Reflections from Monday, August 14th
My daughter has a onesie that says “World Changer” on it. I can’t remember where we got it, but it is one of my favorite outfits that she wears. Not that there is anything special about it, it’s just a white short-sleeved outfit with brightly colored and glittery letters. So yeah, she looks pretty cool when she wears it, but I like it more for what it stands for.
She is our first child so it is kind of obvious that she did change our world. Things that used to be really boring and mundane like grocery shopping or taking a shower now seem like luxuries. It is amazing how you suddenly appreciate the small things so much more than you ever did before, but that is not the kind of change that I think of when I see the words “World Changer” on written across her chest.
I think about it as something that she will become. Someday she is going to be smart, and strong and brave and able to stand up for what is right in a way that she can’t right now. I mean, she literally can barely stand up at all at this point. She changed the world for me and her mom because, all of a sudden, it becomes even more important for us to be world changers; to stand up for what’s right; to do the right thing. That’s not always easy. We have a baby at home. She’s eleven months old. We can’t take her to every rally and candlelight vigil, but we as a family make it a priority to make sure that one of us shows up. Even if she is not ready to be a world changer yet, we need to be world changers right now.
The news about the violent and horrible death of Heather Heyer was devastating. I thought about what she was standing up against and what she was standing for while I was on my way to a vigil yesterday. My sister-in-law and I were walking and talking and she mentioned what this must be like for her parents, and my heart just broke. I hadn’t even thought about what a crippling loss something like this must be. I think about my little girl growing up to be someone who stands up against hate, and I think, “That’s great!” But what if, one day, a police officer shows up to my house to tell me that my little girl died because someone, with a heart full of hate, rammed his car into the group that she was with. I think about that and my heart breaks.
I don’t want that to be her fate. But if that is how she lives, and if that’s how she dies, I will be proud that she stood up for what is right. I will be shaken and shattered but I will take pride in the fact that she did what she did because she wanted to be the change that she wants to see in the world.
I think about Heather’s parents and everything that they have had to deal with in these past 48 hours and it hurts. It pains me to dwell on this thought. I grieve that this is the state of the world that we are currently in. There are so many issues that need to be addressed and fights that need to be fought. It makes me realize that I can’t just wait for things to get better or hope that the next generation will be able to make things right. I need to be a world changer right now.
I’ve got to make sure that the world she grows up in, the world when she is my age, when she is Heather’s age doesn’t have to deal with problems like this. We need to work on educating and loving. That is hard work. Education takes money, it takes time. It takes an unflinching resolve to actually look at what our past has been. It takes vision to imagine the world that we want to create and it takes dedication to look at the present and think about what we can do right now to bridge the gap between our where we have been and what kind of world we want to find ourselves in.
What can I do make sure that my daughter doesn’t have to sacrifice herself in the process of making this world a better place? Today, I saw several articles referencing a letter from the father of a white supremacist. In the letter, Pearce Tefft, denounced the rhetoric and actions of his son.
I was at a North Dakota United Against Hate rally to show support for those in the community who face racism, hate speech, and violence and this man’s son was there in a Make America Great Again hat. When I first saw him I was disgusted and irritated. I asked myself, “what does this guy think that he is doing here?” But I tried to see the other side. I tried to imagine what kind of world I want to create. I didn’t want to shout him down and push him away and make him feel like the victim. He is not the victim. He is one of the perpetrators, but he was there surrounded by people who have actually faced discrimination because of who they are or what they look like. I found myself wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought, maybe this guy will learn something but instead he was talking to reporters and trying to justify his repugnant views.
The letter this man’s father wrote to the Fargo Forum spelled out the fact that he did not learn this at home. Hate is not a family value and it definitely is not of any value to Pearce Tefft and his true family. His son learned this hate somewhere else. And it brought him all the way down to Charlottesville, Virginia just like it brought so many like-minded, hard-hearted, hate-filled individuals. And this is where Heather Heyer lost her life. By standing up against hate.
The really sad thing is that this man’s family is feeling a heartbreak that also rivals those who have actually lost children. They are mourning a "prodigal son" who is making no attempt at reconciliation and they are mourning along with the the family of Heather Heyer. Their family is currently torn apart, just like Heather Heyer’s family and both of these families are showing us how to speak up. They have faced pain greater than I ever hope to know, but I need to listen and hear their stories and wade into that pain. When Pearce Tefft wrote that letter, it was brave. That was standing up just like Heather Heyer did saying, “this is wrong and this is something we need to change.”
My daughter changed my world and I am going to work at changing the world that she will inherit. I hope that she doesn’t have to change the world, or at least that she has one less problem that she has to deal with.