In 1992, Bruce Springsteen released a song called “Souls of the Departed,” on his album, Lucky Town. After describing the death of a seven-year-old boy killed in a gang-related drive-by, he observes,
His mama cried, “My beautiful boy’s dead”
In the hills the self-made men just sighed and shook their heads
But then, as always, Springsteen brings it down to the personal and immediate:
Tonight as I tuck my own son in bed
All I can think of is what if it would’ve been him instead
I want to build me a wall so high nothing can burn it down
Right here on my own piece of dirty ground
During this Christmas season, I’ve found myself thinking about all those children out there living in real, legitimate fear—the children of immigrants, the poor, the non-white, the LGBTQ—because of who the assholes in our country have chosen to lead us. The increase in hate crimes against those groups has been well-documented, and will only continue to grow. And I think about those parents, who must be filled with the worst kind of terror: the certainty that they can’t protect their children.
And as I tuck my own three children in bed, I think, “What if would’ve been them instead?”
And I share that terror. I have sons who will spend at least the next four years witnessing how everything I’ve tried to teach them—honesty, kindness, compassion, empathy—counts for nothing. You can be dishonest, unkind, and compassionless and still be chosen to lead what was once the greatest country in the world. And if that’s true, how can the decent ever succeed?
And I have a daughter who will learn that this vile president’s defining quote*, right up there with “I cannot tell a lie,” “Four score and seven years ago,” and “Tear down this wall,” will be, “Grab them by the pussy.” Them being women, and girls, and her.
Make no mistake: the assholes have won. Not the Right (or alt-Right), not the fundamentalist Christians (a topic for a whole other post), not the Conservatives. Not the racists, the xenophobes, or the homophobes. All those terms are mere smoke screens. Under it all, it’s just assholes, all the way down.
So during this holiday season, spare a thought for those who are truly in danger from this Cowardly New World. Do something kind for the most vulnerable among us. Wish at least a few moments’ peace for those children lying in bed, praying that God or Santa will make everything right. Wish that same peace for the parents who know that will never happen.
Because by next Christmas, it may be all of us.
*Until he comes up with something even worse. Which he will.