In the days after Donald Trump was elected to be the next U.S. president, many fathers and mothers racked their brains and dug deep into their psyche trying to explain to their sons and daughters “How America selected a racist, sexist bully” as our next president.
Most are concerned about their daughters.
Why our daughters?
Perhaps to console them that a woman is not going to be our next president?
Perhaps to somehow explain to them how a bully, a man who has said so many vile things about women, minorities, Muslims, people with disabilities is going to be our next president?
Perhaps to try to wipe away the fears and the tears of little Latinas who will now have recurring nightmares about being torn away from their parents, perhaps to never see them again?
Perhaps to try to explain the unexplainable: How Americans could elect as their leader a man who has bragged about doing horrible things to women and has been accused by many women of doing exactly that.
Here are some examples of what parents are saying or writing to their daughters.
Jessica Valenti at The Guardian, wrote this the day after the election: “My six-year-old fell asleep thinking Hillary Clinton would be the first female president. Now I have to explain to her why Donald Trump was chosen instead.”
“[Layla] woke up in a changed America today – one where a liar and a racist, a xenophobe and a serial harasser of women, will lead us. She woke up in a place that flatly rejected progress, a country where a man can admit to sexually assaulting women and win millions of votes because, not in spite, of it.
How will I explain to her about how many women have been hurt, badly, because of the sexism that surrounds them? How will I keep her from being afraid that her fate to suffer the same is inevitable?”
Valenti knows she will eventually “find the right words to relay the gravity of the election to [her] daughter” without scaring her.
The Oscar-winning screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, is somewhat more pragmatic and doesn’t mince words in a letter to both his 15-year-old daughter Roxy and her mother Julia Sorkin.
Sorkin regrets not having been able to protect the “Sorkin Girls” from “a thoroughly incompetent pig with dangerous ideas, a serious psychiatric disorder, no knowledge of the world and no curiosity to learn…”and from “[S]exists, racists and buffoons…Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration…”
“The battle isn’t over, it’s just begun. Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I’ll never go to sleep on you again.
Tanya Bishai, the mother to two elementary aged children, writes to her daughter Ava:
This morning while you stood in the kitchen all sleepy-eyed and half awake, I told you who won the presidential election. Your eyes widened, and your mouth dropped. You stood there in silence for a second, then said, ‘I feel so sad for Hillary.'”
Then Bishai tells Ava about her little brother’s comments and how Ava reacted to him:
“Your brother broke the silence when he announced, “Trump is a jerk!” He went on to tell me, “because he talks bad about women like you and Ava.” While his father was telling him our family doesn’t call anyone names, I turned to see your face flushed in delight and your eyes twinkling. The little man you adore the most in the world was calling out our President-elect’s bad behavior while taking up for his favorite girls (me and you). Maybe your brother’s defense will carry you through the day.”
Bishai concludes her letter as follows:
“Despite the somberness of today, take heart, my love. One day very soon, a woman will lead this great country. And maybe, just maybe, it will be you.
Lead like a girl!
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reassures his seventh-grade daughter that she is going to be OK. He tells her that, although he is deeply worried for our nation because of the dreadful things Trump has said during the campaign and in spite of the “still more terrible things he could do” as president, to keep those fears in perspective because “this election, by itself, doesn’t mean America won’t be a safe place for immigrants, black people, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, gays and lesbians, or a place where women aren’t treated fairly.”
Milbank provides statistics to support his message of hope to his daughter and finishes his letter with the following reassuring words:
“People joke about fleeing to another country, but America remains the greatest country on Earth. You are rightly scared that a man who talks about women the way Trump does was elected president. But we all know a woman will be elected president someday. Maybe it will be you.
At your bat mitzvah next week, we will end the service, as always, with a prayer for our country:
“Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance.
May they govern with justice and compassion.”
God bless you, my daughter, and God bless America.
All my love,
The extent of angst and concern so many parents feel for their children is perhaps best evidenced when a comedian, a satirist, gets (somewhat) serious when trying to “unpack” Trump’s win for his six-year-old daughter.
After pondering how to explain the election results — the fact that “millions of adults had done something very stupid on Election Day” — Andy Borowitz at The New Yorker offers the following explanation to his young daughter: “Imagine the stupidest thing you could ever do, like peeing on a stack of pancakes. Now, imagine that the United States is a stack of pancakes. Millions of grownups just peed on it.”
As his daughter giggles at this and runs off to play, Borowitz feels “relieved and grateful for the alacrity with which children laugh at their elders.” But he is still waiting for someone to explain the election to him.
I don’t have a young daughter anymore, but I do know and love an adorable little girl, daughter of a couple who have lived in our country for more than 20 years — hardworking, law abiding, beautiful religious people: the salt of the earth.
Esperanza or Fe — I won’t use her real name — was born, just like her sisters, in the United States of America.
We saw the little girl’s mother the morning after the elections.
She told us how this beautiful, innocent little girl reacted to the news that a man who has pledged to deport her parents, to cruelly separate sons and daughters from their parents, to deny their birthright citizenship, had just been elected president of the most just, tolerant, compassionate country on earth. A country that once welcomed “…your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
Suffice to say it broke our hearts.
Suffice to say, we assured the little girl’s mother that real Americans would never let this happen.
Suffice to say that such assurances are based on our most fervent esperanza (hope) and our deep fe (faith) in America and the American people.
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