A Talk With My Best Girl in an Era of Hatred

I had a long, rich, deep, sad, funny, scary, soul-searching, proud talk with my grandgirl, Madeline, yesterday evening and came away with my belief that she will remain strong in this environment of hatred and lies.

Madeline will be 13 next month and she’s right smack in the middle of the national school malaise, one where the children are taking the lead to pull this country out of its self-dug hole–as they did in the 1960s with Vietnam. I mentioned to her how a large group of teenagers and people in their early 20s basically saved many thousands of soldiers from death in Vietnam by protesting–often violently and sometimes being tossed into jail–and finally getting those military kids, often in their teens, returned to their communities. Sometimes in pieces. But returned nonetheless.

I told her that the true American heroes are the ones who question, who protest, who change the country for the better.

Madeline talked about her small, tight group of friends (including a couple she still talks to almost daily in Spain) is pulling together, supporting each other, trying to figure out this mess and looking for answers. We talked about how community begins just that way–with those around us–and expands slowly to include the neighborhood, the city, the region, the state and finally the nation.

“We just want to be happy, to live in peace,” she said, echoing the mantra of people throughout the world, throughout history. It is a simple goal, one almost impossible to achieve in light of ambitious, greedy, power hungry white men who will stop at nothing to achieve their hateful goals. “I don’t know how we can stop war,” she said, “but I want it to stop.”

I mentioned that a Roanoke middle-school boy had been arrested for taking a gun to school this week and Maddie told me about an eighth-grader who had been jailed in her school near Memphis for raping and nearly killing a 5-year-old. She’s too young to be experiencing this level of violence, even indirectly (“I know the boy,” she said, “and I was shocked he would do something like that”) but so were the babies at Sandy Hook and the teens at Parkland. So are we all.

I thought a lot about our Facetime talk yesterday through the evening and my hope for my best girl was solidified. She’s going to be OK and she will help others in that, as well.

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