With one eye, I’m watching you as you concentrate on your sheet of paper, clutching your favorite purple marker in one hand. You’re drawing a comic about Darth Vader, the darkest figure in your young imagination at this time. Your head is bent, revealing those sweet curls I love, a small tongue peeking out in concentration. You are absorbed.
With the other eye, I’m watching the news.
Today signaled a day of change for me. I’m sure you saw it in how I spun you around your room early in the morning, how I let you have a bite of chocolate cookie for breakfast. With Ossoff and Warnock predicted to win their respective run-off races, I woke up with a thrill of anticipation and blithely messaged “Happy BLUE year!” to my coworkers. I was swimming in hope.
Then, around 2:15 p.m., I watched as the Capitol building was put on lockdown. Pro-Trump supporters marched upon the building, protesting the confirmation of the Biden victory, straining against barricades and clashing with officers. Soon, the domestic terrorists stormed the building, forcing senators and members of the house to evacuate. The mob was armed. There were reports of explosive devices. So much more will unfold in the coming hours. Fear and rage swell in me, pushing me even closer to a breakdown I’m not ready for you to see.
How many ways can a heart break in one year?
How many ways can a heart break in one year? There was a pandemic and all the deaths associated with it, all the lives forever changed. There were senseless murders of Black men and women, and then violent police retaliation against peaceful protests. There was an election that never seemed like it would end. It still hasn’t. We’ve kept up a cheerful front for you, revealing that which is only absolutely necessary. I think you felt safe and happy.
Did I lead you the wrong way?
We’ve talked so much about what it means to live as a citizen in this country, in this world. How we have an obligation to fairness and compassion. How violence solves nothing. And yet, this attempted coup is the model some of your would-be classmates will look to, sighing in silent agreement as their version of justice is enacted. Perhaps some of our own family members secretly applaud these domestic terrorists.
I don’t know how to prepare you to face this wall of hate. I can’t tell you to be tougher, to embrace the gutter politics, nor can I tell you to “go high,” because it feels helpless to do so. It pains me to tell you that I’m lost.
You may see me cry today; you may hear my muffled screams. My girl, I’m struggling. The evil that only exists in your imagination is one I saw unfold today in our nation’s capital. I’m frozen. I don’t want to go outside and face the unknown terrors, and I’m furious at my own fear, the way I compulsively keep you close to me, coloring through the madness.
I’m holding you. I’m holding our country and holding onto whatever hope I can scrounge. This world can be so much for us sometimes.
I leave you with these words from the poet Maggie Smith:
… Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: this place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
In her question mark, I feel the echo of my own uncertainty, the tentative dream, the prayer for a miracle of unity, of beautification. I know it’s silly and unfair to look to you for the answer, my mighty girl. But I do, because where else can I look today?