You know when you wake up from a nightmare, and then realize it was not a dream?
Every day we wake up in a world where people support Donald Trump for president of the United States.
My feelings about those people are clear. I suggested they unfriend me on Facebook. I stand by that request — nobody who likes Trump is going to enjoy my presence on social media. I am very unlikely to change their minds.
What about the people who agree that Trump is a terrible choice for president, but are so convinced Hillary is the Antichrist that they are willing to vote for him? I don’t know exactly what to do with those people.
What do I tell my daughter? My son?
I’m not sugarcoating Trump for my 6-year-old daughter, but when she asks about the people who support him, I hem and haw a bit.
There are a million political reasons why Donald Trump is dangerous and why I think he is unqualified to run to the store, even less run a country. If my biggest issue was the clear fact that Trump is in absolutely no way qualified to be president, or that I disagree with his proposed policies, I could explain political systems to her. I would still be terrified for our future and I would still be angry, but I could explain.
I am so thankful that she goes to school with a widely diverse group of kids. How do I explain the support of this man who referred to people from Mexico as rapists, refused to disavow the KKK, has openly mocked the disabled, and has been sued multiple times for blatant discrimination?
How about the daily statements that should tank anyone’s popularity, but seem like microaggressions compared to the rest of his unapologetically racist buffet? At least in his casinos the buffets are free — this one comes with a steep price and a side of misogyny.
How do I explain to my daughter, a girl and future woman, not only the things Trump has said, but the existence of people who agree with him, or who are willing to overlook his hateful words so easily?
How do I explain voting for a man who routinely and vocally judges women based on looks, calls them fat, and refers to them as “a piece of ass,” a man whose only empathy in life is for men who divorced women he deems unattractive, a man who directly and proudly sexualizes his daughter?
What is the message my daughter gets from this? How do I raise her to understand and believe in herself, to believe that she creates her own worth? How do I teach her that other people’s judgments do not define her? How will she learn that people are no more or less valuable based on their gender, sexual orientation, race, handicap, religion, or appearance? How, when the inverse of that is being shouted via bullhorn from the doorstep of the presidency?
In fact, what message do I get from this?
Normally, I am able to be slightly more “live and let live.” Yes, I have created a liberal bubble around my life. I live in an overwhelmingly liberal neighborhood in one of the most liberal areas of a state that seems to be getting increasingly conservative from a legislative point of view. My Facebook is representative of that. Long gone are the days of feeling like I needed to be friends with everyone I’ve ever met. If Jimmy from Kindergarten thinks Obama is a Muslim and therefore inherently evil, I have no real skin in the game of keeping him in my social media life.
There is a difference between choosing whether or not to invite those with whom you disagree into your inner circle, and choosing to silence them.
What does it say that I am scared to publish this?
I have written in detail about personal struggles with mental health.
I have confessed to many different ways I struggle with motherhood.
I’ve been called names and berated in comment sections around the internet.
Comment trolls don’t scare me. Sometimes their words sting, but they have never made me fearful.
This is not a particularly controversial piece — not remotely controversial by Trump standards.
Yet, I’m scared. It scares me because Donald Trump has repeatedly called his followers to arms against people who disagree with him. I’m scared of this fear, because it is fear of free speech, and because it is the direct result of a presidential candidate.
Yes, I could rewrite it or publish anonymously. It just makes me searingly sad that I should have to. This isn’t even about the words in my essay anymore. This is about the culture of fear we have entered into.
In this country where freedom of speech and the press is the very first amendment, I feel silenced. I think that speaks volumes.
What message does my silence send to my kids?
I thought about fear. I thought about suppression. I thought about the subtle ways we influence our children’s beliefs about themselves and the world. The risk of keeping quiet seemed more than the risk of speaking up. I’m sure some comments will teach me new and interesting derogatory words to describe myself — but better for me to hear them than for my kids to internalize them through my silence.