More than a month after the election result that felt like sticking your finger into an electric socket and leaving it there for weeks, the calm is setting in. With the calm comes resolve. It's taken all this time for many of us to digest the outcome and let it settle into our daily routine so that each day doesn't dawn as a new shock riding in on a wave of nausea.
When the going gets tough, and this is about as tough going as one can imagine politically, the tough, as they say, get going. (Given it's holiday season, I was tempted to write the tough go shopping but retail therapy won't help in this situation.) So, going I did get. I've spent weeks thinking about what I can do to counteract this feeling of powerlessness. What could I do, I wondered, to disrupt this administration's open embrace of bigotry, racism, and misogyny? What could I do to, at least in some small way, bridge the divide we now have in America that feels as wide as the Grand Canyon but without that chasm's beauty or majesty?
For me, the antidote for feeling powerless is in finding an action I can take close to home in the sphere of the world I have some control over. No, I can't undo what this presidential election has done to my country. I can't change the outcome or soften the hearts of millions of Americans who applauded the victory of the darkness over the light. I can't comfort the millions of Americans who fear the future as I do or mourn what has become of the progress I thought we had made toward achieving equality for all. But I can use the skills I have to take action. I am a writer and a teacher so I leaned into those areas and that's when I formulated the action I can take to rise up.
I concluded people who voted for the President Elect fell into two categories. They were bigots, or they were okay with bigotry as part and parcel of the candidate. While that's depressing, it was also a call to action. Bigotry is not okay but it's also not inborn; it's learned. And, it's learned at an early age so if we can head that off, we can change hearts and minds for the future.
So I decided, since I am a grandmother and now part of a huge network of grandparents, to mobilize that army of people concerned about our legacy into a teaching force of sorts. My concept is simple: Train grandparents to go into their local schools to teach young children about the strength America gets from its diversity.
Our diversity is what sets America apart from much of the world. We've called it many things over the years, a melting pot, a salad bowl, a cultural mosaic, etc. The gist is this: people from a variety of backgrounds come together in America, bringing with them honored traditions and beliefs. Americans are not tied to a single culture, but we are made stronger by allowing all cultures to coexist peacefully bound together by citizenship. It's why we changed the metaphor from melting pot to salad bowl. We didn't become one culture by melding our ideologies into one, we learned instead to live side by side respecting each other's rich heritage. That's the ideal, at least.
But somehow we've lost respect for our diversity. It has become a divisive aspect of our lives rather than a magnetic force that pulls us closer. During the course of our recent election, our diversity actually became a pawn in the game and now we, as a nation, are more divided than we've been for quite some time. Has our diversity made us fear each other? If so, that needs to change.
So, my thought was to have this army of grandparents and others who wish to be involved be the change we wish to see in the world. We will be the people charged with bringing diversity to our youngest citizens, not as something that separates us but as something that cements our bonds to each other.
Each of us will be trained, likely online, to go into our local schools once a week to speak to kindergarten children about how people are alike and different and about how every person matters. Every person counts. Every person is deserving of respect, integrity, and dignity. Ultimately, we'll help young children learn that respecting oneself leads to respect of others and respect of others makes America strong and vital. We will be using materials created by the Southern Poverty Law Center and then specifically selected for this program.
I needed a name for this entity. First I wanted to call it Phoenix Rising Diversity Corps. My thought was that out of the ashes of the catastrophic fire of the election, something wonderful would rise, like a phoenix. But I won't call it that because it has a partisan slant. I can't assume (I've learned since the election), that every good person in America saw the election as a fire of destruction. So, I'm letting the phoenix metaphor go. For now, I'm calling it Grand Ambassadors for America's Diversity, GADA. I'm enlisting grandparents and others who want to be trained as volunteers to spread the gospel of how diversity gives us strength and hope.
If you'd like to learn more, or volunteer with us, visit this link. We have lots of work to do but hope to have the program up and running by the fall of 2017. We'd love you to join us and help us move forward together, stronger than before.