There’s a house we pass on our way to Route 1, where we do a lot of our household shopping, that has a Trump flag on their flagpole, under their American flag. The girls boo at it sometimes, or express annoyance (“The election is over. Why do they have that stupid flag?”) which I have mixed feelings about. I hate driving past the damned thing too (since when do people fly flags with the name of the president on it? WTF?) But I always try to play it (somewhat) cool: “Yeah, well, guess they really like Trump.” Or “We’re booing at the flag, right? Not the people who live there.”
Yesterday, though, I was feeling so heartsick and angry about Charlottesville, and Trump’s refusal to outwardly condemn the white-supremacists and nazis (who consider him their leader) that I seriously wanted to stop the car, get out, rip that flag down and tear it in half, a la Captain Von Trapp.
Instead, I talked with the girls about what had been going on in Virginia.
OK, fine, first I flipped the bird at the flag — at which the girls were properly scandalized — and then I told them what had been going on.
I told them that while there have always been a lot of people who hate people because of their religion or the color of their skin (which the girls know; we’ve talked about all this stuff before), that many of those people now feel like they have a president who supports the way they feel. So they’re getting louder and bolder and sometimes violent, as had happened the other day.
Elsa said, angrily, “We should move to another country. This place is getting too dangerous.”
I told her yeah, I felt that way sometimes too, but this was our home, and we were going to stay here and work to make it better.
“And remember,” I said, “there are a lot more good people than bad people here. And even most of the people who voted for Trump are good people.” (Funny thing about parenting: So many of the things I tell my girls are the same things I constantly have to remind myself.)
“Racists are so stupid.” Elsa said, starting to sound genuinely pissed. “It doesn’t even make sense. I hate them.”
I told her it was OK to get angry — we should be angry. And that we had a really important job, as white people, to tell other white people when they’re being racist. And to show up and support the people who the bad guys hate, or want to hurt, and listen to what they have to say. It was why, I told them, I went to a solidarity with Charlottesville rally in Boston on Saturday night. To show up and be counted as someone who will stand up to racists and nazis and a**holes of all kinds.
Then Clio asked, “Would they hate us, because we’re sort of Jewish? Even though dad is only half Jewish, but technically Jewish because Jaycee [the girls’ grandmother] is Jewish, so we’re only sort of Jewish, since you’re not?” (She likes to get all the details right.)
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe. But you’re safe, and Daddy’s safe, and Jaycee’s safe. You don’t have to worry.”
Then Elsa did some more venting about the stupidity of grownups in general, and posited that Trump was going to start World War Three with Korea (I have no idea how she heard about the NK situation), and Clio told her, in a motherly sort of way, that no, he wasn’t, she didn’t need to be scared of that (I let Clio handle that one; she did a more convincing job than I would have). Elsa said OK, maybe not a war in the world, but in our own country. I said no, probably not an actual war, but things were really hard for our country right now. There was no getting around it.
They were quiet for a little while, and then Elsa said, “Can I swear? Like, the F word?”
I said, “Yeah, just this once. Go for it.”
I expected Elsa to say “Fuck racists” or something along those lines, but she just yelled “FUCK!”
And then Clio goes, “Can I call Trump an effing a-word?”
“Yeah, go for it.”
So she did.
And I yelled, “And fuck those nazi pieces of shit!”
We all said a few more swears, and then I said OK, no more swearing. We’d gotten it out of our systems. Onward and upward.
And then we went to Staples and got school supplies. And the delicious thrill — which I remember fondly — of picking out folders and notebooks and pencils overtook and obliterated, at least temporarily, the girls’ anger and confusion and frustration with the idiocy of adults, and how so many of us could be so hateful and stupid, for absolutely no good reason.