Opinion: Who we are now defines legacy
We are in the last days of this year, and many of us will spend at least a portion of them in the company of children we love.
Never have I been more mindful of this privilege. Most of us want to believe that we will live on in the memories of the children in our lives, but I wonder how many of us have thought about what our legacy will be.
As I write, the House of Representatives is in its sixth hour of one- and two-minute speeches in either support of or opposition to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. By the time you read this column, the president of the United States will have been impeached. He will soon face trial in the Senate, and Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made no secret of his intentions.
“I’m not an impartial juror,” he said earlier this week. “This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision.” This flies in the face of precedent and procedure — senators must remain seated and silent throughout the trial, for example, under threat of imprisonment — but he clearly does not care.
His Republican colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham, was even more blunt: “I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here. … I will do everything I can to make it die quickly.”
One common refrain in recent weeks is that history will remember how these members of Congress voted in this time of crisis in our country. But they aren’t the only ones who will leave behind a record. In this historical time, families are weaving their own historical narratives. How will we be remembered by the children we leave behind?
Our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews — they will be adults in a world that is more diverse and inclusive than the one they were born into. Most children grow up to become adults wondering how much their roots contributed to the complicated people looking back at them in the mirror. Our roots are our beginnings, not our excuses, and these younger generations will have plenty of evidence to help them understand the difference.
I often wonder how Trump supporters with young children in their lives think they’re going to defend their allegiance when their kids are old enough to demand accountability.
Most of us have moments when we wince over things we did when our kids were little. Sometimes they’re funny, and sometimes we have to apologize and ask forgiveness. But how would I have any credibility in telling a daughter or granddaughter that no man should touch her without her permission if I voted for a man who bragged about being a sexual predator? How would I explain that one? This is something I think about a lot.
What if a child we love falls in love with someone of another race? What if they have children? What right would we have to even know these children if we were willing to vote for a racist who regularly described Mexicans as rapists and murderers?
How do we, years from now, convince the grown children in our lives that we love their babies when we defended that racist after he separated thousands of young migrant children from their parents at our border? We don’t yet know the extent of Trump’s legacy, but we know that what he was willing to do to innocent children will be a primary part of any legitimate account of his presidency.
If we aligned ourselves with Trump, what makes us think our children will want anything to do with us? How do we look into their grown-up eyes and tell them his hatred for large swaths of America was good for the country?
Millions of Americans will gather in churches this Christmas, and the adults will be reminded anew how children make the holiday. They’ll stifle laughs during the annual pageants and nativity reenactments, and pull the little ones close in the pews as they help them hold their candles during “Silent Night.” Grown-ups will choke back tears at the sight of their little hands clasped in prayer and wish they could freeze them in that moment forever.
It doesn’t work like that, of course. Children grow up and away, and one day they’ll be old enough to know who we were and what we stood for, in this historical time in our country.
It will matter, and that will be our legacy.
— Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with Creators Syndicate.