An open letter to my 17 year old son

Dear son,

So what did you think of news of the Women’s March on Washington and the sister events worldwide? I was inspired by them.

Let me tell you some of my political history. I remember back in 9th grade I was a Nixon supporter, maybe for no better reason than that he was the first Richard elected President, but during high school I started becoming better aware of what was going on and by 1973 I was wearing an “Impeach Nixon” button. I was delighted when first Agnew and then Nixon resigned, and while I liked and respected Ford a lot more than them, I was euphoric when Carter, with the help of my first ever Presidential vote, won the 1976 election.

By 1980 I’d become disenchanted with Carter’s performance as President and infuriated with his reinstatement of draft registration so I voted for an independent, John Anderson. Of course Reagan won. During those years, especially while I was living in Maryland near DC, I took part in a number of demonstrations for causes I believed in. But after the disastrous 1984 election in which Mondale won only one state (plus DC) my political activity waned. I voted but that was about it. I alternated between discouragement and complacency as we went from Reagan and Bush to Carter to Bush to Obama, and as the Congress went back and forth between Democratic and Republican control.

I never greatly altered my political beliefs: Equal rights, opportunities, and justice for all, regardless of sex, race, gender identity, or beliefs; support and respect for the underprivileged and working class; justice and kindness ahead of profits; military force only to defend our values in the most dire of emergencies; environmental responsibility; science based approach to policy; health care for all.

In the past couple decades I watched as the Republican party went from a fairly principled, right-leaning party to unprincipled, right-wing extremists, to a party willing to do anything, say anything, and accept anything if it withholds power from the Democrats, willing to hand a blank check to the most lying, corrupt, ignorant, narcissistic, racist, power hungry Presidental nominee of all time and a supporting cast of billionaires, Nazis, and white supremacists. On November 8 my discouragement and complacency were replaced by disgust, anger, and fear. I felt physically sick the next day. The danger to America has never been worse.

Then this past Saturday I was one of 2000 people who turned out in Syracuse. My sister was at the protest in Portsmouth, NH; one of her daughters was at the Women’s March in DC; her other daughter was out in Amsterdam; and 3 or 4 million people around the world were standing up for progressive values and against Trumpism. Meanwhile Trump and his spokespeople were accompanying calls to invade Iraq to take its oil with easily refuted lies about the attendance and weather at the inauguration, and then relabeling their lies as “alternative facts”.

I was inspired by the size and power of the demonstrations on Saturday. I’m convinced we need to sustain this kind of activity in the face of the Trump threat, and I intend to act.

You’ll be turning 18 this year. You can vote. This year it’ll only be local elections but local politics is important too. In 2018 there will be Congressional elections and we’ll have an opportunity to change the trajectory of national politics then. Whether your political views are the same as mine or not, it’s important you make them known, by voting at the very least, and even better by communicating with your Congressional representatives, by working for better candidates, and by speaking out in your community. Take a stand for what you believe in. I am.

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