I almost never write about what you might call..."touchy-feely...stuff", because let's face it, it's gut-wrenching, and difficult, and it's so much easier (and frankly, more fun) to just relate funny anecdotes. But I'm feel an overwhelming need to wrestle my way through this one...both to get it off my chest...and also to put it out there for my sons to read someday. I'm not promising that it'll be a particularly polished post (ooh, sorry about the alliteration--that was unintentional), but I'll do my best to...at least semi-coherently...express what's been swirling around my head the last few days. Here goes:
Cast your mind waaaay back with me (in what we might soon refer to as "the good old days") to the beginning of the 2016 presidential campaign. Remember how it seemed like there were oh, approximately 200 contenders vying for their parties' nomination? Especially on the Republican side--I confess I couldn't even keep them straight...and I'm not really sure I EVER knew all their names, or where they were from, much less what they stood for. But the oddest thing was that one of the wannabes--improbably...ridiculously--was a mega-rich businessman, with no political experience whatsoever (who shall remain nameless...kind of like...Voldemort...). This seemed like a such a joke to us here at Team WestEnders, as we would hear news stories, and shake our heads ruefully at the sheer preposterousness of him even being in the thick of an real-life election.
And then, we watched in bemusement as the field began to narrow, presidential (formerly) hopefuls dropping out inexorably, one by one. Suddenly it wasn't quite as funny anymore when--without all the extra chatter from the other candidates in the mix--the outrageous statements coming out of the mogul's corner garnered more attention. To me, it was still hard to take him seriously, but I found myself concerned that he absolutely always appeared to be royally pissed...or actively yelling...or rudely cutting off someone else who was trying to speak. But when I actually began to listen to the content of his diatribes? That's when I became truly alarmed. The anger, the hatred, the disrespect--not to mention the falsehoods--he spewed virtually every time he opened his mouth were utterly astonishing...and disturbing...to me.
Of course, that's just on the relatively rare occasions in which he was actually able to, you know, formulate a fully-crafted, comprehensible thought. (Yeah...you do NOT wanna get the former speech-pathologist started on how strongly I believe that the leader of our nation needs to be--at a bare minimum--ARTICULATE...) It was at this point that I started struggling to understand what, exactly, people admired in this man. Really, who hadn't he insulted with his comments and his behavior already? I confess I spent an inordinate amount of time with my mouth hanging open, whenever a new piece of offensive information came to light. Women are sex objects. Muslims shouldn't be allowed in the country. And perhaps the most (in)famous: Build a wall. It was almost too much to process.
But all through this nonsense, although the lunacy seemed to escalate on almost a daily basis, I never truly worried....because I firmly believed that there was NO. Freakin'. WAY. he could possibly win. I think my words to the kids were something along the lines of, "Trust me, there is no universe in which that man is voted into the highest office in our government. Not gonna happen." In the end, I trusted, deep down, that people would choose someone with qualifications, and character, and--for the love of Pete--the slightest shred of diplomacy and basic dignity. Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to canonize Hillary. She's human; she has flaws like any of the rest of us. But I've certainly never seen or heard--in all her years of serving in the public eye--any evidence of her treating people, or talking to people, with the vitriol, discrimination and contempt her opponent showed.
So, even though it looked, inexplicably, bad...because this wasn't supposed to happen, in my "keepin' the faith happy ending scenario"...I went to bed on Election Night before I knew the results. I woke up in the morning, flipped open the laptop, saw the inconceivable (and yes, it DOES mean what I think it means) headline ...and even though I'm someone who never, ever cries..I couldn't stop the.tears from pouring down my face. Not because the candidate that I wanted so badly to prevail, didn't...but rather, because I'm terrified of what might happen--to the whole world, honestly--with that man at the head of one of the most powerful nations on the planet.
I pulled myself together just enough to go say goodbye to Riley before he left for school. As he headed out the door, I gave him the usual hug and "Have a good day, buddy!" (Albeit somewhat more subdued...and watery....than usual, I would imagine...) With a downcast expression, he replied, "Thanks...but it's not off to a very good start, is it?" Now I wanted to start sobbing all over again, but what can you do as a parent? I squeezed him tight, told him it'd be okay, and promised him that we'd talk it over when he got home.
And, bless his school, they took a chunk of time out of the instructional day to discuss everything with the students, both giving them facts and calming any fears they might have. What's funny is, when he arrived back home, considerably more cheerful than when he'd left, it turned out that the very same points his teachers had made, my colleagues and I had come up with during our work hours, to reassure ourselves. (First and foremost being that our brilliant Founding Fathers set up a three-branch system for many reasons, the most important of which in the current climate has to be: preventing the Commander in Chief from going off all half-cocked and doing something potentially destructive...or, let's face it...just plain asinine...)
In a fortunate coincidence, Derek happens to have U.S. History in his schedule this year as his Social Studies offering (I know, right? What perfect timing!) so this whole...situation...provided them the very definition of a "golden opportunity" to converse about a whole slew of related topics, such as the democratic process, civil rights...theoretical consequences of a divisive, emotionally-charged election like this one...etc.
And while we're on the subject of teachable moments, if you will, as we hashed it out at home, what bubbled to the surface for me is what I wanted myself and my children, when all is said and done, to keep uppermost in our minds: regardless of the actions or words of the person in the Oval Office, WE are going to continue to strive at all times for respect....and tolerance...and kindness...and acceptance when interacting with our fellow human beings. We choose to see people of all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, and walks of life as inherently valuable. We will stand beside--and stand up for--those who suffer discrimination or oppression. (Okay, I realize that came out sounding like some kind of...Team WestEnders Manifesto, or something...sorry about that...doesn't mean it wasn't sincere!)
Whew--I was honestly dreading trying to get that all out...and I must admit that I'm relieved to have done it. Now, to wrap up on a more lighthearted note: the Morning After, Husband attempted to lift the prevailing mood of doom and despair...by being a wise-ass, naturally. He asked at the breakfast table, "So...who wants to move with me to Canada?" Derek cracked up, as expected, which encouraged him to continue, "I hear...Saskatchewan...is just lovely!" (By the way, he's TOTALLY making that up--not that I'm disparaging ANY province in our delightful Neighbor-to-the-North, but I guarantee you he has NO IDEA what he's talking about. In fact, I would wager a great deal of money that he just picked the location whose name pleased him the most!)
I, on the other hand, just stared at him...in befuddlement...for a moment, before marshaling my thoughts to respond, "Are you kidding me? You might recall--as it was only two years ago--how we moved here because MARYLAND was too cold. What makes you think I would ever, in a million years, even consider relocating...closer to the Arctic Circle? (I paused a beat here, for emphasis...or something...) I swear, how long have you known me?" (Yeeeahhhh...that might have been a bit...dramatic. But, as I said, it was a tough morning...)
Besides, I'm obviously not going anywhere, but if I were to do a runner, I'd definitely be taking my disgruntled ex-pat butt and plopping it right the HECK down on some tropical beach...with mango trees (I looooove me some mangos),, and...hmm...plentiful margaritas (no further explanation necessary, I presume)! Heeeeey...maybe I've just figured out my coping strategy (or...personal mantra...or whatever...)for the next four years: Mangos and Margaritas, baby...Countdown to 2020, who's with me?!