DIARIO DI MAMMA
EDITORS NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories about what mothers can do to combat the hate and vitriol poisoning us. I’m writing these stories because I can’t sit around and wait for others to do my job anymore, and this is not the world I want for my son – or yours.
I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted by living in a world consumed by hate, driven by fear, and plastered with sadness. This is not the place I dreamed for my son. He deserves better. We all do.
Hate is stealing our children’s future. Now, today, something’s got to give. The time has come to take action. None of us can afford to remain silent anymore.We have too much to lose.
A gunman, who pledged allegiance to ISIS and other terrorist organizations and had displayed hate for gays (or perhaps hated himself for being one, which is now under investigation), senselessly killed 49 people and injured 53 at a gay nightclub, Pulse, in downtown Orlando early on June 12. It was the worst mass shooting in American history. Our leaders tell us we can expect more of the same in the future. Of course, they are right. How can they track down someone who comes up with an evil plot and doesn’t share any of the details? How can we stop someone when he or she can so easily purchase a military-grade weapon, even if he’s been investigated for terrorism, even if he has beaten his wife, even if he’s a bad guy?
This is not the world I want for my son.
After nearly suffocating myself with the awful news of the worst mass shooting in American history, I tossed and turned in my bed. Right next to me, sleeping like angels, lay my 4-year-old son and nearly 4-year-old nephew. They were having a sleepover. Earlier in the day, as I watched the heinous acts of one person turn one of America’s most beloved cities and a tourism mecca into a gruesome den of death, I sobbed. In the home of the “happiest place on Earth,” not to mention my sister and many of our friends-turned-family, mothers rushed to a sick, nightmarish scene to try and find their babies, some having to wait more than a day to learn their fate. And so I cried and cried. Governor Rick Scott got choked up. Anderson Cooper balled as he read the victim’s names on CNN. In fact, many reporters and politicians on both sides of the aisle have been barely able to keep it together.
I, too, succumbed to the sadness, the loss, the senselessness. Then, I learned the story of Eddie Justice and his mother, who texted back and forth as the killer terrified him. He told his mother he loved her and he was “gonna die.” And he did in a brutal and tragic way. The fact that he got killed and his poor mother will never be able to wrap her arms around him again and must have felt so helpless, unable to protect her son who was begging for help, touched me in a way that words can’t describe. What mother can’t empathize with this mother? What human can’t?
My little boy embraced me. “Don’t cry mommy. Don’t cry,” he said.
“Many mommies lost their babies today, so I’m sad,” I replied.
“You have me, Mommy,” my son said.
Indeed, I do. For those mothers, who lost their babies, I must do more to transmit love where there is so much hate. It’s the least I can do. I will hug my son more, and not just now when he’s little and adorable and asks for it. I will hug him when he’s big and strong and says he doesn’t want me to but will probably need it more. I will pay attention to him and his friends, to really listen to what they are saying. I will do my best to read between the lines to try and decipher who is hurting, who is angry, who needs a friend, who needs professional help – and I’ll do what I can to help get them what they need. It does take a village, and I want to work hand in hand with other parents, teachers, and family and friends in my community. We’re not there yet, but we have to keep trying.
This is not the world I want for my son.
Love is a wonderful motivator. But a hug and a kiss are not going to fix this. It might comfort these mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and lovers and friends who have lost so much in an instance, but it won’t stop this from happening again. What can you do? I am calling for a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech. I won’t support or vote for anyone who hates or even merely tolerates hate. Oh yes, love is love is love. But racism is racism is racism. We must call it out when we see it. We must ask more of ourselves and our leaders. In other words, you can’t say you think someone has racist tendencies or said something racist and still endorse him to lead you and the rest of us into tomorrow. It’s simply not right. More importantly, it’s a threat to our very existence as Americans in the land of the free and the home of the brave. To suggest Barack Obama, our first black President, is somehow unAmerican or supports the terrorists is the most awful lie that guy (you know who he is) has told, and one that should disqualify him from the start. This is not about being a Republican or Democrat. This is about being a decent human being. This is the difference between right and wrong.
Even my 4-year-old has noticed the devastation of prejudice and intolerance. We live in a genuine melting pot just outside of New York City. There are 11 kids in his pre-K class, and they look like a mini United Nations. My son plays with everyone in the class, calls them all his “best friends,” and sometimes refers to them as his other family. One night, I was watching W. Kamau Bell’s CNN show, United Shades of America. Bell, the host, is black, and he was talking to members of the Ku Klux Klan. My son called the KKK ghosts because of their hideous costumes. And he said, “Why won’t that ghost be best friends with that man? That’s meanie.”
I said, “Yes, the ghosts are very bad people, and they don’t want to be his best friend because of the color of his skin.”
My son replied as only a 4-year-old can, “My best friend is brown. I don’t care. We play together. It’s fun.”
In fact, he plays with Asians, Latinos, and African Americans, among others, at school. I’m not sure who he had in mind when he said that, but it doesn’t really matter. Kids don’t care about the color of your skin or your religion or anything else other than whether you’re nice to them. It’s not until adults teach them about our differences that they notice. On the inside, we’re all the same anyway.
I want my son to live in the world Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned, where we judge people on the “content of their character and not the color of their skin.” I want him to choose his friends for their loyalty, compassion, kindness, and generosity. I want him to surround himself with good people, who will help lift him up and not bring him down. I want him to be a friend to all, regardless of their race, creed, sexuality, gender, etc. Sometimes, religion makes a good point. “Love thy neighbor,” reads the Bible, “as you love yourself.”