We took you to Seattle this weekend to meet up with some old friends and celebrate a union of two women we know. It was sunny if not warm, but you probably didn’t notice any of that. We’ve learned to appreciate what the late-day light looks like as it filters through a cumulus cloud and falls on gently moving water from the Pacific. We know to watch it when walking on old wood, or to hold onto a handrail as we lean over the sound and crane our necks to spy on a lone sea lion who has wandered near us and who makes us giggle as he snorts when he comes up for air.
I’m not sure about the world into which you’ll be born, and I apologize for that, little one. Probably a lot of parents worry about the dangers, misdeeds, and evils of people who may cross paths with their children. Maybe even all of them, at one point or another, but your father is also wary of generalizing. I’ll just hold myself in good company in saying that I do have fears about what you’ll face growing up on this planet, and even as I say that I know that you’ll be born in the richest, most resource-laden country that exists.
You’ll have a wealth of privileges and I hope that you’ll learn about what the consequences of them are for other people. For the United States of America didn’t suddenly blink into existence. It was built on the backs of many, many millions of people who are mostly now invisible—Chinese miners who weren’t allowed to live above ground, slaves brought over like cargo in wretched ships, split up from their families, Irish people who were indentured servants building the infrastructure for our burgeoning industrial revolution, Native tribes who were run off of their land after sharing with us invaluable knowledge about how to work the soil here, generations of tradespeople who were the backbone of our earlier economies, and family legacies of farmers who fed us into never-before-seen levels of nutrition and health.
Every country has a history, but countries, it seems, are becoming antiquated, as we talk to each other directly, residents of nations around the globe, watching what goes on beyond our own borders. When a man in Tunisia started a revolution there, it was talked about everywhere, little one, and soon there were uprisings in the streets far, far away from sea lions in Puget Sound, but seemingly so close to our hearts. We have just watched a broad swath of the Middle East turn away from militancy, tyranny, ignorance, and a stubborn power order, while other countries in the region continue to struggle.
The day after this wedding that your mother and I went to, in which two women, still nervous about showing affection for each other in front of their families, celebrated their union, the day after this came the news that a man who had hurt and killed many people had died, assassinated by our President and his military. This man was not beloved, except by a few men who protected him and perhaps others in his own family. You missed the trauma of September 11, 2001, my child, and for that I am somewhat grateful, because it was a terrible day that many of us will never forget. But I have to note that my heart feels no more full today, after Osama bin Laden’s death than it did yesterday. I don’t rejoice in his death so much as I continue to anguish in the loss of so many people who died from the events he helped set in motion.
I want you to know that liberty, our liberty, comes at a price. And if we are truly to respect our fellow human beings, to choose life, we need to stay honest about the consequences of our actions and our nation’s, and never, never hate another person so much that we would congratulate ourselves upon their death.
This world is a wonderful, terrible, joyous, grief-filled, surprising, predictable place. I am so lucky to have you come into my life soon, and I will give you everything I have and try to be the best person I can be so that you will always be proud of me. And I dearly hope that my first and last lesson to you will be to love. Love yourself, love the people around you, and love your world.