Our home is like many American homes; it may be like most American homes, as Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. This morning we were sad and confused. My husband reminded me, in the midst of my hopelessness and anger, to be strong for the kids.
They woke in the middle of the night to find out the results, expecting to hear we have our first woman president. Half asleep, they all cried and asked “Why?” and I could not answer. I was grateful when they woke again this morning, that I, having not slept, had thought more about what to say to them, and that I didn’t have to break the news again; that part was done.
The next part will be more difficult and will take longer, requiring what seems now like superhuman strength and understanding. We have to parent our children in a country, our country, that has exalted ignorance and hate to its highest office. My husband and I have to parent two smart little girls and a wonderful little boy with special needs in a country that declared its hostility to all of them.
When people talk about coming together despite our “different opinions,” and “different values” in the context of this election, I want to remind them: Racism is not an opinion. Anti-semitism is not an opinion. Denying people rights based on whom they love or how they look or worship? Oppression, not opinions. Making fun of disabled people and calling women names on social media are not expressions of personal beliefs, but rather proof of character, or lack thereof.
I didn’t say a word to my kids about values in terms of our President-elect. During the election, we discussed political parties and that the parties have different values. Our President-elect has shown he values nothing over fame; he is a criminal, a danger to women and minorities, and the hero of a white supremacist shit show. We cannot compare our values to his.
My three children have known only Barack Obama as President. They know only a President with grace, wisdom, and compassion. They have watched their President cry with the American people, and learned he has cried privately with grieving families. They have seen their President speak boldly and nobly when so many were fighting him. They cheer when they see his face.
They cheer when they see Hillary Clinton’s face. They made posters for her that are still on our door. They wore buttons and tee shirts proudly stating they were with her. They have seen me cry with pride and awe listening to Mrs. Clinton speak about her commitment to the welfare of women and children.
Both the President and Secretary Clinton spoke today with extraordinary composure and generosity, reminding us of why we need leaders like themselves.
My children will never learn from us to disrespect the office of President and Commander in Chief. But they will never hear from me that they owe respect to any person who governs with and promotes hate, fear, guns, and exclusion. They have heard many stories about our President-elect; they know what he has done and threatened to do. I am satisfied summarizing to my children, He has frightened many people. We must be extra good and kind now.
Clearly we are in an invigorated era of open discrimination and mockery, where the racist can hide behind “an opinion,” and the homophobe and misogynist behind, “religious beliefs.” One of our challenges is standing up not only to threats and bullying and persecution, but also to the cowardly acceptance of these as nothing more than contrary views. We cannot accept acts of inhumanity as part of our American way.
My mother told me last night, as I sobbed into the phone, to concentrate for now on my children and my family. Tonight our neighbor’s cat spent some time with us; it was a nice and needed distraction for me. When he went back with my friend, my younger daughter put together a care package of balls of yarn and left it outside our neighbor’s door. “I want him to have a special gift,” she told me, smiling ear to ear with satisfaction.
Of the young people that voted, most voted for Hillary Clinton. I am relieved our future would seem to value acceptance and peace and our planet. The future is where our hope lies, where our children will thrive, where the lessons of this election will have been played out and learned; the future is bigger and brighter than this moment, and one day, it will also be female.