Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Letter to my pregnant friends and new parents

OK. So things are a bit scary right now. In addition to the stuff I'm seeing on the news about the alt-right shit already starting, I got a lovely letter from the girls' school superintendent saying, yeah, hate crime is up in our county and in our schools specifically. Gee. Great. Tell me again how I'm being a whiny baby because I'm upset about the election.

Anyway, so I am totally and completely recognizing your fears right now. I know that belly grabbing worry. As long as they are still in you, you can protect them and shield them from everything, but what kind of world are they going to be born into? What kind of world do they get to grow up in? Is this really a turning point for our country or is it just hormones blowing everything out of proportion? Trust me. I'm right there with you.

total innocence
Here's what I decided, though, as I hugged my own little baby at 2:00 am. I was looking at her perfect little face and worrying about what kind of hate she would encounter as she got older. Her big sisters already have plenty of stories of hate from their peers, and after listening to the oldest tell me her fears as she recounted MORE stories of escalating hate speech, I was nearly in tears. My daughters are the most wonderful people I know. I don't want other people not seeing that. Then I realized the obvious. Other mothers and fathers and parent figures around the country were probably staring at their perfect babies and thinking the same thing. So what if I make sure that my baby grows up to be the antidote? I can do that. I can teach her to see the good and not be a racist asshat. I can teach her that immigrants are cool (her dad's one, so that makes that lesson easy). I can teach her that gender doesn't limit her. I can teach her that families come in all shapes and sizes and styles. I can teach her that love is love. We need a hero. Why can't Sally be that hero?

Even if she doesn't lead a massive cultural revolution some day (or fly around in a cool robot suit), chances are in her own small way she will spread love to the people immediately around her. Even if that is all, that is big. She will be part of the solution. If all of us hugging our precious babies or rubbing our growing bellies decided to be fighters and raise our children to love instead of melting into puddles of despair, think of how that will affect our country. Someone else's kid will have an ally. Someone else's kid will not feel like the whole world is against them because there will be that one light, smiling across the classroom.

So don't freak out just yet. You are powerful. You are growing a powerful person. What we need is a hero and you will give birth to one. You can do this. And in taking on this mission, you will feel stronger and braver. You will have a definite purpose and a willing partner (babies love love). And you will not be alone. Over here, I will be on the same mission raising my own little heroes.

Super Heroes assembling and plotting their next adventure.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Goodbye, Facebook. I need time to process.

I have not really said much about the election since Tuesday. My quiet has been for two reasons. One, I have been struggling to put into words the anxiety and disappointment I have been feeling, and, two, I have been too disgusted by the total lack of empathy which I have seen displayed time and again. What’s the point of saying how my family and I feel if no one can look beyond their own noses? I have only lasted a minute at a time checking facebook because it doesn’t take long to get to the person calling us crybabies or saying those of us who are upset need to grow up. Seriously? After eight years of listening to people say about President Obama “Not My President” and insulting him and calling him a terrorist dictator anti-Christ, we can’t have even one day to be upset about Trump winning? If you are actually interested in thinking about this situation from a viewpoint other than suburban white Christian heterosexual, here is why I am upset.

I’m not mad that my candidate lost (even though she did get the most votes and the whole electoral college thing is dumb, and even Trump was agreeing with that before the election and people from both sides in the past have said this system is messed up). I’m frightened that Trump and Pence won. To say that he is just another candidate or that the choice was simply between the lesser of two evils is to live under a privileged rock. What they want to do, and what Pence has already done in Indiana, is going to hurt a lot of people. They already have hurt a lot of people. Don’t believe me? OPEN YOUR DAMN EYES. Sorry for yelling, but talking hasn’t seemed to get people to see things.

Know what conversation I have with my daughter every day?
“Will Trump send Tato back?”
“No, honey. Tato is a US citizen. He can’t be deported.”
“But Trump wants to? What about my friends? Will they be sent back?”

Then I have to explain the logistics of mass deportation and why it is highly unlikely. She still comes back round to, “but they want to do it.” That hurts. And we aren’t having this conversation daily because I am a bad mom who over exposes my kids to the news. This is what they have been talking about on the playgrounds since Trump first started his campaign based on racism, and on the playground they aren’t thinking in terms of logistics or constitutional law. They are thinking about their families and their friends. They aren’t thinking “it’s ok because my dad is white and he is only talking about Muslims and Mexicans” because they aren’t that fucking racist. If someone says immigrant they think of their dad and their neighbors. They think of our friends who are refugees. They think of their relatives still living outside this country and wondering if they will be allowed to visit. Do you have any idea how much anxiety this causes? Do you have any idea what kind of affect that anxiety has on them? Are you willing to even try?

People say, “oh you should just explain things to them and not let them listen to Trump.” Two problems with that. First, I have explained things but the fear is brought up again day after day as the same hateful rhetoric is repeated. Second, I do try to shield them from Trump, but he isn’t the only one saying this stuff. His followers and apologists are saying it. The alt-right is gleefully shouting it now that they feel validated by our President-elect.  Are you saying for the next four years I can’t let my girls listen to their President? Forcing them to hide their heads in the sand will not help.
As for us overreacting or predicting disaster before it hits, it has already hit. Hate crimes against Muslims is up. Hate crimes against the LGBTQ community is up. Anti-Semitic rhetoric is up. People are being threatened. People ARE being attacked. The fear is justified. Do you know what that fear looks like in a little girl? She stops eating. She complains she can’t breath. She starts compulsively chewing on her lip. She doesn’t want to go to school. This is a real problem not an imaginary one. She has seen and heard and physically felt the increase in attacks as people feel emboldened to share their hate. When the top leader of our country and his sidekick are spewing hate, of course the lower haters feel validated and empowered. That is then manifested even in middle schools.

I won’t even get into the misogyny stuff or violence against women or threats against the press (my husband is a journalist, so these threats I take VERY seriously). If you can’t see the racism manifesting or empathize with the victims of homophobia and Islamaphobia, then I’m not holding out hope here either. 

To say we have to be ok with all this or that it isn’t so bad or that we need to get over it IS condoning it. It makes you an accessory to hate. Sure you won’t personally be burning Pride flags or beating Hispanic homeless men to death, but you are allowing it to happen by looking the other way. You are saying there is nothing wrong with it happening. You are saying you don’t care about the suffering of other people. You are saying you don’t care about my family or our closest friends. You are name calling the people being punched when they crying out.

I don’t unfriend people for political differences. I think political discourse is good. In the past, however, it has been about differences of opinion regarding the details of policies. We have been heading towards the same goal but discussing different paths. That discourse has helped us think more broadly. Now, though, what I see is a total lack of empathy. That is something I have been struggling to accept. How can these people who say they love my daughters also say they don’t care about them? We are just trying to wrap our heads around what the future will be and come up with ways to survive our new hostile America. What we need is hugs not “oh, grow up!” While I try to figure out what to do about all this, I think I better just stay away from facebook. Until I can decide how to handle friends being ok with people hurting my kids, I better just not handle them at all. Otherwise I will soon just start unfriending people or screaming “FUCK YOU” at them. Until this mama bear can CTFD (as I have been told to do by people who claim they didn’t vote for Trump but they don’t think he or Pence are that bad), I will just live in my real world. My daughters are going to be needing my extra attention now anyway.