Last week was a tough week. For all of us. And even though LO said it was because she was sad about not getting picked for the 5th grade skit and HD said he felt sad about not having a job in the Kindergarten classroom (he’s out of work! the irony!), I’m sure you were all picking up on my own mood… a toxic combination of sadness, anger and fear that I was unsuccessfully trying to hide. While I would never intentionally cause you pain, I won’t apologize for these emotions. And now I would like to try to explain them.
You guys, I’m not political. You’ve probably never heard me talk about an election before, never mind shed tears about the results. But this one, this election where Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton to become President of the United States is much bigger than politics.
All of you have heard stories about both candidates; you’ve all come home from school repeating the things you’ve heard from your classmates. “Trump is mean… he wants to build a wall to keep people out!” “Hillary Clinton lied!” “They’re both terrible!”
When I shared my own opinions, it was with far more respect than Donald Trump deserves. “Well,” I would start hesitantly, “I just don’t really agree with a lot of the things Donald Trump plans to do. Hillary Clinton definitely has flaws, but I think I can overlook those flaws given Trump’s general disrespect for so many people.”
“Yeah, I hate him,” one of you said.
“We don’t ‘hate’ in our house,” another one of you replied.
“Can we hate him, Mom?” you asked.
“No. We can’t,” I said. (“Yes, we can!” I wanted to scream.)
And then he won. The results of this election shocked people. It seems very few people really expected him to win. But he did and now a lot of people are scared and sad. Yup, including me.
Maybe you’re too young to hear about the different levels of fear I’m experiencing in detail… fear of war, the use of nuclear weapons, ISIS and dangerous international relationships (what I like to think of as Top Tier Fear). Fear that millions of people will lose the ability to make decisions about their own bodies, marry the person they love, or come to this country seeking a better, safer life than one they’ve left behind. (Mid Tier Fear)*
*Smart people keep reassuring me with reminders of the checks and balances in our government (you’ll learn all about this someday… possibly from an animated TV cartoon like I did) and about how Trump is already backtracking on some of his campaign “promises.” At the same time, he’s hiring a lot of dangerous people to be his “helpers.” People who don’t believe that women should get to make decisions about their own body. People who deny that climate change is affecting our planet. People who are too inexperienced to be qualified to help the President of the United States (who, in this case, is also too inexperienced for the job). So unfortunately, the whole “checks and balances” argument isn’t THAT reassuring.
And last, and perhaps most importantly, there’s the Third Tier Fear, which I’ve come to think of as Our New Everyday Reality. A society divided. A rapid increase in hate crimes. What used to be a shadowy specter of bias and hate has emerged from the darkness and now walks proudly on our city streets and in our rural towns.
Young Muslim woman are being assaulted for wearing hijabs. Gay men are being attacked for holding hands. Swastikas are being painted on dorm buildings. Racial slurs are being thrown in the faces of black women. Threats of sexual assault are being hurled at white college students. All of this is happening with glee.
Kids, Donald Trump has dismissed and disrespected so many subsets of our population – Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, veterans, the LGBT community, people with disabilities and women – that really only white men remain untouched by his poisonous forked-tongue.
And now an ugly subset of our population, who desperately want to act on their hate, feel emboldened and empowered to do so. This election has given them a green light to publicize and act on their bigotry with intimidation tactics and violent crimes that they may have been more inclined to hide previous to last week. They’ve interpreted Trump’s win as a permission slip to hate and hurt people.
This is why when I hear “It’s time to move on… why are you still so sad?” all I can think is, “Why are you not?”
This is also where my ignorance comes in… that ugly subset is so much bigger than I imagined. They were quieter before and the shield of the Bubble* prevented me from being disrupted by their noise.
*What’s the Bubble? Keep reading.
Maybe you’re too young to hear about the rage that I’m feeling. I won’t tell you that every time I think about Trump as the President, I have this vision of him grabbing the private parts of young women – because he’s done that you guys AND bragged about it – and in my head, they’re always girls who I know. My sisters’ and cousins’ and nieces’ and yes, my daughter’s, faces… and then I feel rage.
(HD, remember how just yesterday we talked about boys and girls having different private parts and how nobody should EVER touch ANY part of your body without your permission? Well, I don’t think anybody ever taught Donald Trump that rule.)
There are young women all over the country who are being treated badly by boys on a regular basis. A lot of them think it could be worse, so they don’t tell anybody. Or they think, maybe I did something to deserve that bad treatment, so they don’t tell anybody. Some people try to tell these women “What’s happening or happened to you, is NOT YOUR FAULT. You need to speak up and you will be supported.” But now those women aren’t so sure. Who will support them? Surely not the people that just elected the guy who bragged about grabbing women’s bodies without their consent.
Do you see why that makes me so mad?
What do I tell you guys when you play Wrestle Baby? “NO MEANS NO and STOP MEANS STOP,” and “Your bodies belong to yourself and NO one else.” I don’t think anyone ever taught Donald Trump that rule either.
It’s very important to note that not ALL people who voted for Trump are racist or hateful. This is true. But remember the conversations we’ve had about bullying? About how standing by and doing nothing is just as harmful as bullying itself. That’s my problem with this election. Donald Trump is a bully. A lot of bullies voted for him and a lot of people that maybe aren’t bullies voted for him as well… but they just stood by and watched.
I read this comment online: “I know that if you voted for Trump, it doesn’t necessarily mean you openly hate people of other races/sexual orientations/nationalities/religions. But it DOES mean that you believe that whatever you have prioritized [finances, gun rights, whatever] is more important than the basic human rights of these people.”
Maybe you’re too young to understand why people voted for him.
Simply put, a LOT of people in this country are desperate for a change. Some of them have lost their jobs and think Trump will help them find one. Some of them live in towns that are very poor and they think Trump will help fix that. Some of them think Hillary Clinton would take their guns away. Some of them simply hated Clinton so much, that Trump seemed like the better option. And some of them simply don’t like the way this country looks and sounds now – a colorful rainbow of people, speaking different languages and worshipping different Gods.
I’m sure most of them didn’t want the election results to immediately cause an increase in hate crimes. Hopefully most of them wouldn’t intentionally bully a Muslim woman or a gay teenager. But guys, remember the whole standing by and doing nothing is just as harmful as bullying itself thing?
And now, because we elected this bully to be President, all of those victims are scared. Really, really scared. And THIS is why I’m still so sad.
Side note about sadness: I’ve been called “too sensitive” before. And “overly-emotional.” “Tender-hearted.” “Weak,” even. But what I’m realizing is this: if all of those things means that I feel things deeply, that I give a shit* about people, that I lean towards acceptance and take offense to those who don’t, than I’ll take those labels and wear them proudly. (Except weak – I won’t take that one… Because loving ALL people and standing up for ALL people is the opposite of weak.)
*Yes, I said a bad word. No, you may not.
Now you guys, I want to tell you about The Bubble in which we live. It’s not a Bubble you can see (that’d be cool, right?) but a metaphoric protective shield around our lives. It means the following:
We never struggle financially. We are – and always have been – guaranteed food on our table, vacations, many gifts under the Christmas tree and all of the other lavish things that money can buy. You guys need new sneakers? No problem. Let’s go online and pick them out. You guys want a new toy? Put it on your birthday list and it will almost definitely appear (as long as it’s not a living creature… sorry LO). The new clothes, the piles of gifts, the after-school activities, the fact that Mom doesn’t work outside the home… this is the Bubble.
We live in a community that is predominantly white. Your interactions with people of color are minimal; therefore the reality of racism in this country is foreign to you. I can talk until I’m out of breath about how we should treat ALL people with kindness and respect, regardless of any differences. But you haven’t had them many times to put those practices in action because the majority of your peers and adults in our community look the same as you do. This is the Bubble.
And the biggest problem with the Bubble, you guys, is that when you spend so much time INSIDE the Bubble, you start to feel like it’s your right to be there. That you’re entitled to all of those things that happen inside the bubble… all the luxuries, all the good stuff. But that is simply not true. We are not owed anything. (Especially in our case, where you guys and I live in the Bubble because Pop and Grammy and Daddy worked their butts off for many years to allow us to move in here.)
We just got lucky, you guys! The three of you, and me… we’re just plain lucky.
Outside of the Bubble, people are struggling to buy food for their families and some kids feel lucky to have any toys at all. Some children don’t see their parents that much because they’re working two jobs. Some kids feel nervous walking to school because they live in neighborhoods where there’s a lot of violence on the streets. Some kids wear special clothing or symbols of their religion and get made fun of – or worse – because of that. This is happening ALL OF THE TIME outside of the Bubble.
(Kids, lest you think the Bubble is impermeable, don’t. Just this week, I’ve learned about several hundred of our local high schoolers belonging to a FB group where racist and other offensive content was being shared. And I heard that there were chants of “Build that wall! Build that wall!” on one of the middle school buses. The Bubble isn’t a complete seal.)
So what do we do now? Good question.
In the Bubble, it’s very easy to complain and cry… and then go back to our nice, comfortable lives and kind of forget why we were so sad and angry.
But I’m going to really try to not do that this time. Because I see now that if I want YOU guys to stand up to the bullies, than I kind of have to do it, too.
So here’s what I’ve done so far:
- I’ve donated money to Planned Parenthood, Together Rising, the Future Project, the ACLU, the Boys & Girls Club, The Center for Reproductive Rights and the NAACP. Some of them are recurring monthly donations.
- I’ve joined online communities (both national and local) that promise to work together to take action against the assault on human rights.
- I signed up to volunteer weekly at a school in a neighboring town helping less-privileged children with their reading and other schoolwork. And I’d really like to bring you guys with me… because it’s time to expose you guys to the world outside of the Bubble.
- And lastly, I booked a hotel room for Inauguration weekend in Washington DC in hopes of participating in the Million Woman March to protest Donald Trump’s presidency. What good does marching do? It tells the world that so many of us are NOT OK with what’s happening in the US. It tells young women everywhere, immigrants, Muslims, and the LGBT community that so many of us are not OK with the way they’re being treated. It sends a message.
OK, wow this long. The last thing I want to say to you guys is this: The world is not perfect; people are not perfect. I think our country got this one wrong because too many people acted out of hate and fear. They prioritized CHANGE over WRONG.
The good news is this was extremely eye-opening for a lot of people, including me, so maybe some good come will come out it. I hope so.
I love you guys so much.
“Love is not a victory march. It’s a cold and broken Hallelujah.” – Leonard Cohen
I’ve always maintained that this blog is a way for me to document important moments of my kids’ childhoods, in my own way and voice. This post is just another example of that… a letter to my kids to explain my sadness. I understand that by putting this “out there” I’ve invited feedback, comments, etc. I welcome that. But I ask that should you feel inclined to comment, you do so respectfully. That’s kind of the whole point, right?