, not at the powerless themselves.
Being gifted with life is not a joke, please take cultivating it seriously, no matter what you see in your role models. Right now you are children, and part of the mostly powerless, but that will change quickly, and you can always choose how you respond to what is in front of you. I hope to one day collaborate with you as you dream and struggle to celebrate life and love. I was tempted to donate to the ACLU or Planned Parenthood this year in your name for Christmas and send the donation slips home, but that would only add to your tension. Thus, we will choose from the Heifer International catalogue as has become our tradition. We will send farm animals to families around the world in need, and save conversations of home politics for another day.
I could say a lot more, but I will end with this: I am sorry we could not give you a more balanced President, but I love you forever and thus will continue to work on bettering my small corner of the world.
ps. I guess there is one more thing. Being white in itself is not a crime or something to feel guilty or defensive over. In fact, race is a cultural construction, but that is a conversation for another time. This being said, it does give you ENORMOUS amounts of privilege, especially as a white male. What will you do with it?