In college, I was a longtime intern to a prominent newspaper columnist.
In his many books, articles and speeches, he would often come back to a theme—an alarming one—that stuck with me in the decades since I filed his research clips and answered his phone.
Our civilization is much more fragile than we think.
It's a rather haunting thesis, and one that I find myself trying to ignore, talk down, or push aside in my own head.
And yet, watching a mob overtake the American capitol on the day our democratic values were being certified, our democracy was fragile. What if the insurrection had been violent? What if they had more support among legislators? What if more Americans supported the mob than those who condemned it?
As a mother, I see raising children is itself an act of patriotism. I'm literally teaching and challenging and nurturing a new generation of citizens, a "republican motherhood" concept that historically was considered foundational to the success of our democracy. In fact, in the past few months, my kids have become absolutely obsessed with Hamilton (thanks, Disney+!). And we have discovered newfound inspiration, appreciation and determination to understand, cherish and shape American ideals. As Alexander Hamilton sings in one of the musical's most epic songs, 'The Room Where It Happens,' "God help and forgive me // I wanna build something that's gonna outlive me."
My children are my personal legacy, and democracy is a gift I want to give them, a blessing that's gonna outlive me. I am not going to live forever. My children will see things—terrible and wonderful—that I can't even imagine. What I can do now is control how I show up in this moment in our country's history, and make America better for my children and for all kids who will bring these ideals forth into the future.
America has never lived up to its ideals. And a host of famous and unsung heroes of all races and genders have fought to expand those ideals to all people—from trans rights to Black Lives Matter to justice for indigenous peoples. I believe that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, equal protection under the law, the rights of the people to be express themselves and have their votes counter, these are all too sacred to not fight for. We must own our responsibility now, in this generation, for fight for a more just country for all who live here and all who will one day live here.
Let's be the generation of mothers that acknowledges how fragile this system is, and how many people it has already failed—including Black Americans, indigenous people, all people of color and women.
Let's be the generation of mothers who hold white supremacy and privilege to account, no matter how uncomfortable it lies within us, our families, our communities, our kid's schools, and social structures and government policies.
Let's be the generation of mothers that marches for issues that affect kids—even kids different than ours. Especially those kids.
Let's be the generation of mothers that raises kind children by parenting from a place of empathy.
Let's be the generation of mothers that stops "protecting" kids, especially white ones, from painful and even scary realities.
Let's be the generation of mothers who challenges ourselves and our kids to understand how information gets manipulated.
Let's be the generation of mothers that acknowledges that democracy isn't guaranteed and that the work we do to build up tolerant, inclusive, civic-minded kids matters.
Let's be the generation of mothers that calls out our racist relatives.
Let's be the generation of mothers that questions policies that benefit one group of Americans at the expense of others.
Let's be the generation of mothers that studies history's heroes with a critical and inclusive lens, and doesn't take the freedoms they fought for for granted.
Let's be the generation of mothers that knows that democracy is a fragile thing, but that fragile things must be protected, nurtured, challenged and cherished.