A Letter to My Son After Election Day

My darling boy,

You were born lucky. You were born to two white parents, in a country with free health care and low interest rates on student loans. You were AMAB, which, even though it shouldn’t, gives you benefits that girl-children have to fight for. You were born in one of the most diverse cities in the world, where you can grow to be any version of yourself you’d care to. We buy your clothes and toys second-hand and from local businesses. We read to you, we play music for you, we take your picture, we tell you how much we love you every day. We are trying our best to give you a good babyhood, one that does not hew too closely to buy-buy-buy capitalism, one that exposes you to lots of different people, one that allows you to explore the world at your own pace.

In other ways, you were born at a disadvantage. Your parents are poor, or broke, or both. Your family tree is infested with mental illness, which are the kinds of diseases that you don’t have to wait until retirement before they fuck you right up. You live in a city where many people will do much better than you. You will have to work hard to get where you want to go, and that will require you to be smart and dedicated. Being smart and dedicated takes energy. Some days, expending that energy will feel like a chore.

In two short months, Donald J. Trump is going to become President of the United States. He ran on a platform of hatred—for women, foreigners, government programs designed to help people, and change—and many, many people bought what he was selling. He shouted that he would lead the country back to a time of greatness, but people also heard him whisper that that time was when people of colour knew their place, when women had fewer choices, when white men were in charge, when systems were unshakeable.

Canada is not America, of course, and many of us watched in horror as Trump accepted the presidency. It went from a sick joke to a yawn of dread, compounded by our lack of ability to do anything, diluted by the fact that we don’t live there. It’s been a complicated week, my darling son, is what I’m trying to say.

But it’s also been a crystallizing week. Panic has a way of stripping social niceties away and exposing our dark hearts. Some people doubled down on their hatred of Hillary, of the system that built her up, of the party that she led; some people shared stories of fear of being punished for their gender, the colour of their skin, the contents of their uterus. People expressed solidarity; other people rebuffed it. Rifts formed. Some smoothed themselves out, and some didn’t. It felt, my love, like a tiny apocalypse.

The world will survive a Trump presidency, but it’s probably going to be an ugly time. He’s a climate-change denier, which will have repercussions that your own children will pay for. He is friendly with countries that have atrocious human-rights records. He’s a racist and a misogynist, which will set the tone for a generation’s relationships with POCs and women. And he will be speaking right to you, if you want to listen: that you, as a white guy, deserve to be the most important person in the room. And if you’re not, somehow your rights are being trampled.

My darling child, I want you to know this: you are no more special than anyone else. I love you, I’m delighted to know you, and I think you’re magical, but most mothers think this about their children. I can separate your amazingness and your total ordinariness. You have power and privilege, mostly as a result of a system that punishes or ignores people who aren’t exactly like you, but innately, you’re the same as the girl on your left and the boy on your right.

When you get older, the world will treat you like you are its default. You’ll be welcome in nearly every room, in nearly every space, in every industry and in every sphere of academia. Rarely will you have to prove that you belong, that you’re good enough, that you’re wanted, because right now, the world treats white boys like you as though belonging is your birthright. It’s an ugly thing to say out loud, but it’s also ugly to pretend it’s not true.

But, my son, if you choose, you can be a secret agent. You can be that white man—it’s your destiny—but you can ally yourself with those who are Other. In this world, it is revolutionary to pass the microphone to women, to cede the floor to people of colour, to lift up your trans brothers and sisters, to celebrate your gay aunties and uncles. (That we accept this as revolutionary speaks to our human pace of change, but we also seem to be gathering momentum.) You must invite people into rooms where you walk in easily. You must listen when others tell you their stories—fears, successes, and anger—and know that sometimes the act of speaking takes up so much energy that you must move forward with the work. You must accept that sometimes, people do not want to be kind or conciliatory about their wounds. You, unwounded, must be kind anyway.

Does this sound tough? My son, it is. Humans are often bad listeners, and we want to be the hero of every story. But you, my tiny revolutionary, if you want it, you can seek out the folks who need help. You can open doors and amplify voices. You can do the difficult work of giving up your comfortable place on top and make it easier for others to succeed. Sometimes, it’ll feel like this happens at your expense. But true change is not a zero-sum game.

All I want for you, this week, is for you to be kind. To show up. To be a good listener. To understand that the system is rigged in your favour and to not confuse that with winning. To understand that life is complicated and strange, that sometimes progress will look like you just getting out of the way. It is your duty, your human duty, to help those who need help. And depending on how the next few years go, there be more people than ever who need our help.

About the Author

Kaitlyn Kochany
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More about Kaitlyn Kochany

Kaitlyn Kochany is a Toronto-area freelance writer and editor. She had her son, NS, in January 2016, and has been trying to sleep and write since then.

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