I’ve been reflecting on what I should say to you for over a week now, and I’m still not sure I can get it right. I’m going to try.
First, thank you. Thank you for not calling or texting me as the election results trickled in. Thank you for not gloating when it was over before bedtime, and we knew it. Thank you for thinking about what your first contact would be instead of just reacting. Thank you for choosing to text me about issue 44 passing, for trying to be positive, for at least saying things like “hopefully in 4 years better people will run” and “maybe both sides will work together to impeach him.” Thank you for trying to be mature, but really, more than anything, thank you for just acting like a dad.
It’s been awhile since you’ve done that – just been my dad.
I bet having grown children is really challenging. I bet transitioning into that phase of life is difficult. I’m confident it’s even harder when the things that have transpired in the past 5 years or so have transpired, and I’m certain it’s even harder when you don’t always have that much in common with your growing kids.
I see you, Dad.
I have been surprised how well you’ve handled the election and I say that genuinely and gratefully.
I’m also completely, utterly disgusted by the decision you made and the ballot you cast. You are the father of two daughters – two smart, strong women who you helped raise to know their value and worth. How could you betray us by voting for a man who legitimately thinks he is able to sexually assault women without consequence because he is rich and famous? Is it because you know he is also the kind of man who would be revolted at the sight of my or my sister’s plus-sized bodies? How could you put a man who doesn’t believe that unattractive women are capable of the same success as attractive ones in office? How could the father of two girls put his signature next to that of a man who said he would sleep with his own child because she’s that sexy?
Worse still, you voted for this man despite his choice of Mike Pence as a running mate. You lived in Indiana. You know how that man came after the LGBT community – a community to which your youngest child belongs. How could you vote for a team of candidates who have vowed to reverse your own daughter’s right to marry someone she loves? How could you vote for candidates who think your own daughter is a disgusting affront to their religion? How could you vote for candidates who have rallied crowds of American citizens who would emotionally and physically harm your own daughter if they had the opportunity? Who are chomping at the bit for a chance to return to days when everything didn’t have to be so “politically correct” and they didn’t have to treat people who were different from them with basic dignity and respect?
What am I supposed to make of your clear lack of concern for the personal safety and well-being of two of your three children? What kind of parent is that?
And then there’s the problem of your two granddaughters – the only grandchildren you have. What kind of future have you elected for them? What kind of world will they grow up in? What sort of distorted world view might they develop growing up in a world where Muslims have to register and identify themselves to the public? What does this tell them about their own freedom of religion? What kind of people might they grow to be when the deplorables of this country have been uncloseted, when the racists and sexists and homophobics come crawling out of the woodwork and filling our society with their hatred, unfettered? What was once whispered in corners is now being shouted from rooftops, endorsed by Trump’s candidacy and soon-to-be-presidency. People who used to be justifiably ashamed of themselves and fearful of spewing their detestable rhetoric openly are increasingly brazen. My child will go to school with their children. What will she be exposed to? How much damage control will I be able to do? How much harder will I have to fight to ensure that I raise an open-minded, loving, inclusive child?
This doesn’t even scratch the surface. I couldn’t write down all my fears and concerns if I spent another three days on this letter. I’m afraid for my safety. I’m more afraid for my sister’s safety. I’m more afraid still for the safety of my friends who are people of color or religious minorities. I’m afraid for my many friends who suffer from infertility and have chosen foreign adoptions, whose children face the very real threat of deportation thanks to Trumps much ballyhooed immigration reform plans. I’m afraid for the educated, hard-working college professors I know, who despite a lifetime of dedicated work struggle to make ends meet as a result of our broken academic system, who depend on welfare programs to survive and who are directly threatened by the economic policies Trump suggests.
I’m afraid for all of us, Dad, as you should have been. I’m afraid for all of our safety, as you elected as commander-in-chief a man who claimed to “love war” and thinks the solution to all matters of diplomacy is to “bomb the shit out of them.” This is the man now in charge of nuclear warfare, and we should all be terrified. He is a very real, very direct, very imminent threat to the safety of all Americans and, in fact, the entire world. A nuclear holocaust is a very real possibility under his reign.
And even if we don’t all die in the explosions, his economic policies threaten our livelihoods so greatly we might prefer the immediate death of nuclear explosion to the slow and painful death of starvation. Yeah, Trump promised you a tax break – the main reason you voted for him, because all you care about is money – but he also promised huge tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans (you know – his closest friends). Every economist in the country has said that Trump’s tax cuts are impossible to implement. They just won’t happen without destroying the economy. So you’ll either enjoy your tax break for a short time before you’re standing in breadlines… or, more realistically, you will never see these tax breaks, because who do you think Trump is going to prioritize – you, or his Wall Street investors?
You sold out your children for a tax break you’ll likely never see.
I hope you’re proud of yourself.
The sad thing is… I know you are. You “don’t vote issues.” You don’t vote for the rights of others, you’ve told me that many times over the years. And that is your right. It is your right not to care about the future of your children. It is your right to take a tax break at the expense of your lesbian daughter’s physical safety. It is your right to vote for the unconscionable because you have bitten the Republican bait hook, line, and sinker: even though you are poor, and even though we attack the poor, vote for us – because this is America, where anything is possible, where anyone can be anything, where you… yes, YOU, sir… You, poor, working-class, blue collar man… YOU can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and change everything. You can be rich. In America, you can be anything. So vote to protect the interests of the wealthy, because one day… the wealthy could be you… and wouldn’t you want someone to protect what you had worked so hard to earn?
You bought it, Dad. And it’s your right to buy into what you want to buy into, and to believe what you want to believe, and to vote accordingly. I can’t understand how a parent could protect their own interests over those of their children, even when those interests conflict, but you do have that right, and you exercised it.
It doesn’t matter if I think you’re racist (I do). It doesn’t matter if I think you’re sexist (I do). It doesn’t matter if I think you’re homophobic (I do). My belief that you are those things has nothing to do with this election but with a lifetime of having listened to you and watched you. I know you are not a hateful person. I know you would never harm someone physically, emotionally, or financially because of their skin color, religion, sexuality, or sex. I don’t think you’re that kind of bigot. You’re not.
No, you’re not that kind of bigot.
You’re a bigot because you choose not to care about bigotry. You’re a racist because you choose not to care about racism. You’re a sexist because you choose not to care about sexism. You’re homophobic because you choose not to care about homophobia.
You’re just as bad as the other kind of bigot, make no mistake. You may even be worse, because you know better and you still don’t care. You know better and you still endorsed their views.
You know better and you did it anyway, because it will never affect you.
You don’t have to vote to protect the rights of the marginalized and disenfranchised because you will never be one of us. That is your right, but it is a right granted to you by the privilege of your whiteness, your straightness, your maleness; it is your right, but it is one you should be ashamed you have exercised.
You have failed us, your children, big time.
So here’s the deal… I know you can’t get back into your time machine and change your vote. I get that. But you can use your voice to help affect positive change. You can pay attention to the legislation being brought forth by your party – legislation that threatens the rights of your children – and you can speak against it. You can call your representatives as a registered Republican and tell them that laws based on bigotry and hate don’t speak for your worldview. You can call out your fellow Republican friends when they say hateful things and suggest laws and changes that would negatively affect minority groups.
Above all else, if your party continues to be the party of oppressors you can leave. You can cast protest votes. You can show the Republican party that pandering to the lowest common denominator will result in them losing their main base – decent, hardworking people like you, who don’t really want to hurt other people but who just want a couple of their needs met. It’s OK to want a couple of your needs met. It’s OK to feel differently about big government and taxes and spending. It’s OK to not agree with Democrats about those things.
But it’s NOT OK to continue to vote red when Republicans are a direct threat to human rights, especially when those humans are YOUR BABIES.
You have a lot of work to do to earn back my respect.
I know I’ve said a lot of things in the wake of this election that probably damaged your respect for me, too. Some of those things probably hurt your feelings or made you fear that I would run away with your granddaughter and cut you out of our lives. I will admit that in my devastation and pain I have considered those things, and I will admit that I have not taken them off the table entirely. Like I said, I’m grateful for the way in which you have conducted yourself after this election. I’m thankful you have given me no reason to fly off the handle. I’m thankful our relationship hasn’t been damaged by this tragedy, as it has been by politics and my general lack of reservation in the past.
In the wake of this election, I am resolving to make a huge effort NOT to eliminate conservatives from my life. You people need people like me to help you see past yourselves. I’m committed to using my voice. I’m not going anywhere, and if you really aren’t a terrible bigot as you claim, you’ll step up by my side, open your heart and listen to me. I really do know a lot of things you don’t, Dad. I really am right about a lot of things that you refuse to hear, and now is the time when you need to start hearing them.
So here’s to the both of us trying… really TRYING… to put bipartisan politics away in an effort to salvage this mess you helped to create.
Not for your sake.
I still believe we’re stronger together.