“ … May we all get to see those fields of green turn gold …Watch a marching band play with the harvest moon coming up … And know that fifteen minutes of fame, ain’t gonna be what makes us or breaks us but … We’ll all be watching the TV, the day that it comes … “ *
Right now, you are sleeping.
On Saturday, a young woman was killed by a White Supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia.
You are two years old. You are white. How will I explain to you what is happening to us? When will I explain?
This afternoon, I gave you a folded-in-half Cheerios box and a Sharpie. I watched you scribble some shapes on the back, crooked lines looping over other lines. You made a mess of rough circles intertwining.
If I were to make a protest sign, at this moment, it would look much the same.
Your older brother drew a circle. In the circle, he drew his family. He included in his family the birds and the trees that gather outside our apartment, his best friend, and the Mississippi River.
Above the circle — which he told me was the whole planet Earth — he wrote two words. Because he is only five years old, the letters ran together, so it looked like one word: L O V E A L L.
Do we have to love people who want to harm us? People that would harm those we love?
Today, I read a letter from a white family in Fargo, North Dakota. In this public letter, they denounce their prodigal son, a self-described White Nationalist and Nazi. Their son was in Charlottesville for the White Nationalist rally this past weekend, the one where the young woman who was counter-protesting was killed. A White Supremacist killed her when he drove his car into the crowd.
I don’t know what will be said about these people, or these weeks and months, when you’re all grown. I don’t know who you will be.
I don’t believe you'll grow up to be angry, or to fear and hate others. I don’t think you will, but in the letter from the white parents in Fargo, they said they don’t know where their son learned to hate.
“He didn’t learn it from us.”
“He didn’t learn it from home.”
We go to the rally. Or rather, we are late to the rally.
We are late, because we have to stop at the bank to get cash, and when we do, I realize there is almost no money in my bank account. I close my eyes and breathe deep. What is a choice? What isn’t?
I choose to go to the rally.
On the way, we meet up with a friend and his son. They are late too. We walk together toward the barricades and police lights. Your brother will not slow down, and several times I catch myself shouting his name much louder than I need to.
The rally has become a march, and has moved on. We can’t see it. The police are packing up. We meet people walking toward us, carrying signs. They are young and old people. They smile at you, a mix of pride and pity in their eyes.
“The march is far away by now.”
I look at you and your brother, with your tiny handmade signs, all the loops and circles, the planet Earth family.
“Should we try to catch up with them?”
“I’m not convinced there won’t be violence.”
For a moment, we all stand still, feeling the weight of terrible possibilities. The traffic buzzes past, angry drivers moving too fast because they’ve had to wait.
You are two years old, and your brother is five. Right now, I worry we won’t be able to catch up. Or your brother will skip ahead, and get lost in a crowd. Or we might get hit by a car. An angry driver? What if someone brings a gun?
I worry, but I know my worry is useless. There will be more worries, heavier and heavier.
We decide to go back the way we came, and to feed our children instead. While you eat supper, my friend and I talk.
“Everything is terrible.”
“There is not enough time.”
I close my eyes, and imagine that I can only give you two dreams, so I choose one that is beautiful, and one that is terrible.
In the beautiful dream, I put my hand on your back and we lean together to keep ourselves warm. We are sitting around a bonfire. Our friends are there, as well as the trees and the river. We are happy, the way I only am when I’m home. In the dream, we are home.
“Let’s all move to a commune in the woods.”
“I’ll make art.”
“I won’t make anything.”
“You won’t need to.”
There is a road and a ditch. That’s how the terrible dream starts. The road and the ditch are hard to tell apart, because the road is covered in water. The river has flooded. We are moving too quickly, but there is nowhere to go. We keep moving.
I give you this dream too. It is part of your story. One day, you will have to choose which dream to follow, and which one to let go.
Right now, you are sleeping. Soon, you will wake up.
May we all.
*Lyric from Florida Georgia Line, May We All. One in an ongoing series of pieces written after listening to, and reimagining, Top 40 Country Songs.