To my darling granddaughter:
You asked me, the other day, what I did when Trump came to power. And I was proud to tell you that I fought. That I spent my days at marches and protests, sending letters, making calls, and writing, writing, writing — standing strong with so many others who wanted to protect the values of this country. You laughed when I said that your mother and aunt and uncle marched too, leading those around them in a rousing chant of “hate won’t make us great.” You asked to see pictures of them at 7, 5, and 3. I couldn’t show you, because the march was on Shabbat, but I had their signs still, and you loved them.
That was nice. You liked hearing about that. But then we talked about what came next, and how it got worse and worse before it got better. You didn’t understand how it could happen. You didn’t understand how a refugee ban could be signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day. You didn’t understand how a racist could begin confirmation as attorney general on the first day of Black History Month. I told you that I didn’t understand either. I told you that I still don’t. I still don’t understand what came next. And I’m still grateful to have survived. And then we remembered all of those who didn’t.
You asked me if I was scared during that time. “Oh, yes,” I told you. I was scared for the future of this country. I was scared for the people whose lives were in direct risk. I was scared by the rising tide of anti-semitism, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and homophobia. I was scared by the threats to the freedom of the press and the casual acceptance of “alternative facts.” (You laughed, and then stopped laughing when I explained that alternative facts were — are — simply lies.) I was scared for the planet. (You asked me what snow was like. I laughed, but I also cried inside.)
But, and this was important, and I’m glad you listened closely, I wasn’t scared for my life, not directly. I was then, and still am, grateful that I could march, and call, and write, and not be under direct threat. It was for that freedom that I was fighting. And for those who were under direct threat every day in this country for their skin color, religion, sexuality, way of life. And for those were under direct threat, and still are, across the globe. I wanted them to be able to come here, so that they wouldn’t die for who they were. And I wanted that to still be true here in the United States.
I told you that I hoped that answered why I fought so hard, and so much, even though people thought I was crazy, a conspiracy nut, a traitor, a drag a dinner parties. Awkward. Weird.
But there was another reason, another thing that kept me going even as I wanted to cry, and scream, and bury my head in my books and my teaching and my research and my other reality — because one day, you would come along, and you would ask me: What did you do? And I wanted to be able to look you in the eye and say, honestly: I fought. I fought for you.