May 30, 2016
My oldest daughter loves to tell us that she is brown—she takes a lot of pride in the fact that she is half of her father, who is British and Afro-Caribbean, his biological father being full Jamaican. His biological mother was a red head, and I can sometimes see a stray auburn hair amidst his tight curls. My girls get their beautiful and often commented on curls from him, while my son has my hair. I always find it funny and intriguing how siblings can turn out so differently when they come from the same DNA.
I’ve often kept my essays close to myself, meaning, I don’t typically comment on particular current events. And I’m not sure why I feel the need to voice my opinion at this moment in time. I like to wade in the inner, emotional “subterranean river,” as Cheryl Strayed once called it in a Longform Podcast I’ve listened to four or five times now. I like to write about and explore why I feel how I feel, why I think as I do and how my past relates to my present and my future. I also like to try to find the silver lining—I think it’s very important to seek out the good, not to pretend that my life is perfect, but because it’s much too easy to get stuck in the muck if we let ourselves. I reject the idea that in order for an idea or someone’s life to be real and authentic that it has to be hard and messy all of the time. With the rise of social media over the past few years, there’s also been the rise of this idea of the accepted mess, as in: if you present the accepted mess, you must be genuine, but if you seek to present the beauty, the good, then it cannot be real. The whole truth includes the mess, of course, but it must also include the good.
Lately, however, it feels like I can’t escape one current event in particular. Every time I am doing the dishes, my mind turns to Mr. Trump and the latest vulgarity and nonsense and meanness that has been spewing from him, and every time I start to feel like I’ve been sucker punched in the gut. I’ve been seeing and feeling more acutely lately that the inner, emotional terrain is directly connected to what’s going on around me—in my twitter feed and inbox and just the other night only a few miles from my doorstep at the Trump rally here in Chicago. There is a lot of hate and anger and fear swirling around and I can’t help but take note. This is a political issue, for sure, but it’s bigger than that. This is a moral fight.
Every time I hear him speak or watch coverage of his events or read something that he has said, I am hit with such dread and a beginning sense of terror. I am legitimately scared of what might happen if he is allowed to continue, if we allow him to continue. The cheers and enthusiasm of his followers when he talks about hurting and excluding and ridiculing and literally shooting people is actually terrifying. He is openly spreading a message of hate and anger and intolerance and an unwillingness to consider anyone who disagrees with him. His arrogance and pointed finger at the ceiling is maddening. His lack of concrete ideas is laughable. Yet, he is poised to be the nominee, especially after wins on the 15th.
On the one hand, I think his supporters are trying to take back “intolerance.” For so long the left has branded anyone who disagrees with them on anything—but particularly abortion and same sex marriage—as intolerant; conveniently forgetting or omitting that their refusal to recognize those who disagree with them is, by definition, intolerant (which, of course, is now exactly what Trump and his supporters are doing). Some Trump supporters are, I think, tired of having to step on eggshells and having “intolerant” shoved down their throats when they express their views. On the other, larger, hand, I also think many Trump supporters are racist and misogynist and have very little empathy and a serious lack of respect and common decency for their fellow human beings.
The latter camp of the Trump supporters is a disgrace, and I cannot identify with or get behind them or their leader in any way. Trump is leading these people to deal with this double standard and politically correct language in a dangerous, hateful way. His message is, essentially, to silence and ridicule and hurt anyone who disagrees with him. He is power hungry and craves the spotlight and uses his financial wealth to convince people that because of that, he must know what he is doing. It’s glaringly obviously that we have an obsession with money and fame and sameness, and it’s nothing but toxic.
The other night I was watching Bill Maher and he showed a clip of Hillary Clinton at the victory speech for the SC primary. While this is not an endorsement, it felt refreshing to hear her say that what we need is “more love and move kindness, “ I thought: yes, those words are simple and true and that message needs more fuel.
I don’t want my kids to grow up in an environment where everyone is driven by their fears. I don’t want my daughter to slowly become afraid and ashamed because her skin is brown and her hair is curly. Her physical features don’t make her who she is, she is far more complex than the color of her skin and the texture of her hair, but those things are parts of her. Beautiful, important parts of her.
I certainly don’t have an answer to all of this. I’m only one person, and not even a very political one at that; I’m one woman, one mother. And yet, maybe that is how I fight. It is a sobering and heavy, but hopeful, weight to carry the upbringing of the next generation. Perhaps it’s the only hope we have left. Perhaps if we can raise our kids to embrace love and kindness and empathy and honesty and humility, instead of fear and anger and money, perhaps we still have a chance. So that is how I will fight Mr. Trump. I will use my role as a mother to declare that his message cannot and will not win.
My brown skinned girl—she is the brightest part of the whole truth. She is our silver lining.