A few situations to consider:
1) Let’s say two of your children attend the same elementary school, a school you and they both love, with excellent teachers. In July, you get a letter and a phone call from the school that there will be a new principal beginning with the new school year. To get everyone acquainted, you are invited, with your children, to a meeting at the school, a sort of meet-and-greet with the new leader.
Everyone arrives and has snacks and sodas and finally the principal weaves his way to the front of the room to a podium to introduce himself formally and make a speech. During that speech, he talks about his previous experience and success, and begins bragging about his achievements. Then, oddly he launches into imitating the secretary at the superintendent’s office, who has a disability. He jokes about how he couldn’t understand the way she talks, and even physically imitates her.
What would happen? I can tell you without a doubt what would happen. The room would go silent. Jaws would drop. No parent in their right mind would allow this principal to step one foot back into that school. Parents would picket; video of the offensive speech would be played. Unless you wanted this to be the person who led your child’s education, which no one would, you would do any and everything to make sure this person was not the principal. And if he somehow got through all of the petitions and picketing, and backlash, you wouldn’t send your child there, you would do anything else.
2) Your son is a junior in high school and is on the football team. The school’s head coach has just retired after years at the school, and the new coach is introduced. During practice one afternoon, your son and others tape the coach talking to them, in unbelievably inappropriate terms about “moving” on women without consent. It gets worse. The coach uses vulgarity you can’t imagine a teacher or coach or anyone would.
Just one guess, within 24 hours, that coach would no longer have a job.
Enough examples. It’s clear what this about.
This election has troubled me more than any other in my lifetime. But the examples above hit me for the craziest of reasons today. When the tape was released of Trump with Billy Bush, talking about what amounts to sexual assault, and being so vulgar and arrogant that it was stomach turning, there was damage to Trump’s campaign, but nothing catastrophic. However, it appears Billy Bush has lost his job. How did we become a country where a talk show host is held to a higher degree of accountability than a presidential candidate? Why in the world would we never accept Trump in a job such as principal or coach, but he is a heartbeat from the White House?
For years, Trump has been seen as a joke, a caricature of an insecure businessman with bad hair. I have seen jokes in my Facebook feed over the years from both sides of the political lines, and everyone agreed and made fun of him. Yes, he might be successful in business, but with multiple bankruptcies and other scandals, this has really left him as more of a reality show oddity than carrying heft in the business world. He had a brand, and every election year he set out to improve it. We all laughed and he faded away within a month or so. But all of the sudden, he is the GOP candidate, and people are not joking, but defending every new bit of reprehensible behavior.
The reason both infuriates me and breaks my heart. One of the main reasons that we are where we are right now is racism. I was not so naïve to think that our country was without racism, I have lived in areas where I watched the effects of it (with sadness) every day. But I did not realize how many people were so truly angry that a black man was elected president. Not all of his detractors are racist, but I believe so many people explain away their concerns, when all the while, racism is at the heart of it. I have tried to tell myself otherwise, but I hear what is being said at rallies, I watch white supremacy groups publicly support Trump (with no discouragement from him), and suddenly the swastika appears at his rallies, along with confederate flags. You can only ignore the signs for so long.
Things have been bad for a long time—we have worked slowly as a country to see all people--any race, color, or creed as equal. But every day now, as I watch the news, I feel us slipping backwards. It scares me. It makes me angry. Not all of it is Trump’s fault, but I will say this: once Trump stepped on a national stage and asked for the deportation of Muslims, demanded a wall be built to keep out Mexican “rapists”, and made fun—horribly, despicably—of a disabled person, he opened a vein for people out there who had these same horrible feelings, but had kept their mouths shut and tried to behave in society. Trump opened a door that can’t be shut. After all, if the US GOP candidate can stand in front of America and spit racist remarks and demean people, why shouldn’t everyone?
It both shocks and saddens me that if you honestly had to answer the top two questions at the beginning of this post, I know what your answers would be. I know that even my casual acquaintances on Facebook care deeply about their children and want to instill values and decency in them.
But why then, would we ever give such a man, who has done these things—and worse—even more power? Not just over a school, not just over a small group, but over our country? I can’t make it make sense. I understand that I am liberal, and I have voted that way in every election, and I understand party loyalty. This is so different. This is a truly disgraceful, terrifying choice, up against an experienced, capable candidate. Maybe she’s not your favorite person, maybe you dislike her, maybe you disagree with her. But she is not shouting racist words, inciting violence at her rallies, or asking or even referring to harming her opponent. I am not voting for Hillary Clinton just because she is the lesser of two evils, I believe in her. But I can tell you without one ounce of hesitation that if Trump were on the democratic ticket, I would vote for anyone, ANYONE, but him.
No, he is not asking to be the new principal or coach at your child’s school. He is asking for so much more. He is not even asking. He is assuming that we will all overlook what he calls “just words”. I won’t. And for the next four years, if God forbid he is elected, every time the television is on, and he is speaking, your children won’t.
Words are powerful. Hate is powerful.
We are better than this. Those are the words I am living by and saying to myself every day.
I hope you will, too.