Monday, January 16, 2017

In the year 2017

Today is January 16, 2017.

Someday my children may wonder what life was like when they were little. 

At six years old, Fletcher is on the threshold of discovering just how hard it is to grow up. The emotions are up and down and hard to control, a river with a smooth surface and a deadly undertow. "What do you want to do with me?" can be heard from him at least once per day, and I'm sorry to say our reaction is often a groan because we have two other children and a million things to do and HERE'S A VIDEO GAME. (Sorry.) We play a lot of card games (Uno, King's Corners, War, Go Fish, Old Maid) and board games (Trouble, Candy Land). We make up dumb games that both boys enjoy like bowling to knock over baby toys, balloon battles, and making and throwing paper airplanes. He can read anything now if he takes the time to sound it out, so his level of success in school is more about improving his willpower than his intelligence at this point. He rarely ever wants to play by himself, unless it's video games.

At three years old, Truman loves putting puzzles together and watching movies. He has the highest of highs and lowest of lows, not just because of his age, but because that is how he has always been. He can throw tantrums that would win gold Exploding Eardrums Awards, and yet he can be the sweetest most charming little lovebug you ever snuggled. He often speaks in the third person ("No, Truman do it!") and will repeat the worst things you say ("Damn it!"). I'm sorry to say he's showing keen interest in video games as well, but he's still very active and happiest when he's being chased around the house. Unlike Fletcher, he enjoys playing alone as much as he enjoys playing with you. Recently, he began showing interest in his sister, coming up with little games that make both of them laugh. In the car today, Clare realized that if she turned her head sharply, she could see me in the driver's seat, and every time she did it, Truman would tickle the back of her neck and they'd both dissolve into giggles.

At one year old, Clare is eager to get more mobile and get into more trouble. She smiles and laughs often, including when she knows she's doing something we don't want her to do, like going after nightlights. She loves her family. She's still breastfeeding because she likes it better than the bottle and I'm in no hurry to end that chapter of my life. She crawls, climbs up to standing, and occasionally walks along holding the couch (or her favorite—Truman's toddler bed) for support. I can't lie; babies are my favorite age so far. Everything about her (except for how she fights diaper changes) melts my heart into a puddle. I can't get enough of holding her and nuzzling her and making her smile. She already loves having her picture taken. Her favorite foods include animal crackers, graham crackers, applesauce, corn chex, and goldfish.

Andy and I both work full time and struggle to be enough for our children and ourselves. Days are so short and fast, we have trouble keeping up with the dull, repetitive tasks of our lifestyle (dinner, dishes, homework, baths/showers, brush teeth, bedtime, make lunches, moan about life, REPEAT AD NAUSEAM). We love it. We wouldn't change it. I'm going to miss it someday. It's still hard. No earth-shattering revelations here.

Outside the safety of our home, the year 2017 is shaping up to be strange and tense for anyone paying attention. And I think that's a very important task, paying attention. The country gets a new president this week, and each day things are changing in subtle ways, which history has taught us is how authoritarianism begins. "What is the precise moment, in the life of a country, when tyranny takes hold? It rarely happens in an instant; it arrives like twilight, and, at first, the eyes adjust." Trump says the most effective military alliance in history is obsolete, and he will not say a word against one of the world's most dangerous terrorists, Putin. With his corrupt appointees and methods of psychological manipulation, Trump will corrode the system of checks and balances. He is already destroying the freedom of the press and will continue to use his methods of psychological manipulation to get away with massive ethics violations, conflicts of interest, market manipulation, and worse.

Even if he is not being blackmailed by Russia, his actions are not based on facts but on his opinions, which change at the drop of a hat because they're based on his fragile ego, as well as keeping and compounding his privilege. He is constantly the victim.

That is the ugliest part of all of us, times a thousand. And I think that is what keeps racism going; not so much "I'm a horrible person who wants to enslave you based on your skin color," but "I don't realize I'm a horrible person for wanting to keep the privileges I didn't earn because I have lied to myself inside this bubble to the point of believing that we're all equal now and you just haven't earned it."

This lack of empathy, this habit of talking instead of listening, this unwillingness to self-examine, this unwillingness to humbly admit there's a lot that white people don't know and refuse to see is a problem. I hope that I am strong enough to raise my children to be humble, curious people who will never stop watching, listening, asking, examining the self, and trying to be better people. I hope I will make them proud during both dangerous days for our country and the safe everyday moments of our mundane, privileged life.

So I will shut up now and listen. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. The Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will." Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963

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