Last night, just after my Google alert notified me that the new President-Elect had been chosen, I snuck into my daughter’s room. We recently transitioned her to a “big girl” bed – a twin mattress, upon which her two-year-old fame usually looks hilariously small.
But last night the sight wasn’t hilarious.
I stretched out on the covers next to her, and watched her tiny face as she slept, her little legs tucked under her body, her little arms crossed, just as she had been in the womb. I listened to her breathe as she dozed, perfectly peaceful and blissfully unaware of the shift we are all about to experience. And in my mind, as I studied her, I apologized. I apologized for our country. For the millions who cast a ballot for the man who will lead us in January. And I apologized for you.
You’ve given me your explanations, in your way. You’ve communicated your fears about a Clinton presidency. You’ve expressed your views of Trump’s powerful presence and no-nonsense opinions. Mom, you praised the way he could “say whatever he wanted” without repercussions, citing that trait as an admirable one. I don’t think it’s occurred to you that maybe he was “allowed” to voice such blatant violence because millions of Americans still have a deep-seated prejudice against people different from themselves. Maybe you didn’t see what I did: that he was “allowed” to continue in his loud hate because half of our country heard, in his voice, their own internal prejudices. Because he wore expensive suits, and had a supermodel wife, and stood in front of microphones, and said things the ordinary among them were not allowed to say.
Except now they can.
Dad, you expressed horror at his cavalier admittance of sexual assault, but said that Clinton had “enabled” her husband by supporting him before she discovered his guilt, which made her “no better” than Trump. You said that they are “at best equally disgusting and I would argue that she is worse than he is.” A little piece of our relationship died that day. As a woman who left an abusive marriage, I was heartbroken to learn that you would not only hold Clinton accountable for the sins of her partner, but consider her equal to an admitted abuser for standing by him.
But while you tried to argue that your vote for Trump wasn’t support of him, your decision, as it has historically done, came down to money. “She will sell us all down the river for another dollar,” you said, “wipe her mouth, and tell us to eat cake.” You claimed she was power-hungry, as though it as a claim that couldn’t be applied bilaterally in this election.
And all of this, you argued, was reason enough to overlook Trump’s faults, and cast your lot in with him. You summed up your position neatly with a cartoon, shared to your Facebook page, of Washington Post reporters straining at a molehill labeled “Trump,” while Hillary’s scandals loomed as large as mountains behind them.
As I held my sleeping baby girl, I thought about that molehill, which, in your opinion, was small enough that your conscience allowed you to cast a vote for that man.
I thought about the fear he fed dumping gallons of fuel on a fire that should never have been lit. I thought about my Muslim friends who, despite their deep religious convictions, are abandoning their hijabs out of fear for their lives. I thought about the lies he told, over and over and over, like a child who doesn’t have any understanding of modern technology or its fact-checking capabilities. I thought of the fact that your granddaughter’s healthcare is based on the good graces of the Affordable Care Act, which your candidate has pledged to repeal. I thought about the women who tried to step forward about abuse they had suffered at his hands, and who have been bullied into silence.
I thought about how economists who know what they are actually talking about have projected horrifying outcomes, should his policies play out. I thought about women across this country who may face death in a country without reproductive choice. I thought about my dear gay and lesbian friends who celebrated their marriages this year, only to have those unions thrown into uncertainty if Trump appoints the Supreme Court justice he wants. I thought about my Latinx friends who are terrified of losing their parents and grandparents to deportation.
And Trump. I thought about him. His venom toward an entire religion. His prejudice against entire races. His objectification of and violence toward women. His running mate, who thinks it’s okay to electrocute young queer people until they are “straight.” His supporters, the KKK and white supremacists, who looked at his policies and perspectives and adopted him as their champion.
I tried to imagine explaining to my tiny daughter, your granddaughter, how her grandparents, aunts, and uncles all voted to take away her health care, take away her right to choose, and take away her safety, should she discover one day that she likes girls rather than boys.
Should I tell her you were worried about your money? That keeping your tax dollars in your pocket (which won’t happen under Trump anyway) is more important that taking a stand against blatant misogyny? Should I tell her that you decided bragging about sexual assault and standing by an unfaithful partner were “equally disgusting?” Should I tell her that you allowed hate-fueled rhetoric to make you afraid of anyone different from you, so you agreed that it was safest to just deny America to those people?
Maybe you just didn’t see what he is. Maybe you were too steeped in your privileged race, your privileged sexuality, and your privileged religion, too isolated from anyone different from you, to hear all the marginalized voices screaming in fear to please don’t do this.
Or maybe you did see. Maybe you saw his racism, his xenophobia, his misogyny, his elitism, and his brutish, bullying ways, and you decided he was the lesser of two evils.
If that’s the case, then you have to understand that in good conscience, keeping you far, far away from my baby girl has to be the lesser of two evils for me.
Because no amount of fear is justification for racism in my home. No amount of suspicion is enough to vilify an entire religion in this family. No amount of tax money saved is worth repealing a woman’s rights to her own body, or a human’s right to healthcare. And any man who is able to brag about assaulting women, make lecherous and creepy comments about his own daughter, and face multiple accusations of violent rape is fit to be my cab driver, let alone my president. For the rest of my life, when you try to insist that you “don’t support” this man, who is the walking embodiment of everything I hope to protect my child from, we’ll both know it’s bullshit, because you saw what he was, and you handed him the keys to the kingdom anyway.
You failed your granddaughter and niece this week. You dramatically changed the country in which she will be raised, and not for the better. And I’ll be damned if you are ever allowed to influence her further.