The day you were born, your daddy had friends pick up a newspaper so you would know what was going on in the world on the day you were born. When we received the paper to weeks later we’re a bit disappointed. It was covered in pictures of an ISIS training camp. Instead of pictures of Curiosity on Mars or a landmark Supreme Court decision or a scientific discovery, your birth was marked by terrorism and the threat of those who have been raised to hate.
I wanted for a long time to go to some library or archive and find you a better cover. Today I see how right that cover was.
That hate, celebrated by black ISIS flags flying over cities your dad once fought to free from a dictator, has come home.
Perhaps worse, that hate now permeates our politics. Us and them is being redrawn so our nation can unify in our anger and ignorance.
But your daddy doesn’t go and serve abroad because of hate. Soldiers don’t hate. They serve and defend.
I remember the first time your daddy told me he planned on deploying many times over the course of his life. I was so angry at him. We must have taken a dozen laps around his apartment complex battling back and forth.
Until I understood.
I thought he was going because he could never be attached enough to a wife or child to mind leaving them.
I learned he was going because his power to love was far deeper than I’d ever realized before.
He kept it so private and locked up inside. I had to pry his heart open to see and understand.
When your daddy asks to deploy, I know he needs to. He needs to because it is one of the ways he shows his love and one important way he fulfills his small place in this world.
Yesterday 50 people were murdered at an LGBT club in Orlando. The hate that man must have had. Not just to kill, but to violate the safety and security and belonging that club represents for our country. Fear and loss will permeate that community and all their brothers and sisters and children and friends for a generation.
My hope for you is that you will find your own way of fighting the hate in this world. My hope is that in your fight you will wield the weapons of love and wisdom, the weapons me and your daddy use. I fight hate by empowering young black men and women to celebrate their identity and harness their education to realize their dreams. Daddy fights hate by dedicating his career to the service of our national defense.
May you find your own path.
Perhaps because of you there will be one less Orlando or Freddie Gray or Travon Martin. One less Denver or Sandy Hook or 9/11 or Columbine.
One less black man shied away from in the street or in a job pool. One less movie where interesting or remarkable women are an exception or an afterthought. One less Hispanic data analyst or ultrasound tech judged as ignorant because of their accent. One less family or individual pre-judged or excluded from a conversation because of their religion. One less transgender kid assaulted in the streets. One less black kid suspended for disrespect. One less refugee fleeing the ash and blood and chaos of war.
One less speech insisting it’s doing us a service by spouting stereotypes people are afraid to admit they have.
Love and respect and waking in our neighbor’s shoes. The people in the Middle East need that from us as much as we need that at home.
And hope. Hope for a better world. Hope that mutual respect can bring us together. Hope that we can be better than our enemies. Hope that our democracy and freedom continues to mature and blossom for generations to come.
Hope for those who lost loved ones yesterday.
Hope for Orlando.
I love you no matter what, little lovely. Stand tall and be someone I can admire too. Someone who loves and serves and exults in life and all its possibilities. Someone who makes her little slice of the world a better place.