(NOTE: Life as a Shorty is a blog recognizing and celebrating short stories published in online journals. I usually post something every Wednesday. But instead of posting a story today, I want to share with you the following).
I’d been sipping whiskey all night, watching CNN, so when I woke up this morning I had a full bladder, a slight ache in my right shoulder from sleeping on it, a dry tongue, and a low-level headache. Nothing a strong cup of coffee couldn’t take care of. I walked into the living room where my youngest child was already on the couch, wrapped in a blanket. She’s eight and an early riser. I checked CNN.com, read the headlines, turned off the computer, hugged my youngest child. She said to me, “Your breath smells bad.” I kissed her on the cheek. She said, “Now I have to wash my cheek.” I asked her, “Pancakes and eggs for breakfast?” “Sure,” she said.
(Don’t worry, this post isn’t about turning the other cheek.)
So I made pancakes and eggs, sipped coffee, and stood over the cast iron skillets while my other two kids emerged from their rooms and sat down to eat. I slid pancakes and eggs onto their plates. They lathered their pancakes with peanut butter, like they always do, and ate their food while I watched them and thought about what I wanted to say.
I needed to say something.
Throughout this election cycle, my wife and I have been outspoken opponents of our president-elect. I mostly talked about the disaster that is/was the Trump campaign – the very thing itself built on fear and hatred. I, along with the “liberal media elites,” didn’t think Trump had a legitimate chance at winning. On temperament alone I thought he’d lose. And I thought people could see through the façade, this fear-based and hate-based rhetoric. I don’t need to tell you how wrong I was.
My wife and I have tried to teach our children the importance of looking out for those marginalized people who most need a voice or protection—those kids or classmates who get picked on or bullied or made fun of because of their haircut or worn out shoes or other reasons altogether. My wife and I have talked to our kids about those who are economically disadvantaged or undocumented or others living in fear, for a whole host of reasons, and these are the people—our friends and community members—who need our love and support. More now than ever.
This morning I told my children that the people who elected Trump are people in our country who feel as though our current political system, our current way of doing things, isn’t working for them. These are the people who feel as though they don’t have a voice and aren’t being represented by those in political office or the media. And the president-elect (Trump) stepped in, tapped into this group’s fear (and hate and bigotry, though I didn’t tell my kids this) and promised to support them, to represent their interests. He told them he’d protect their jobs, their future, among other things. And while we don’t need to support or protect these people, I told my kids, we do need to try to understand where they’re coming from—we need to listen more than we need to speak. We have a lot to learn.
Here’s what I didn’t tell my children:
I’m concerned about being uninsured – yes, I am one of millions of Americans who has affordable health care because of Obamacare.
I’m concerned for women, immigrants, refugees, the LGBT community, and so many other groups who have been demonized by this president-elect.
I want to try and understand how/why people voted for the president-elect. Was it a single issue vote? A protest vote? Supreme Court? What are those issues for which you may have voted? I’m doing my best here—trying to understand.
Mostly, I’m concerned for this idea of basic human decency.
But again, I didn’t mention any of this to my children. They have important things to do—school and sports and piano practice and band practice and chores around the house and friends to play with. Like I said, important things to do.
My kids are at school now, and I’m just remembering that there was a light frost on the ground this morning. I’ve always loved working outside in the fall after a light frost, which means I don’t have to worry about mosquitoes or other bugs bothering me. I’m thankful that the only class I teach today is in the evening, and that my daytime classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So I have all day to work outside, paying attention to those long neglected outdoor projects. Today I’ll probably trim branches and bushes in the front yard. There’s an overgrown hedge of bramble, but inside the bramble I’ve noticed a volunteer fledgling fruit tree. I’m not sure which kind of fruit tree it is, but I plan to give it space to breath, clearing away all the vines and buckthorn. I think I’ll do that today. I’ll probably put a fence around it too. If I want any chance of it growing and thriving, I’ll have to protect it in just the right way—allowing enough space for it to grow and breath, while protecting its foundation.