To My Daughter, On Charlottesville

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My dearest girl,

You don’t yet know about the events that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, but someday you will. When you are faced with that moment and, sadly, ones similar to it, then here is the very first thing you must know: There is only one side. Let me tell you about the one we stand on.

When mommy was younger, your Gigi would always tell me that the person who stood by while someone else faced hurtful words, or even harm, spoke the loudest. That, I too, would be wrong for not speaking up or finding an adult who could help me do the work of saying, “You are wrong –– now knock it off.” I did not always understand or even appreciate what she meant. But there were times throughout my childhood where fear of repercussion stopped me from standing up for the person or cause I believed in. Instead, I would take the role of bystander, standing amongst the ones who were in action. In those moments, I understood what your Gigi had been saying because my heart would hurt and I would regret my inability to be the other action –– the action of love and compassion.

To my not-yet-aware-of-this-weekend's-events daughter: The other day mommy was speaking to her friend Laura and she told me that her son refers to the days before gay people could get married as "the olden days." We both looked at each other with amused, but knowing eyes. The truth is the days of hatred, sexism and bigotry are not yet behind us. This weekend’s events in Charlottesville are proof of that. This is not free speech in action. This is hate in action. To many of us, it seems so obvious –– why would we choose to spread such hatred? Doesn't it make your heart feel sad when you see waving flags that are meant to hurt people with a color of skin or religion that is viewed as different?

Your daddy is Jewish, baby –– you know that. So is your Papa, Aunt Anna, great grandmother, many of your cousins, and so many ancestors who came before them. When your daddy was a little boy not unlike you, his classmates would call him names because of his religion. We won’t discuss the names, but what we will say is this: each one of them meant that your daddy was less than, frowned upon because his religion was not “the norm.” Daddy endured both physical and emotional wounds because of those hateful feelings. How does that make you feel for daddy?

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Sweet girl, this past weekend a group of protestors gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to yell and scream about the removal of a statue that represents a terrible time in our history. One that was centered upon judging people by the color of their skin and deciding the limitations of their basic rights as human beings. You won’t be raised to judge people by the color of their skin, but, as the late Dr. Martin Luther King said, “by the content of their character.” As daddy says, he dislikes people from the inside out. I like that logic.

These issues, of course, extend beyond the color of your skin and religion to, as I already mentioned, who you are allowed to love. In your case, baby doll, you might also come up against some pretty nasty things that have to do with your gender. You might be judged by your healthcare decisions and you might not make as much money because of your born female identity. Men might say, “you’re too pretty to not smile” and you will feel a creepy feeling crawl up your spine. One of your friends might someday laugh at you when they see a menorah next to your Christmas tree.

I know it hurts to imagine, baby, but some people think exactly that. And so here is what we will do: we will use our voices and actions again and again and again. We will not only work to spread a message of inclusion, but one that is unafraid to point out why these acts are so very wrong. We will find like-minded people and we will work together to continue fighting for equal rights, for less hate and more love. We will strive to make each of these moments something that rests in "the olden days," places in history where people couldn't see a clear enough picture. But, "look, it's getting better," we will hope for the future.

You’ll have to start small, of course. After all, you’re only little. Some of your first opportunities to use your voice will arise in a cafeteria or on a playground. You will notice a group of kids whispering about a friend or you will see a sad-faced classmate sitting alone. This is the hard part, darling. This is where you will have to check in with your heart and do something that can be scary, but pretty freaking brave. Your actions will be to have a seat next to the solo child, your words will be tell the other kids that their whispering isn’t so nice.

You won’t always know exactly the right actions to take or the precise words to say. Sometimes fear will get in the way. But that is why the best human beings use missed opportunities as moments for reflection and change. What I mean by that, dear heart, is that you can always turn around and do the next good and right thing.

And when you do it? Act with absolute precision. No blurred lines, sweetie. Because when you are standing up for something, you should do it without room for interpretation, with no space for gray area. That is how you will not only make your point, but let the people you are speaking to know that you don’t mess around. Because standing in the face of ugliness is serious business. When all else fails, a simple, “NO” alway suffices. “Absolutely not,” “no way” and “I am 100 percent against this,” will work too.

I know you're only two years old, but, my love, someday you will not be sure where to turn and to that I say –– always turn to love.

I love you, Mama.