Dear President Trump,
Of course Elizabeth Warren knew when she knelt down to talk with the little white girl at the Iowa State Fair the cameras would be flashing and the pictures would make their way out into the wider world. I doubt, though, that she knew ahead of time she would be doing a pinky swear with that little girl or that it would move at least one person to tears on a Thursday morning when most of the rest of the news was saturated with sad, infuriating crap (like the steep, steep rise in reported hate crimes in the District to 204 last year and the decline in prosecutions of hate crimes there to just 3). I was even avoiding reading articles directly about you and still, most everything wormed their way back to how you and yours have systematically pissed in every well and every crevice.
Have you ever in your life done a pinky swear? Two minutes ago I wouldn’t have thought so, but I just looked up “pinky swear” and learned that what I thought was a cute way to seal a promise, usually between two little girls, originated several hundred years ago as a social contract wherein if one of the parties broke the promise, the other was entitled to break or cut off the promise-breaker’s finger. If you know that backstory, chances are you’ve done plenty of pinky swearing, though it’s a wonder you still have all your fingers.
So apparently I live under a rock. I just looked up “Elizabeth Warren Iowa Fair pinky swear” (listen to how that sounds when you read it aloud!) to see if anything had been said about the promise involved in the encounter noted above. With just that tiny bit of digging I found out that Warren did know ahead of time that she’d probably be pinky swearing with that girl because she’s been pinky swearing with lots of girls around the promise that girls will be able to grow up and run for president. I’m not sure I would have teared up upon seeing the picture had I known that it was part of her campaign strategy, but maybe I still would have – it’s an awesome promise and unless white men come up with some way(s) to intimidate or cheat the women of the 2050’s out of political ambition, there will surely be no fingers lost over it.
I love the intent look on Warren’s face and the girl’s serious demeanor; they exactly match one another in how focused they are on this for-real promise they are making (remember, in a pinky swear, both parties are promising something). Since this is my letter to my most difficult would-be-despot who I’m certain is doing his level best to make sure this pinky swear doesn’t come to pass in his grandchildren’s lifetimes, I am going to riff on what I think each one is promising the other.
I think Warren is promising the girl, and all girls, that whether she personally wins or loses the nomination and ultimately the presidency, she will never stop fighting for girls’ and women’s rights to their ambition and claiming their full measure of both rights and responsibilities in the service of the greater good. I think she is promising that she will pay it forward in spades and with her power she will empower those coming up alongside her and behind her and she will not ever treat whatever she achieves as a candy grab-bag (thank you Toni Morrison).
You didn’t make that kind of pinky swear did you?
And what about the girl, what did she promise Warren? It could have been all sorts of things, whether spoken or just known between the two of them. It could have been that she’d study hard to be the best and the brightest in every class so that she’d be taken seriously or that she’d never smoke pot or do cocaine so she can be squeaky clean. It could have been that she would always use her powers for good. It could have been that she’d run for local office by the time she is 35 or any of another 100+ things that would set a girl up to be a viable national candidate. What I hope she promised is that she will believe in herself and she will gather people to her who believe in her and who she believes in as she makes her way through life, whether she heads towards politics or science or teaching or land use management. And I hope she promised to pay it forward too.
May we all be safe to have ambitions and aspirations unfettered by restrictive norms and expectations.
May we all be happy connecting with one another and supporting one another’s dreams.
May we see that having, and keeping, full-on belief in possibility is essential to health.
May we pay kindness, peace, and empowerment forward.