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A Letter to My Son on Bringing Him Into Such a Scary World

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Declan,

Before we had you, your mother sometimes fretted about bringing a child into the world that would not grow up with the resources and advantages that she had as a child, and whose future would likely be shaped, on some level at least, by our perpetual struggle to stay afloat financially.

I was just intent on ensuring that you grew up without the many disadvantages of my own much more unstable youth, but lately a new form of guilt and confusion has taken root within me. Like many parents, I have wondered, in my darkest and most fearful moments, about the morality of bringing an innocent child into a world so rife with madness, violence, dysfunction and discord.

Seldom in my life have I felt as fearful, or as afraid about the future of humanity as I do right now. I am more despairing and pessimistic about the future of our nation than I was after the attacks of 9/11. When the Twin Towers went down, our conception of what was and was not possible was permanently altered for the worse. But the intense despair and confusion and sadness people felt alchemized into a sense of togetherness, of solidarity, to a sense that wherever people fell on the political or socioeconomic spectrum that it was essential for them to come together.

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The world feels like a much different place now, Declan. Instead of bringing us together, this latest eruption of seemingly daily tragedies seems only to be tearing us further apart.

I worry about the world that I'm leaving you, Declan.

I'm worried that it is getting progressively uglier and crueler, and that for all the signs of progress—like the legalization of gay marriage and our first black president—there is an even more intense and explosive backlash of people trying to drag society back into the distant past.

Declan, I want you to grow up thinking that despite everything, people are good at heart. If Anne Frank could believe that people are good at heart when she and her family were being hunted for the crime of belonging to a particular religious faith, then hope and belief should be accessible to everyone, no matter how grim their circumstances. But sometimes it's hard to have faith and belief when things seem so dire and people seem so hopeless and overwhelmed.

I'm scared to raise you up in a world where a frightening percentage of the population seems to believe that guns are the answer, and not the problem, where people seem angrier about the prospect of losing access to sleek, efficient killing machines than they do about the people killed with them.

But I know that you are good, and that your mother is good, and that you are surrounded by good people who adore you, and that has to be enough.

I'm frightened to be bringing you up in a world that talks so much about the sanctity and value of life and children, then does so little for children or parents once the little bundles of joy are actually born.

I want to believe with all my heart that people are good, and to that end, it really would behoove me to get off Facebook forever, or at least to refrain from following various social media rabbit holes involving one Donald J. Trump who, let's be real, is very much the primary inspiration for this letter, and one of the main reasons I fear for our future.

Declan, I want you to grow up knowing that you have power, that you have agency. I don't want you to just accept the unconscionable injustices of the world. I want you to know that you can change the things in the world that nobody should accept, and that if you can't succeed in changing those things, then you can try, and that there is infinite value in fighting the good fight, even if it can never be won.

Anne Frank was a little girl in an attic facing one of the most brutal and horrific injustices of the 20th century, but she was not without power. Her power lie in her words and in her hope. Those words were so casually eloquent and that hope so potent and unexpected that even today this little girl stands as a beacon of light in a world that often feels like it is on the verge of descending into complete darkness.

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Your words, and your hope can be powerful weapons as well, and I hope that you do more to try to make the world a kinder, more humane place than writing snarky Tweets about Donald Trump—your father's preferred mode of political protest. To ensure this happens, I will text you, "Hey, shouldn't you be doing something tangible about global warming or gun control?" several times each day for decades to come, possibly just after waking up from a long nap. While it's hard to be optimistic about the future some days, I radiate excitement and enthusiasm for the part of the future that involves being your dad, and you being my son.

Declan, my boy, I wish I could say that I firmly believed that people were really good at heart, but the truth is I just don't know. I've seen far too much evidence to the contrary to hold onto idealistic notions about mankind's fundamental decency. But I know that you are good, and that your mother is good, and that you are surrounded by good people who adore you, and that has to be enough.

I cannot control the rest of the world, but I hope that that fundamental goodness, that incandescent internal light of yours infects others. I worry about the future, Declan, but I derive no small measure of comfort in the knowledge that the world will be a better place for you being a part of it.



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