It shouldn’t have been a surprise that my children’s elementary school elected Donald Trump in their mock election. Kansas hasn’t gone to the Democrats since 1964, yet when the announcement came over the loud speakers as I perused the annual book fair after school, I found myself astonished. The kids at the fair cheered, and I died a little. I tried very hard not to boo aloud. They are, after all, children.
Children who vote like their parents.
I’m no different, of course. If six-year-old Laura cried at Trump’s election, it’s because she listened to me criticize him brutally. She observed my excitement at the possibility—no, certainty—of the first woman President. She voted as I voted; she anticipated what I predicted; she cried as I mourned. And now I find myself in the position of trying to comfort her, as I, too, need succor. Here’s what I’ve come with so far:
My darling girl, while it’s true we have no other audio of a President Elect bragging about “grabbing pussy,” we’ve certainly had many fine Presidents who did, in fact, grab pussy. Historically, grabbing pussy does not disqualify one from the job. One can grab pussy and still be a fine orator, policy wonk, and/or genius diplomat. Some of our best Presidents grabbed pussy. People are multi-faceted.
No, I can’t say that.
Sweetheart, while it’s true that for your entire life, a dignified African-American man has been President, our country has a deep history of racism we just can’t shake. We have, in fact, elected far more racist Presidents than Donald Trump. Presidents like Andrew Jackson who didn’t just deport people but orchestrated acts of genocide on Native populations. Presidents who profited from the sale and ownership of other human beings. George Washington, one of our best, was a slave owner, did you know that? People contain multitudes.
Nope, not comforting. How about this?
Honey bunches of oats, yes, it’s true, we have elected a man for President with a remarkably thin skin, who ran a dirty campaign full of mud-slinging and lies, who appealed to our basest instincts and seems to have the temperament of a toddler. But throughout history, elected officials have tarred and feathered one another with words. Thomas Jefferson founded an entire newspaper, the National Gazette, dedicated to muddying the name of his rival, Alexander Hamilton. Yes, honey, that Hamilton. What’s that? You want to know why Thomas Jefferson hated Latinos? Did he give Trump the idea?
Oh sweet pea, I’ve been meaning to tell you: Alexander Hamilton was actually white.
Perhaps historical context isn’t the way to go. Perhaps I should just tell her this:
My little pumpkin, we read and obsess about national politics, about who’s going to be President and what they might do, we share these things on social media and dissect the results, because yes, the Presidency is really important and national politics are exciting, like a long awaited boxing match, but there’s another truth, equally important: all politics are local.
How you view the world begins in your community and how you shape it begins there, too. If we want to live in a less xenophobic country, then look no further than our little city, dear one. You and I can fight this backward tide right here, right now, by showing radical hospitality to our immigrant neighbors and friends. Let’s break bread and tell stories and invite some of your school friends and their parents to listen, too. Your great-grandfather left Prague in the middle of the night in 1939 to escape a totalitarian regime, and there are families even here in the red heart of this red state who have similar stories to tell. Stories that will expand the porous boundaries of this sleepy town, stories with the force to crack the toughest hides.
Let’s throw open our doors, apple of my eye—let’s throw them wide and listen.