A Letter to My Son on Being an American and a Christian During a Trump Presidency

Dear Dean,

On Tuesday, your dad and I took you to vote. It would be the first time in your life you would see your parents vote for the leader of our nation.

You knew the candidates, but you didn't know how contentious this election had been or how grave the consequences might turn out to be. Although I predicted the outcome, you still saw me cry tears of joy as we waited in line to enter that booth — tears over having the mere opportunity to vote for a female presidential candidate for the first time in my life, however futile it would be.

Remember that moment. Remember my tears — tears cried over hope and opportunity in spite of the reality of what was to come. I promise to remember too. In the days and years to come, I promise to have faith in the people of this nation, faith in myself, faith in God, and faith in you.

That day, our nation elected a new leader.

A leader who will be the first president of whom you will be aware. A man who has said such vile things that I cannot yet bring myself to share them with you. He has said things about all the women you love, things about your uncles and aunts and cousins, things that make us feel unsafe. Unwanted. He has riled up a portion of the public who think less of me for my gender, and members of your family for the religion they practice, the color of their skin, or the people they love (side note: how lucky are you to have a family this diverse?!).

He is everything we do not want you to be. He is the embodiment of the values we will raise you to stand up against. It won't be easy. People will tell you that you need to lighten up or have a sense of humor. People will tell you that you are too sensitive. People will tell you that you are un-American. People will tell you that if you are so disapproving, you should just leave.

When that happens, speak louder. Standing up against bigotry is not a sign of softness or weakness — it is a marker of strength. Welcoming those who are different from you is not un-American — it is what God calls us to do. And challenging our leaders? Questioning authority? There is nothing more American than that.

You will hear people tell you in unqualified terms that we are a great nation. That we are the greatest country in the world. That we were founded on greatness.

I urge you to resist this rhetoric. A country is a living, breathing thing. A country can have moments of greatness. It can also have moments of great atrocity. We have had both. At any point in time, a country is only as "great" as its people and its leaders.

People will say our new leader's voters are not all racist or misogynistic or xenophobic and they are not entirely wrong, but neither are they right. A vote for a hateful platform is a vote for hate, and it doesn't matter whether the voter's intention was fear, monetary interest, dislike of the opposition, or straight out racism. The polls don't register intent. The result of their votes is the same. People we know and love chose to vote for oppression. We continue to love them. Our task as citizens is to try to understand why, and as Christians, to forgive.

And this is why I want you to remember my tears that day in the voting booth. The tears of hope. We have a leader now who your father and I do not respect or agree with. Under his presidency, we strive to be the "great" citizens of this nation who will protect all that is good about this country and we plan on raising you to join us, with God by our sides.

When you feel alone or it feels too hard, remember that 74.5% of this country did not vote for this leader. 25.5% of the voting population chose him. Let that sink in for a moment (along with the fact that 25.6% chose his opponent, but the electoral college is a conversation for another day). Our leader seeks to undermine the very tenets of our democracy, and because we respect the structures of our government, your dad and I will recognize him as our president, but we will do our part to challenge every injustice, every overreach of power, and every insult to the people around us.

As you grow up, I ask one thing of you: READ. Read about an issue and then read about it some more. You are growing up in a world that is vastly different from the one your dad and I knew. Know that social media is not a news source, that every media outlet has a bias, and that opinions, feelings, and desires are not facts.

Going forward, you are going to see a side of your mom and dad you have not yet seen and I hope we will make you proud. I know that you will make us proud in return.