To the middle school children I volunteer with,
I know that you are afraid right now.
Two weeks ago, at our Halloween party, I asked you to write scary stories. Most of you wrote the sentence, “Donald Trump wins the election.” We laughed, because it seemed so impossible that he could win.
Nobody is laughing now.
I know you feel like your poems are coming to life.
The poem about a boy who said objectifying things to you and wouldn’t stop asking you for inappropriate pictures of yourself.
The poem about facing a bully.
The poem about loving that girl who didn’t love you back.
I know you are afraid and I know that right now you are already dealing with the impossible; learning how to call a man who does not respect women, people with disabilities, people of color, members of the LGTQ+ community, and followers of religions different than his, the most respectable title in the world: President of the United States. But I am going to ask you to do yet another difficult thing. Please keep writing.
It feels like even writing cannot save us now. It seems like a feeble attempt, like trying to hold a single umbrella against an oncoming downpour. But art and love are the ultimate enemies of fear and hatred, and that must be what we spread.
I can’t lie to you. Women’s reproductive rights are going to be challenged, victims of sexual assault are going to have to be stronger than ever, and sexism has a platform. So write that poem about the girl fed up with the boy objectifying her. This time, the girl is all the women in the country. This time, the boy is the president. Write it, then read it, then shout it, then memorize the lines so you can spit them out at whatever is coming.
Write the poem about the bullies. I know we let you down. I know I told you that bullies never win in the long run. It seems like that isn’t true. But while Trump may have won the election, bullies only truly win if their victims are too scared to take action. In your poem, you always win against the bullies because you stand up for yourself. So write that. Write about standing up for what’s right, about encouraging those who are bystanders to follow their morals. Because here’s the secret. If we keep writing, if we keep creating art, love, hope, and light, they haven’t won. Not really.
But above all, write the poem about unrequited love. It’s the most popular type of poem for you to share. Girls about boys, boys about girls, girls about girls, boys and boys. You talk about pouring everything out to someone who just didn’t like you back. So write about it.
Write about loving a country with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, rights for women and people who are minorities, respect for those who are less fortunate than ourselves. You serenaded this country with compassion and optimism about the future. You watched the debates, talked to your neighbors, argued your viewpoints as politely and passionately as possible. You are not blond or blue-eyed, but in America those things don’t matter, right? You had dreams of being appreciated in this country, you worked hard, and you are smart and kind and thoughtful, and you said, “America, I love you,” and in return America voted Donald Trump to be president.
You loved a country that didn’t love you back.
So write about the heartache. I will write with you, because even though I am pretty close to being blonde and blue-eyed, and I know you must therefore be even more scared than I am, I’m a woman and a student and a writer and afraid and I have never had my heart broken before.
We will create art because young lovers are the light the world needs in this darkness. Because there will be hate that you and I are going to face, and not a lot of people are going to be thinking of love. We will remind them. I beg you, please continue writing, and try your hardest, despite the rejection, to keep on loving.