January 12, 2021

A letter to our eight grandchildren

Dear loved ones:

            There’s no way to sugarcoat this. I am sad and ashamed you had to witness what happened in Washington, D.C., on January 6.

            I understand and embrace American rights to speak up, march and protest, but there is a line separating legal and illegal. The mob that stormed the Capitol flagrantly crossed that line. Consider the lives threatened. Count the deaths—five so far. Examine the damage and looting. Some carried guns. Others had Molotov cocktails. They may have gone in thinking they were patriots, but they came out as criminals who ransacked our republic.

            Wyatt, Hayes, William, Henry, Fenn, Bayard, Smith and Stella, your great-grandfathers fought in World War II to protect our freedoms, but I am glad they did not have to see this banana-republic-like anarchy. 

You were not born when the 9-11 attacks crippled our nation. America went to its knees, but not in surrender. Instead, our proud nation prayed for the resolve to stand up and fight back, stronger than ever. And we did. 

            Now this. 

            If I had a magic wand, I would wave it to keep you safe and healthy. But I would not shield you from the lessons you must learn from scrapes and bruises—physical and emotional. If ever there was a time to heal from hurts—deep hurts—it is now. I am not proud of the mess my generation has made for you. You’ll spend your lives mending broken pieces here and around the globe.

            Magic wands can’t wave away what happened last week, but there are lessons to be learned in every crisis. My dear ones, America is in a crisis. We’ve lost the ability to agreeably disagree. As your grandfather, I hope you will always be brave and stand up for your beliefs. But I urge you even more to do so without hating those with opposing opinions.

            Your ages range from 6 to 17. You are growing up in the Social Media Era, full bore. Now is a perfect time to learn the good and bad of posting of your thoughts. As a boy, I spent many Saturday afternoons watching Western movies at the Strand Theater. If Apaches or other tribes wanted to know if buffalo were nearby, they would put their ears to the ground. The rumble of thundering hooves sent a vibrating signal.

            I was not surprised there was an uprising in Washington last week. You could see and hear the social-media rumbles, but I was shocked by the violence. There’s nothing I can do about President Donald Trump’s inflammatory videos and tweets that helped ignite this riot. But I can admonish you to learn from what’s just happened.

One day, you might be in leadership roles. There are lessons to be gleaned from reckless use of freedom of speech. Never forget that words are like a match that can bring you warmth on a cold day. And words—like a match—can ignite a figurative stick of dynamite, just as we witnessed on January 6.

Over the past 17 years, your smiles, your laughter, your hugs, your love, your energy, and your ingenuity have been sources of unending joy. You make me glad that I am alive. You give me hope. I trust you have learned from this ugly chapter of our nation’s history.

For the sake of our beloved country, however, I pray we don’t have to wait for your generation to lead us back to a United States of America.