I am a very happy man. Last month, my wife Joanne and I became the grandparents of perfect twin girls. Our daughter Christina gave birth, four weeks early, to Evangelina and Victoria. They are literally the cutest children I have ever seen.
No, really. Their other grandfather, David Omar, was there with us the night of the births. He and I agreed that the twins were really enamored with us and probably already knew we are their grandfathers – even though we hadn’t even started to spoil them yet. Evangelina seemed to be a bit more vocal, prompting one of the nurses to announce that it “sounded like she was ready for a picket line.”
A few days after the births, Joanne and I had a less-joyful event to attend – the funeral of my beloved aunt in Allentown, Pa., where I was to deliver the eulogy. Terrible weather caused the cancellation of most flights on the East Coast, so we ended up having to drive a rental car from New England to Allentown, along the way picking up some clothes in which I would look presentable. On the way out of a Marshall’s, where I found a decent-fitting sport coat and shirt, I saw two sets of baby blankets and baby-safe stuffed animals: one monkey, one elephant. What’s a few bucks? I took them out to the car where Joanne noted, “You know you can’t buy the girls everything you think is cute, right?” Where is that rule found, I wondered? (But not out loud.)
Evangelina and Victoria are truly wanted children. They have a loving set of parents and supportive extended families. Sometimes, though, when you pause for a minute in the midst of this kind of joy, you consider how many children face serious challenges and what hostile forces are lurking around the corner for kids of all kinds.
Regular readers know I am not a fan of the current leadership in Washington, D.C. However, the administration has gotten a lot more bizarre in the past few weeks. It is appearing more dangerous to the current and future generations of people throughout the world.
We all have the idea that whatever is our greatest cause – for me and many of you, it is separation of church and state – is the defining point for our review of political leaders. These, though, are extraordinary times. In the weeks since I became a grandfather, President Donald Trump engaged in two things that demonstrated for me an unparalleled disregard for the consequences of both his actions and inactions.
I am no expert on the situation in North Korea, for example, but I wonder how any American president can tell the leader of that nation (himself no slouch when it comes to making outrageously defiant claims and provocative announcements) that any more threats to the United States or its allies would lead to “fire and fury” unprecedented in human history. This utterance occurred at roughly the same time we were marking the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
As the Korean situation was apparently calming down after adults entered into back-channel negotiations, the Ku Klux Klan and a raft of neo-Nazi groups held a rally in Charlottesville, Va., ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The rally was really designed to stir up those who hate Muslims, Jews, people of color, feminists, immigrants and others. Naturally, this gaggle of hatemongers drew counterprotesters, one of whom was run over and killed by an apparent Nazi sympathizer.
I’ll be honest: I have a hard time reconciling the different facets of my life these days. I look into the faces of my new granddaughters and am overcome with love and joy. I turn on CNN or look at The Washington Post, and feel a mix of anger and despair.
But I know that in the end, love, joy and, yes, hope, must – and will – win out.
How do I know that? I see it reflected in the president’s nose-diving approval ratings. I observe it in the faces of the people who stood up to literal fascism in their communities. I hear it in pulpits and community halls all over America where people of goodwill gather, determined to show the world that our country is better than it appears to be right now.
I have no intention of leaving my granddaughters a nation marked by division, hate and fear. I will fight that as long as I’m able.
Those girls – sweet, innocent and beautiful – deserve a better world. Let’s work to give that to them.
Barry W. Lynn is executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.