Bringing About Change, It Starts with Us.
I tucked my daughter into bed the night of the election, telling her by the morning we would have our first female president. Although I may not have agreed with everything about her, she was whom I believed would do the best job for our country and for our children. I was relieved thinking that after such a messy campaign cycle, the hatred the Trump campaign brought to the surface would finally decimate. We would rise above this, and it would all be okay.
When I woke on Wednesday to see my candidate had lost, I was not only angry, I was frightened. But for my children’s sake, I needed to pull myself together and explain how this was possible. I needed to tell them the man who’d said so many mean words to so many people, who didn’t play by the rules, who had proven himself to be unkind, who had gone against so much of we stand for as Americans, and who had degraded women and offended millions of others, will be our next president come January 2017.
So while I’m trying to make sense of this reality for my children, I’m struggling to comprehend it as an adult. I decided to start simple, and just trust my instincts to guide me. I told my kids we have something in our country called a democracy, where everyone gets to vote for the person they believe in. We all have different backgrounds that influence our opinions and how we vote. We’re born to different families, from different cultures, from all different parts of the world. We practice different religions and uphold different traditions. We grow up in different cities and inhabit different neighborhoods. Our lives are shaped by all of these things, as well as by the experiences we’ve had and the decisions we’ve made.
As a young girl in an immigrant family, I was taught what we had in this country was special, and that freedom of choice was not to be taken for granted. Last Tuesday, when so many millions of American citizens cast their vote, almost half of the country made a different choice than my own. I realize I may not always agree with another person’s perspective or with the choice they made on Election Day, but as a mother, this did not feel okay. My heart was heavy, my eyes were tired, and the world just seemed a little more grim. Nearly every news story that’s come out in the days following the election reveals a dark part of our society that has been exposed. I keep reading about increased instances of hate crimes caused by groups who feel electrified now that they finally have their president.
But as heated as I feel at this moment -- as a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother -- the cycle of anger stops me. I will not let my children see it. Instead, I will guide them in exploring the ways we sometimes see things differently than others, in examining how those points of view are established, and in thinking of creative approaches for building bridges to love and acceptance. Only then will we find some commonality in moving forward, together.
Let’s take steps in understanding why our opinions are so different, beginning with asking the important questions that have evaded us for so long. We need to look for opportunities to ask those with differing beliefs: What makes you feel passionate? What do you believe and why? What are you experiencing at this very moment that may go unseen? It’s not enough to simply say we’re different and accept that as the line in the sand. America was built on diversity, and our diverse population is still what makes this country such a wonderful place to be. We cannot let our differences become so vast we’re unable to see things from another angle or respect the basic rights of another person.
I’ve had to take a look at my own anger caused by this election, and ask myself if it’s as constraining to peace as those openly spewing hate. In some ways, I believe it is.
Being angry isn’t enough, because anger alone is never going to create change.
Ultimately, it’s how we process our anger that matters.
We can use our indignation to find the energy and bravery we need to reach out beyond our Facebook friends and current communities, and find ways to not only speak up, but to listen to others. In doing so, we can respectfully seek understanding. If we choose not to take these steps, however, my fear is this pattern will spill over into my children’s generation. And I’m not going to allow that to happen.
It’s incredible to open our doors to people of different faiths and seek out diverse friendships for our children, but I believe we can do even better. We can seek out communities who have socioeconomic walls built around them, and tear those walls down by fostering communication and finding ways to support one another.
We move forward by trying to understand different opinions, asking honest questions, and walking across the aisle and standing together. I plan to do all of this with my children by my side. I’ll encourage them to explore what makes us different and question things they may not agree with, even the policies my husband and I have placed within our home. And I will do my best to honor and respect their questions, and provide the space needed to talk through the harder things.
I’m doing what I can to raise children who will become amazing adults -- adults who will not be afraid to stand up for what they believe in, and who will stand up for others in the face of adversity. This is where it all begins, with our children. Even though this past week has felt like a nightmare on so many levels for so many people, we still carry the freedom of choice in these moments.
We’re able to choose how we show up, how we lead our children, and how we lay down our digital and verbal weaponry in favor of forging ahead.
Today, I’m envisioning a better world our children will build together. Will you join me?
In the coming months, Little Voices Are Loud will be sharing simple tools that parents can use to encourage community involvement. When we begin to discuss issues that concern us all as parents, we start to breaking down obstacles that are hindering us all from moving forward as one unified community. Be sure to sign up for our emails to be notified when this is released!
Written By: Deena Neimat, Founder