The Good Guys

It was the night of the November election. I was, by turns, doing some work I’d brought home and checking polling results on my phone.

My daughter’s first text came in about eight o’clock.

“I’m worried!”

I worry about the country on a daily basis, but my heart breaks for my daughter. Like all her generation, she was taught in school that, although our country had a shameful tradition of slavery and human rights violations, all that was behind us. With first the victories of Martin Luther King and later the election of Barack Obama, the only president in their adult lives, America had triumphed over bigotry and hatred. They were sure that we could only move forward.

While I know that there were many reasons that voters supported Donald Trump, an unfortunate consequence of that support has been the openness with which some people now express their anger and prejudice. It remains to be seen whether those reasons will justify the fallout in the end. To get the supreme court justice they preferred, or the manufacturing jobs he has promised, or the tax reforms he swears he will bring, or the illegal immigration he will build a wall to attempt to prevent, his supporters ignored the other words he has spoken or tweeted, the lies he has told, the manipulation he has strategized. Though it is not a bargain I was willing to make, I understand that, when desperate enough, voters did.

My daughter and many of her generation embraced the idealism of Bernie Sanders. The harshness of Trump’s message has been a bitter pill to swallow.

She jokes, “Will you visit me in Canada?”

My daughter is not naïve. She works with people in poverty, some of whom came to America recently trying to find a safer, more prosperous life, as immigrants have for generations. She understands much more than most of us the issues that poor families face. She sees parents every day, who range from being illiterate to having graduate degrees, working hard at manual labor to make better lives for their kids. As a child born to the privilege of education and a stable home life, she feels the need to give back. She wants leaders who see what she sees and a way to move forward to improve the lives of the families she serves.

Though we are texting, I imagine the anguish in her voice, and I want to reassure her, as mothers often try to do. I tell her to remember the balance of power, how congress and the judiciary must cooperate before too much damage can be done. I know it is a weak argument for her sorrow of this moment.

We sign off, but I can imagine her thinking, “How could Americans vote this way? We’re supposed to be the good guys.”

But I want to let her know, “Honey, everyone thinks they’re the good guys.”

 

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