Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dear President Obama

As the shock of yesterday's election results wears off, an intense sadness takes over. Walking the streets of my hometown, I sense melancholy permeating the air. Facial expressions range from flat to crestfallen. The people I see, like me, are fighting tears. When the like-it-was-any-other-day cheery Starbucks barista greeted me with, "how ARE ya?" I couldn't manage the usual, "great, you?" No sound came out with my response. Instead, tears came. The woman behind me offered a comforting arm rub. We didn't exchange words. We could hardly exchange eye contact. We shared only silence.

I can barely manage my own devastation during this uncertain time. Yet, like many parents across this country, I must also struggle to comfort my children, who are frightened by the prospect of a President Trump. As much as I tried to shield my kids from the hate-filled rhetoric of his campaign, they absorbed enough to be terrified. The first question my 11-year-old son Truman asked me this morning as he recalled the late night election returns was this: "are we still safe?" His dad and I have few words of reassurance to offer. "How did this happen?" the boy asks. "Will Trump lock up Hillary Clinton?" he worries. "Do you think we should cancel Christmas?" he wonders. "Are you SURE we will be safe?" And I know that he reads my face, which says I don't know. I do not know that we will be safe.

His brother Jukie was the lucky one last night. Blissfully unaware, he turned in early and slept like a baby. Truman cried himself to sleep. Big sister Geneva and I texted late into the middle of her Wisconsin night. Her college blue state turned red, and we shared our disbelief. "Everyone is freaking out here!" she said. "Here too," I told her. Andy and I finally fell asleep, entwined like pretzels with my arm contorting so that I could sleep with my hand on his heart. Its steady beat said: We are still here. We will go forward.

I had a hard time separating from my kids today. But I had to go to work, and they had to go to school. We needed to keep calm and carry on. School pick up couldn't come soon enough; I needed to see my boys. On the ride home from school, Truman described his day. His teacher addressed the election first thing, giving the children a chance to share their feelings and reactions. He said that he chose not to speak today. "I couldn't bring myself," he said. I told him that I knew the feeling. But he had an idea: he would write to President Obama. Even if the president were never to see the letter, Truman said that feeling as if he were to talk to the man he so admires might just make him feel a little bit better. Here is his letter:

Dear President Obama,

I know it is somewhat unlikely you will ever see this, but I have hope this will reach you. My name is Truman Banjo Jones Duren. I live in Davis, California (west of Sacramento), and I am a fifth grader at Patwin Elementary. I am not writing this to tell you about myself. I am writing to say that on the 8th of November, I got more upset than I have ever been in my life. I am still very sad, but it would help me so insanely much if you end up responding to this. I think it might make us both feel better about the aftermath of this election.

On an unrelated topic, I just want to say you are the best president since Franklin Roosevelt. Probably the best period. I wrote a report on you when I was in fourth grade, and my teacher said it was the best.


Truman J. Duren

P.S. If you can, please write back.

I'm grateful that Truman will have memories of a president that he could admire.

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