For over a decade, this has been a purple blog: a mix of red readers and blue readers. Inevitably I periodically anger half of you with my political views. That’s okay. Because like my family and community, you continue to be part of my life. Today’s post, an open letter to my 13 year old daughter as she tries to make sense of the elections, is going to enrage a few of you. Be angry if you want. I still love you.
It was just after midnight when I heard you crying in the bathroom. I had given up following the race three hours before, a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Clinton wasn’t my first candidate of choice. My pick left the race a few months ago. I felt like the battle that played out last Tuesday was between status quo and repugnant. So this year, I voted status quo.
In spite of my apathy, I wanted to be with you and Ula, my daughters, to watch the first woman elected president of the United States.
In contrast to me, you, at 13, were wide awake for this election. You were horrified by the Trump Candidacy, likening his politics to Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. You couldn’t fathom the hateful proclamations directed at Muslims, at Mexicans, and at women. On your own, while your dad and I all but ignored the campaign, too cynical to follow, you wrote position papers. You penned imaginary letters to Donald Trump. You repeatedly brought his name up over dinner: How could someone be so hateful and still be considered a presidential candidate?
And in the dark hours of Wednesday morning, I witnessed your heart breaking.
It was later that day when you posed the question that sparked this letter:
How could people be so stupid?
I get it. There are a lot of people asking that question right now. But here’s something you need to remember: A lot of the people who voted for him are our neighbors, our customers, our dearest friends, our family.
Over the course of the next few days, we will sell these people turkeys, we’ll pour them a cup of coffee, and we will sit down together at the Thanksgiving table. We will worry about each other’s health, we will pray for each other’s happiness.
Many of them read my work. They’ll shake their heads at my words. They’ll raise their fists at their computer screens when they see me describe Donald Trump as repugnant. And they’ll ask the same question that you spoke:
How could she be so stupid?
And the truth is, none of us are. Indeed, when it comes to the people who share our daily lives, our values run pretty much in harmony: We value kindness. We value being good neighbors. We value clean water, the importance of building soil, the glory of fresh air. We value clean, wholesome food and the right to grow it. We want to be treated as equals. We want to be able to earn an honest living in our communities. We want to be with family. We want to feel safe. We want to trust, and we want to be trusted.
We simply disagreed on which candidate can best help us manifest these things.
But really, no president can make these things happen. It is only when we live by our values that they become the fabric of our daily lives and define our world.
These same people who voted for Trump stood beside us when we fought pipelines and hydro-fracking. They helped us save farmland. They’ve come to the farm to help when our family has confronted emergencies.
I know you fear for the future of Muslims and Mexican immigrants. I know you worry deeply about what it means to grow into womanhood after witnessing such blatant objectification of our gender by a man entrusted with so much power. I know you worry about our friends at Standing Rock, about the future of our environment.
But if you worry too much, then you are underestimating the power of all of us: of all the women who came before you who fought for equal rights, of all the women who share our nation’s borders with you now, who will not tolerate sexism. You underestimate the resolve and kindness of all the men we know, from both sides of the political lines, who would never abide the subjugation of a woman. You underestimate the power of our fellow Americans who have exercised their first amendment rights time and time again to ensure fair and humane treatment for all of us, including Muslims, Mexicans, and Mother Earth.
Donald Trump just got a temp job. The rest of us, with all our passions and ideals, have permanent appointments. We’ll always disagree over the political candidates. The trick is to keep moving forward in spite of it: to exercise our rights and responsibilities as citizens, while remaining together as family and community.
Don’t lose heart, Saoirse. Please, please, don’t lose heart. Don’t try to hide behind apathy and cynicism. Because it is people like you, and not some billionaire with a temp job, and not some career politician, who will make our nation great again. We need you now, more than ever.