My little ones,
At the time of writing this, you are 1, 3, and almost 5 years old. You are full of light and laughter, and it hasn't dawned on you yet that the world is anything less than as ideal as it should be. We spend all day talking to you about respect in your words, tone of voice, and actions. We talk to you constantly about consideration for others and sharing.
About helping others. About not taking more than you need and respecting the Earth's resources. About being kind to all living creatures (we've fostered a duck, a number of worms, and countless other small creatures in our house this summer thanks to that one). I show you how to ask one another "are you ok?" (almost ad nauseam), and to apologize when you've hurt each other. You take me at my word that, as a people, these are our ways. You haven't tuned into the outside world enough to see that too many adults don't do these basic things--and that because people build governments, companies, and the technology that shapes our daily existence, those things don't exhibit these basic values either. The primary social standards have become what you look like, who you know, what you have, and how to protect it, not around respect, kindness, and empathy. I dread seeing that realization take the brightness out of your eyes one of these days. The symptoms of greed, political polarization, and lies of the generations before you (including my generation) are already shaping your world. Climate change is my greatest worry for you--that you will not know the beauty of nature I've known, and will not be able to live a healthy full life (much less your own children and grandchildren) because of it. You and every child in your generation having access to high-quality education and affordable college is a daily concern. Gun violence--may be the most heartbreaking, unnecessary, despicable epidemic in this country--I'm overcome with anxiety just thinking about it.
But...it's when you feel surrounded by darkness that you realize the power of even the faintest light. Right now, that light is that we have a shot--however narrow--to emerge out of this era as a better, more ethical, more humane society. To do that we have to fight like hell for the idea that every person has fundamental human rights, and that the purpose of the society we're building is to ensure respect for those rights. For everybody. To me, those human rights include the right to high-quality education, the right to have basic needs met, the right to representation and equal protection under the law, the right to a future (and a world not on fire)...the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These ideas are the spirit of America. And most days it feels that spirit is on the brink of extinction. And I truly believe it's a lack of real leadership that has brought--and left--us here. So who is to blame? Does it even matter now? We're running out of time and the world is burning up with you in it. I can't bet on anyone else to care about your future the way that I do.
So there's my answer. The ultimate truth is that the ones we've been waiting for are ourselves. I don't know exactly what to do or what will be enough, but I'm starting with speaking out. I'm writing to elected officials every week and showing up more to support organizations I care about. I make sure my work addresses what I consider to be our most pressing problems as a society. I cling to those who share this vision and try to collaborate. Because this is the only way that we make it as a society and as a people--by not looking away. By standing together and making our voices heard. All of our hope hinges on this being the emergence of a new era.