Dear Son, I'm sorry you like Trump. And other letters to loved ones
On the eve of the Trump administration, we asked you to write your loved ones. These are those letters.
I'm sorry we find ourselves on opposite sides of this election. I'm sorry this seems to have put a rift between you and me.
I find Trump brings back a time in my life I thought was put away. The time when men like Trump felt free to grab me by the pussy. When they were free to fondle your aunt while she was drugged for a dental procedure. A time when, after I was raped, a male pastor asked me if I wanted to ask for forgiveness in the event I secretly enjoyed myself. A time when I lost a career opportunity because I wouldn't sleep with the guy with the power to give me the job. A job I was qualified for.
It has been nearly 40 years since those days when men like Trump had power over me. I have tried to tell myself he is our president, press on. But the thought of him fills me with rage. Not just distaste, rage.
The vehemence of my feelings shocks me. I pride myself on being a clear thinker, for considering both sides, for seeking the truth, even if it means I have to change my mind. But I won't be changing my mind about Trump. I've met him before. And I am not powerless now.
Lorian Maddox, Lake Tapps, Washington
To my two year-old daughter,
I had hoped to be writing you a letter of joy during the 2017 inauguration, celebrating the progress made so far and sharing my excitement for the future. But, sweetheart, I can’t.
I hate that you will remember a time when a woman has never been president of this nation. I hate that we are still fighting for women’s rights, and the fight is about to get much harder. I hate that you’re growing up in a place where having a set of ovaries makes you almost, but not quite, a person.
But you also need to know this: in your lifetime, you will be the recipient of privilege. You are a white, native-born, middle-class child. You will be a beautiful woman, and your dad and I will make sure you get a good education. Because of all this, you will be treated well. You will be given advantages and opportunities at the expense of other people. This is wrong.
Dear Mom. Get your boa. It's time to f**king march
I’ll say it again: this is wrong.
Last year, I learned that a lot of Americans think that some people should be treated better than others. As President Trump is taking office, the hateful voices are getting louder. They are gaining more influence. And they will start making laws that even further harm people. It might even start to seem normal. But in our house, we won’t let it be normal.
We will keep our eyes open. We will stand up and yell when we see injustice. As the plans of this administration unfold, we will show you what is wrong and fight to make things right.
My love, you are a unique and wonderful creature, and so is every other human being on this planet. Everyone. No qualifiers there. Every single person deserves the same rights and sense of security that we have been arbitrarily dealt.
I don’t fully know how to teach you to fight against a system that is rigged in your favor. I’m only just realizing the true horror of it myself. But I promise you, precious girl, that I will learn. I will not be afraid, because fear makes us compliant. And I refuse to comply with the ideologies of this President.
Jessica Towns, Seattle
To my loving partner,
On the eve of Trump's presidency, I fear for our marriage.
Now, I know some in our community fear that he will rescind marriage equality. I don't believe that, but I do fear for your ability to continue hormone therapy, and your ability to seek gender affirming surgery. I fear that your license will forever read 'F.' I fear that there will be a resurgence of bathroom bills; I fear for how that will affect our budding marriage. I fear that you will face more rejection, more violence, more ignorance from our community. I fear that our government might teach our family to love us even less than they have already learned to.
On the eve of Trump's presidency, I pray for our children.
Pray to erase the fear that we may never adopt these children, these children of our dreams. I pray that these babies we whisper into our pillows, willing to exist and be loved by their queer parents, will not know the fantastic humans imaging them into safety each night. I pray for all the refugees who might have been ours, those we've imagined bringing into our family.
On the eve of Trump's presidency, I hope for our students.
That they might feel welcome, and more loved than your vision of them suggests. That your immigrant students and my immigrant students, will know that they have teachers who pray and love all of them; that they will know they are poems to us; that they challenge our lives and make us joyful.
Tonight, I fear, I pray, and I will kiss you before we sleep, so that we might continue to dream, and to hope.
Love, Your handsome wife
To my darling granddaughter, Sophie Lin,
You are nearly a whole month old, dear Sophie. I have the same hopes and fears for you as I did for your father 32 years ago. Despite my mistakes and failings, and despite the outside influences I worried about, your dad turned out to be a wonderful, caring and insightful young man. I am confident your mom and dad will nurture your spirit and steer you toward the good in this world.
In the 1960s and 70s, we lived with the Vietnam War, with cultural revolution, with drugs and free love, environmental destruction, segregation, “mutually assured destruction” and poverty. We wondered if we should bring children into a world that seemed headed for self-destruction.
Yet out of that era came environmental protections, civil rights, poverty programs and self-reflection about the legitimacy of that war. Our social conscience as a nation has seen losses as well as gains as we’ve evolved from slave-holders to electing an African-American president.
Sadly, we are faced with an unprecedented (and unpresidented) attack on all of the social gains of the last 50 years. Perhaps the new regime (I cannot really call it an administration) will, despite itself, enact some bits of legislation that will fit the criteria of social justice. But the potential for great and permanent harm is far more likely.
Some citizens, many of whom profess to follow Jesus Christ, felt that a narcissistic, greedy, cruel bully named Donald Trump would usher in an era when abortion would be fully outlawed, gay marriage and equality reversed, the Affordable Care Act killed, and somehow the erosion of the middle class would be halted by a cabal of uber-rich and powerful people who have no clue what it’s like to walk in our shoes. Trump promised to be their savior (“Only I can fix this”) and they chose the Darkness by electing him. Yes, Satan comes as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14)
Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Trump: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
“I said that I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created.”
Truthfully, I do believe that mid- and late-term abortions are wrong unless the life of the mother is truly in danger. But I believe that the lives of those already born are more important, and that the same people who want unwanted children to be born have done everything they can to keep them from thriving and surviving after they are born. These are the people who will be governing us.
I won’t go into all the details of the hypocrisy and harm we are faced with when Donald Trump becomes the most powerful person in the free world on Jan. 20. I worry even more for the welfare of my family, and for the kind of world you will grow up in because of this man and the people who voted for him.
But I think of girls and women like Malala Yousafzai, Rachel Carson, Dorothy Day, Rosa Parks, Michele Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, Simone Biles and numerous others who can be an inspiration to you. To all of us. You’ll have to read about them when you’re old enough. And about the great men who helped make the world a better place. Bernie Sanders (who is the most Christ-like politician around, even though he’s Jewish), Ralph Nader, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many others.
Be the Light, little Sophie. Be better than we are.
All my love, MeMaw
Cindy McIntyre, Oklahoma (in Seattle to visit 1-month-old Sophie)
When Trump becomes president on January 20th, 2017, your life will be forever affected. You will always remember the period of his presidency, when you aged from 11 to 15 (I hope dearly it doesn't last until you turn 19), because these will be formative years for you.
I know that you are more concerned with your life in middle school and soon enough high school; you have plenty of other things to catch your attention, whether it's the book you're currently devouring, the latest movies, fashion, and music, and soon enough the boys that you will giggle about and maybe even obsess over.
But I also know that you were rooting for Hillary Clinton, that she was your beacon of hope just like Obama was my beacon of hope when I was 17, too young to vote but not too young to root for him and watch him get elected one awe-inspiring day in 2008. I remember how elated I felt when I heard his acceptance speech on election night, and I feel miserable about the disappointment that you felt on election night in 2016.
Let that disappointment remain deep inside you, because it will fuel you and your generation as you prepare to stand up to Trump, or whatever comes next that infuriates you. You are coming into an age where you will decide what is important to you and what to stand up for, although those decisions will not stop happening once you reach your 20s either. For now, I hope you enjoy the rest of your childhood (tweenhood?), but I also hope the decision to fight for what is right will come naturally to you, because the world needs more champions and beacons of hope.
Most lovingly, your big sis
Paisley Zelaya, Seattle
My three beloved kids,
I am so deeply grateful that our family got to live through the historic presidency of Barack Obama.
As young, Mexican-American kids, your first understanding of who the president is and can be, is a person of color who came from a mixed marriage (just like me and dad!).
President Obama is also a person who worked hard in school, thinks deeply, travels and has lived in different parts of the world, goes to church, married a smart, accomplished woman, has been a great dad to his daughters, and has always stayed classy and used humor to combat the nastiness and obstacles thrown his way.
He wasn't always popular and he didn't always get his way, but he continued trying to make our country and world a better place for ALL people. He is a person to emulate and I hope you'll always look to a person like President Obama when you want to know what a real leader looks and acts like.
Our next president has very little in common with President Obama and I know that makes you — and me — scared and sad. However, the beauty of our democracy and our rights as citizens, is that we have the power to defend our American ideals. I'm going to keep working to help America live up to its potential and I hope, as you move into your teens and adulthood, you'll also think about what you value as Americans and citizens of the world and put your energy into promoting and defending those values.
This election has reminded me that we can never take our democracy for granted; that there are forces in the world that would rather we fear each other than do the hard work of understanding one another; would rather tear down than build up.
My sweet babies, YOU are our future! I love you and have so much confidence that even though we just took two steps back, you'll help us take three steps forward.
Kirsten Pangelinan, Seattle
Dear Elina and Nathaniel,
You will have no recollection of Donald Trump's election, but by the time of our next election, you will be 6 and 8 years old. By then, my darling children, I hope your country will proudly be introducing you to a new president who preaches and practices respect, compassion, and equality for all. In the meantime, we will read bedtime stories about the lives of leaders who embody the values I hope you embrace.
Caroline Freidenfelt, Seattle
Dear tiny daughter, Luisa,
It is a time of incredible uncertainty. Here we are on the eve of what I hope will be the most disgraceful political moment in your entire lifetime; the inauguration of Donald as president. May it not become worse.
Love, Your mother, Jane
Jane Silver, Spokane
You asked us on the eve of Trump's "election" why this country was so misguided. We only wish that we had the answer.
When you were born, I was so proud of your mixed heritage — you have all grown into wonderful, responsible adults with global awareness, sensitivity, and respect for each other.
We NEVER believed that a man so devoid of these things, so uninterested in intellectual pursuit, so outrageously arrogant and rude, would be elected president of this country that we love. I trust that you will maintain hope that, somehow, we can work together to restore a government that works for ALL of us.
In the meantime, we will vow to keep true to the essence of the United States and work to protect those marginalized by the future administration. We will NOT be complacent. Our families and our neighbors have been threatened with racism, homophobia, xenophobia. We have been insulted by this election and many of us are mortified to be represented by such a creep.
Please continue to hold dear the ideals of freedom of speech and justice for all. Young people like yourselves will help us pull through and change the government channel from The Jerry Springer Show to true political debate and discourse. We Hope.
We love you so much.
Dear Baby Girl,
Though you aren't scheduled to come for a few more months, I've thought a lot since November about what I want to say to you about this strange moment in the time you're being born into.
The week before the election, we found out you would be our little girl. Knowing that made it all the more poignant as learned that Trump would be the next president. Baby, I cried all day as I thought about what that would mean for so many people — what it would mean for you.
I thought about how many times in the next four years Trump's words and actions will nudge me to have conversations with you. It is my job as your mama to teach you that bullying is not okay, that lies are not good, that just because someone has a different skin color than you or came from a different country does not make them scary or bad, that people can love whoever they want, that as a girl you can be whatever you want to be and no one should touch you without your consent. Now, more than ever, it feels important.
For now, your daddy and I are trying not to retreat into our home as we prepare for your arrival. We march. We donate to organizations that are helping people who will be impacted by the new administration. I work for an organization that helps people in need. We know we need to more, and we're figuring out what that looks like.
In the meantime, we wait for you. Because even though you won't be born into a world where a woman is president, your arrival brings hope for a better tomorrow.
Love, Your mama
Jennifer Nortrup, Burien, Washington
At first I thought about writing this to my mother who is a champion for Trump and seemingly all he stands for. Then I thought about writing it to my fiancé who has a heart the size of Utah. And of course I almost wrote it to my young niece and nephews who will spend some of their young lives living under a Trump administration. But all of these people already know how I feel. Thus, I decided to write it to myself.
In the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign, I felt a growing fear about what a Trump presidency could mean. Of course in those early months it seemed nearly implausible that reality TV star, Donald Trump, would even make it through the rings of fire required to be selected as a nominee. I watched with the rest of America as this man insulted, attacked, and cast a shadow over this entire country. I was aware of the systematic racism and sexism that continues to permeate this country but I had never seen it advertised so widely. My fears grew as I saw Trump’s goals included building walls, drafting registries for Muslims, and encouraging a new era of white supremacy.
The past two months have been extremely difficult for me. The entire campaign season felt like a very personal attack via Trump but an even more personal possible triumph via Hillary Clinton. On election night, I sat on the couch with my fiancé as we watched Donald Trump walk to the stage to congratulate himself on becoming elected. I cried and left a stain of mascara on the arm of the couch. It’s still there today. I’ve realized there is a void of self-care in these tiresome days. We’re already doing so much.
So tonight, I am still weary but those feelings have boiled over into a more calculated plan of action. In the coming years I vow to take care of myself before anything else. I must remember that in order to cause any change I will need to be physically and mentally prepared to do so.
Recently, I’ve worked from home a lot due to the depression that reentered my life. I’ve cried in random bathroom stalls. I’ve cried on the bus. I’ve made new friends but have cut many off. I have allowed the election to alter my reality but I cannot live like this much longer.
I will make every effort possible to protect my community and the communities in this great country. I will stay involved. I will reach out. I will get uncomfortable. I will honor President Barack Obama’s legacy by holding tight to the values I know to be true and moral while also smashing cynicism with the other hand. I am worried for the future of this country — no doubt. But I suppose the time is right for a revolution and I must play my part.
Demi Wetzel, West Seattle
Dear Nolan, Evie and Collin
This is a letter I’d never thought of having written before now, this historic week before the inauguration of our 45th president. I want you to know that you are the most important thing in my life hands down. My love for you is fierce and as wild as any mother animals. I would be lying if I said I feel confident about the stability of our nation right now and those at the helm.
They say you only grieve what you love. I question the grief I feel. Is it a love for America or the perceived stability the last four-plus decades has provided me?
It has been said that all of us humans share a common grief of being born; the departure from the warm safe watery harbor of our mother’s womb and the most familiar heart beat and voice. Our primal connection to all humanity beats through that heart and cord. The blood we share with our mothers and the blood they shared with their mothers and so on and so forth for countless generations.
In ancient times people used to grieve the births of babies – wailing with the mother and babies for the sadness of spirit coming into a body and becoming earthbound. Conversely, death was a celebration as bodies were shed and spirits were returned to the great well from where we all came. Some cultures, to demonstrate the extremes of womb life and earth life dunked fresh born babies in the cold of a river as a first lesson on how things are here in this place. Pain and Beauty inseparably intertwined. There is heartbreaking and very real suffering and death here and at the same time, there are people making love, beauty, art, sharing what they have.
All souls born have had to face insurmountable things along the way. Marcus Aurelius said, “You have power over your own thoughts, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength."
Why am I writing to you, you may wonder? There is no way to candy-coat the politics and suffering that will surely happen in these next years. When greed is so palpable and poverty is so ever present. When harm is legislated, water is allowed to be contaminated, chemicals are disguised and sold as food, brutality can be hired and contracted, access to medicine and health care is limited to the wealthy, racism is ingrained in our daily lives, women are sexualized, education is failing, and everywhere we look things are falling apart.
Our next president has given us every indication that things will stay the same. He has promised to wall off our third-largest trading partner and make them pay for it, he has disrespected a gold star military family, mimicked a disabled man, he has been accused of colluding with Russia, he has bragged about aggressively groping women. He has defaulted on business loans and there is more.
I want to be hopeful and encouraging, but now will be the time for hard work on the part of many to protect the water, keep the earth and food clean and climate cool, help people who are being marginalized on a daily basis mostly at the hands of corporations and individuals profiting from loss.
Face these things that seem scary. The only way we will get through this is by taking naps, filling your own well and squarely looking at this shadow. It is not up to you to fix the world alone, but you must do the next good thing in your heart to help shift the balance. Look up from your devices and Love. Help. Give. Lift. Share. Speak out and speak up. Be a friend. Buy Local. Volunteer. Link arms with those who are being persecuted. Do what your heart knows and lend a hand.
It is hard to find joy in light of the suffering of our fellow humans. We are not exempt from this pain. We strive for a world where we all have access to water, food, medicine and safety. As long as I am alive and your mother, we will work hard, continue to share what we have, make beauty and tell stories to lift each other up and help others.
Our brothers and sisters who are just like us and grieve the warm watery place we all came from. We take care of natural world which is a gift and is how we sustain our life. We will keep doing our best no matter how discouraging things ahead look. We are going to use our energy to not be afraid of the darkness we see and feel. We can face it together.
Breath deep, into your lungs, remember we are all the same so do not look away. I would like to believe this is the pain of us being born.
By your side, Love, Mom
Leslee Pate, Indianola, Washington
Tomorrow we will have a new president. He is not the president you deserve — not a man of honor, nor honesty, and yet here he is.
I’ve had to explain to you the term “pussy” before we march on Saturday. I’ve had to explain this because of the way our new commander in chief is on record discussing how he can assault women with impunity because he is wealthy and powerful.
You are 11 years old. On Saturday we will march in protest against this man for many reasons. We will rise above the hate speech, racism, xenophobia and tell our new president, Congress, and the nation who we are and that we are not going away. We will be marching for the health, safety and dignity of all our citizens, and those who have come here for a better life – to escape persecution or unlivable conditions, much like many who came to America so long ago, to free themselves from oppression and tyranny.
People may tell you some day, as they have told us throughout history, that activism is not patriotic, that it is propaganda. That it is whining, “Sore loser” (to quote our new president) behavior.
Darling daughter, I am here to tell you: Activism, protest, and exercising your freedom of speech is the definition of patriotism – especially against a dangerous government that threatens our civil liberties, and human rights. You are an activist already. You have shown that you understand concepts of truth and justice that many adults cannot.
You understand that Black Lives Matter, that everyone deserves healthcare, and that no person should be touched sexually without consent. There will be times in your life where you will have to make your voice heard, even against the most powerful. You are strong, intelligent, feisty and capable of this.
Nora Laughlin, Seattle
To my dearest daughters,
Hope beyond hope are the words that flow through on this inauguration eve. Like many, there has been grief, disappointment, yet hope prevails. As we gather together in communities across our nation, know that you, each of you will change, and beautify the world in the most amazing ways. As a mother, and as a teacher, I see the beauty of change happening underfoot, may we all stand together in support with each other.
Macy Lawrence Ratliff, Kenmore, Washington
On the eve of this election I am afraid of the future. My childhood was made memorable by threat of nuclear war. I had always hoped in my lifetime that would no longer be a threat.
We are going into a time where the careless wrath of a narcissist could reap a nuclear whirlwind and change the world with 140 characters.
I wanted so much more than for you to live in fear. All we can do is work for justice and hold on to hope. I know you will do your best.
Love always, Mom
Hillary Brown, Seattle
On the eve of the Trump presidency, I am thinking of you.
You don't yet have a name because you do not yet exist. This week, your father and I are hoping to conceive you, our first, or perhaps our only child. We can't wait to meet you, you who will be a living, breathing symbol of our love for each other and also a unique, dazzling creature with a life entirely your own.
Yet, I am terrified. I wonder, what kind of life will we be bringing you into? What kind of world will be left for you when you come into your own? Will I be able to teach you the critical skills you will need to survive in the world to come? I have no doubt that I can teach you how to read, how to calculate or how the planets move around the sun, but can I teach you empathy? Will I be able to teach you how to really listen and hear the voices of those less privileged than you? Can I teach you how to remain proud and strong, despite the messages that you might receive from our incoming president and those who support him?
I can only hope that by the time you are old enough to be aware of such things, the tide against Trump and the beliefs that he embodies will have risen so high as to have drowned out the voices of hate that have become so deafening as of late. It is said that things must get worse before they get better. This is cold comfort, especially for those who can ill-afford for things to get any worse. So much is uncertain but the only choice is to carry on. I will carry on and continue to fight injustice wherever I see it. I will fight for everyone but especially for you, because like any parent I want to leave you a better world than the one we have now.
Dear Nils, Chris, Kendall, and Allyson,
On the eve of the Trump presidency I will be unsettled and nervous because I do not know what the next year or four will bring. There is a lot of unrest in our country, many walls/labels have been created that separate us as a nation. Many folks feel ignored, frustrated with the current political, and are crying out.
I know we, as a family, will survive. But I am not sure about those who are struggling, hurting, who do not have the skills to stand on their own two feet. We are only as good as our weakest member. I am not sure the new administration recognizes that. What gives me hope is you and your generation. All four of you are passionate about life, about each other, and about others beyond your bond of family.
I have seen you broaden your definition of family to expand to include those who have different political perspectives, come from different cultures/races, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, etc. You are life-long learners and you question what is happening and invite others to discuss the issues.
The next step is going to take some deep soul-searching and commitment from you to move from just talking and discussing to taking action to start and support change. Each of us have the responsibility as a human to help others. Not only does it make a difference to others but you will find when you give to others, you will actually grow exponentially.
Like the song "I hope you dance" by Tia Sillers and Mark Sanders: "And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance!"
So this Thursday night, I will be reflecting on what new challenges we will be facing, my fears, my concerns. Then I will end the night thinking about what the future will bring in terms of what you and your generation can do to shape our nation so that it is inclusive, caring, and strong. Learn from our mistakes as you step up and begin to shape our country's destiny. That brings me hope and with hope comes change.
Jamey Herdelin, Louisville, Kentucky
Isolde Raftery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a story idea? Use our story pitch form.