When Oldest was in eighth grade, her class trip was to Washington, DC. It was an epic trip of four days and we saw pretty much everything there was to see, for about 25 seconds; I like to imagine that we were stones skipping our way across the lakes of monuments and museums. The longest we stayed anyplace was the Holocaust Memorial Museum which was so incredibly powerful… there are hardly words. The teachers allocated two hours to visit this museum. I was with another chaperone, our group of charges had all gone in front of us (we did know they would be caught at the end by the teacher) and we were the last to leave at exactly two hours. We could have spent another hour comfortably, even more. If you have never been I strongly recommend you go.
In the past year and half I have reflected on that trip many, many times, but probably not as much as I have reflected on it this past week, in particular the Holocaust Museum. I have wondered how long was it from the time Hitler came to power that he began burning books? When did they start rounding people up? How long did it take? I know it started in the late 1930’s. I haven’t looked up the details because I am afraid to find out it was less than four years.
I have never liked Donald Trump. I abhor reality tv, I believe it caters to the lowest common denominator of American culture so my immediate response to him is that he was looking for the easiest way into people’s living rooms. When people discuss his business experience, I know enough to understand that his biggest skill as an entrepreneur is that he plays the shell game at an elite level which doesn’t make him smart, it makes him slick. And to be fair I have seen many businesses succeed with slick people at the helm but there is something distasteful to me in that. I admit I do have Pollyana-ish tendencies and I believe in purity, it’s not winning to me if you bend the rules (naive, I know, but my heart is soft.)
As his candidacy evolved, I felt as though when he was speaking there were two loudspeakers that were emitting on different frequencies; one that only dogs could hear and one that only dolphins could hear, or donkeys and elephants as the case may be. He spoke and I heard one thing – my stomach would roil, my eyes bulged, and my blood pressure crept up – but someone else heard it and they were relieved; they heard promise and hope. I admit I understood what they wanted to hear but I believed they were pigeons in the shell game and eventually they would wise up. (Arrogant? Privileged? Naive? Optimist? The list is endless…)
This past week has been unreal for me. I watched election night with fear and dread. I never liked Hillary Clinton, I don’t like career politicians but in what was the dirtiest, nastiest election I can recall, she was poised and graceful, calm and confident. I felt that her career politician-ish was an asset we desperately needed when given the alternative. Waking up Wednesday morning was heartbreaking. I will spare you the conversations I had with my two daughters, young ladies we have told their whole lives that they are capable of anything; that they could choose any career; it’s not about your looks; choose kindness; choose love; and so many other lessons that Donald Trump seems to diametrically oppose. I will tell you there were tears and fear; it wasn’t pretty.
I have watched in horror as the news rolls out about positions in a Trump presidency; the first appointment I heard was Myron Ebell, who doesn’t believe in climate change and has been accused of being a mouth-piece for oil companies. That alone struck fear in my heart; he is going to rape our lands in an effort to pump out more oil and strip our lands in the search for coal, no talk about alternative energy (unless it is to scoff at it.) Then Bannon, accused racist and white nationalist from Breitbart, does this even require an explanation in 2016? Washington insiders, Wall Street money men, a list of narrow minded people with agendas who do not reflect a willingness to work with anyone who isn’t like them. (Maybe it has been the same under all previous Presidents; I hate politics, if it wasn’t in my face, I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about it – yes. absolutely, white privilege. And now a dose of shame.)
Through it all, I have said nothing. I have read it all and been heartbroken seeing the anger – not on the news, but from my own friends. People I have had to my house and gone out to dinner with. I watched as friends posted on social media comments telling people to stop whining, asking why are people afraid, comments like we can’t get any worse than we were and I am incredulous, I admit it. I am clearly white privilege, but so are they. We send our kids to private school, we all have jobs, we take vacations and go to concerts. Pretty great life I think. I am not quite sure what I am not seeing.
Several of them have complained on social media about being lumped in with racists and misogynists; I know these people. Over PTO and Christmas concerts we never discussed our views on racism and inclusion or exclusion, but they don’t appear to be racists to me (yes, yes, naive, I own it. Let it go.) Most of them have daughters so I pray they are not misogynists.
I have not said to them you may not be a misogynist, racist, etc., but you were willing to look the other way when you knew he was. I have not asked what are YOU doing for our veterans besides posting meme after meme about what our government isn’t doing. I have not said anything. I have held my tongue and kept the peace. I have quietly gone about my business of raising up my children to still believe that anything is possible for them and promised them again and again they we will be safe. I have quietly committed a random act of kindness every day since Tuesday, making a donation, writing a letter, contacting my senators, joining advocacy groups for the causes that matter to me and signing up for newsletters to stay informed. I have hugged my gay friends and promised to keep them safe and keep fighting for them. For all of us really.
Behind closed doors, I have railed and shaken my fist. I have cried and I have yelled. But I have kept quiet to you, and to them.
I have drafted several posts this election season but could not bring myself to publish them as I choose this forum to practice my writers voice and none of those pieces reflected that well.
This is not my writer’s voice either but it is my voice and I fear that if I don’t raise it I will be complicit in this mess.