She was one month old when The Last One walked into the White House and was unaware of much besides her parents, let alone the desecration of the presidency. Today, she is forty-nine months old and somehow still blissfully ignorant of the import of this moment, of his departure. This is a blessing, in many ways; there are many injustices I’ll have to explain to Kina as she comes to recognize them, but the day-to-day insults of President The Last One are no longer among them.
As I was drawing the paper today, I asked Kina if she wanted to tell a story about the new President. She didn’t so much as look up from her paper, because she had nothing to say about this event—today holds no meaning for her. She kept drawing, undeterred. “These are the stories I want to create, Daddy.”
I feel a little like we’ve all been dragged along on a story that wasn’t our own for the last four years, our own narratives held hostage by the most devastating case of toxic narcissism in American history. What stories might we have written for ourselves, had we not been spiraling around this particular drain? What I find refreshing about Kina’s refusal to acknowledge the importance of this moment is that she doesn’t have to gather escape velocity. Her stories, now that she’s writing them, are her own—and will reflect a mind just becoming aware of the society around it. When she turns eight, the stories she tells will include Black and South Asian women serving their country in the White House (and maybe even becoming President). She will have a model for what it means to be a leader that is constructive and not embarrassing. We can build on that.
Still, even as I envy her ignorance of The Last One, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to watch the inauguration today, and to feel that weight lifted. She didn’t have to face the reality of The Last One, but she also didn’t have the experience today of seeing that some really bad things end. That’s part of our story now, and a reminder to value those moments in which the story is yours to tell. Time is running out—speak briskly.