The United States made history on November 8th, but not the way that we expected. Instead of our first woman President, we elected someone with open contempt for our Constitution and democracy, an anti-Founding Father.
And the next morning Robbie and I had to tell our 10-year-old son Jacob that Donald Trump would be our next President. His immediate reaction of fear, shock, and horror broke our hearts. Jacob told us how scared he was that he wouldn’t be safe. He wanted to know what would come next. He asked what would happen about global warming. And he worried about friends, a gay couple we had recently stayed with while canvassing in Ohio for Hillary Clinton.
“Are they going to be OK?,” he asked.
“Yes,” we told him, “they would be.”
“But they live in Ohio,” and he pointed to the map on the front page of the New York Times.
“See, it’s red. That means it went for Trump. How will they be OK?”
We looked at him. The truth is that his fears are valid. But our reassurance is also true: You are safe. Our friends will be OK: they have each other, friends, family and community.
This election and Presidency is part of a process. We don’t like it, but sometimes in democracies things happen that we don’t like. And then we read him the comforting words that our Rabbi had sent us on how to live in painful times. Yet Jacob is also right: global warming will be infinitely harder to end now, along with a multitude of other vital issues. And while we and our friends will be fine, so many others will not be.
Jacob processes his thoughts and feelings by drawing them out. So, once he had overcome his initial shock, he began to draw a plan to deal with the Trump Presidency. His first drawing was an expression of pure aggression – he showed it to us and asked us what we thought. “Well,” we said, “it looks very … Trumpian.” He stared at us and back at his drawing, and then said, “that won’t work.”
Tossing his original drawing aside, Jacob came back with a clean sheet of paper. And together, as a family, Jacob and his two Jewish mothers drew up a plan. The very fact that the three of us are already a family, in every legal and emotional sense of that word, is the first refutation of so much of the hate and ignorance that has spewed out this campaign season.
So here’s Jacob’s Plan:
First, we decided, we needed to get stronger.
Second, we want to spend more time with the people we love.
Third, we will do more direct service helping others, because service requires us to see hardship and those whom it affects, and is also an active reminder that we do have the power to make change through our individual actions, however small.
Fourth, The next step is to learn something new and hard, to surprise our minds and stay engaged.
Fifth, and the last step? I’m sure you can guess. We go out and win back our country.
Jacob’s plan is a plan for, not a plan against. Jacob’s plan goes high, even though the winners went low.
The Trump voters want us to feel their rage and pain. Well, we do.
There is no doubt that the Trump campaign was fueled by racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and xenophobia. By the hate and fear of being economically displaced, of experiencing a supposedly natural order of female subordination being upended, of anticipating an American future that is racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse. And now the rest of us are experiencing the bleak inversion of that parade of horribles: a menacing white majority and cratering economy, the further degradation of our environment, the evisceration of Obamacare and the Voting Rights Act, the rollback of reproductive and civil rights.
So I don’t know if the putative reconciliation that is being tentatively invoked by some is a possibility. While we all may share the same spectrum of negative emotions, the basis of our fears is radically opposed, as are our proposed solutions. We all understand that economic instability needs to be addressed, but the root question of why it exists is not so easily agreed upon – much less its redress.
That real divide does not make the problem of inequality and instability any less urgent. Nor does one season of successful political and social bullying determine the course of American history. Dahlia Lithwick has written an incredible piece in Slate asking whether Americans and our democratic institutions will bend to one man’s will and version of the law?
We say: we will not bend. Though if we are going to fight for our country, its political institutions, and its Constitution, we need a plan.
Our family taped Jacob’s plan up on our fridge to remind us every day of what we must do to win next time. It’s our plan on how we’re going to move forward as a family, and as a country.
What’s your plan?