Under Union Square, in the 14th Street subway station is a growing collection of post-it notes expressing love and support for one another that started after many in NYC were disappointed by the results of the election. I had heard about the wall but only saw it for the first time last Sunday, when Mazzy and I were on our way back from a birthday party.
At first I was nervous that it would signal to Mazzy the growing discord in our country, but as we stood with our fellow New Yorkers reading the thousands of sentiments posted before us, I found it very comforting. It is a wonderful example of the diversity and solidarity that can be found in our city at a time when many are demonstrating their anger and fear.
To be clear, I am also angry and fearful (and growing more so with each cabinet appointment), but that’s not something I wish to share with my children.
Mazzy asked why people were posting notes and I told her that they were sharing their love for all different kinds of people. I told her that we are very lucky because NYC is one of the most diverse places in the world and we get to live side by side with people of all different skin colors, ethnicities and religions. I told her that many people who live here come from other countries, like Ruth who is from Paraguay and our neighbor who is from China and Grammy who immigrated here from Germany when she was a little girl. I told her that this wall symbolized what is so great about NYC— we celebrate both our similarities and our differences and the fact that we all get to live here together.
A lot of the post-its were political and Mazzy asked why people were writing about Hillary Clinton. I told her that a lot of people love Hillary and are sad that she lost the election, so they want to show their support for her too.
“Can I make one?” Mazzy asked.
I found a pen and a packet of blank post-its on the floor and handed them to her. She started drawing a picture of a lady. “Who is that?” I asked.
“Hillary Clinton,” she said proudly and posted it on the wall.
After Mazzy put up her post-it, I wrote one of my own. Mine said “Raise the Change” which is my new mantra.
Then Mazzy asked if she could make another one and drew Hillary Clinton again, but this time with a heart drawn around her.
When we were leaving the wall, she said, “A lot of people don’t love Trump.”
“That’s true,” I said cautiously.
“Because he’s mean,” she continued, which is something I’ve heard her say before that I believe she picked up at school.
“Well, I think the wall is trying to show Trump that being nice to people is more powerful than being mean.”
She accepted the answer and moved on to other things, like what was in her goodie bag and whether we would have pizza for dinner. But my mind was still playing back what I had said. Was it too much? Was it enough? Would it comfort her or scare her? This is our reality right now and although the election is over, the topic is not going away. Or topics, I should say. I talk a lot about diversity, but this is also about the environment (Trump just appointed climate change denier Myron Ebell as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency), human rights (Mike Pence doesn’t believe a woman has the right to decide what happens to her own body and believes that gay people can be changed through conversion therapy) and foreign policy (newly appointed General Michael Flynn is quoted as saying that the Muslim faith is a cancer and Jeff Sessions was once rejected as a federal judge due to a history of racist remarks, including calling the NAACP “un-American.”) I am happy Trump appointed Reince Priebus (who brings substantial government experience) as his Chief of Staff, but Priebus is supposed to work in partnership with the scariest appointment of all— White Nationalist Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist, a man who favorably compares himself to Darth Vadar. Here’s a direct quote: “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.”
Last week, I said I was grieving. This week is something worse. We are not talking about getting over a dead person. We are talking about getting used to someone who is very much alive with a growing influence over all our lives. A person who is pushing an agenda that is the exact opposite of everything I believe is true and good.
I know I run the risk of losing followers for talking about this because many people believe this blog should not be a place to talk about politics. Believe me, I don’t want to talk about politics either. I would much rather be talking about birthday parties and potty training, but as someone with an audience, I think it is an obligation. And as I’ve said in my posts, this election is about parenting. It is about the future of our children and raising the kinds of kids we want to run the world.
I am also very scared. I was brought to tears last weekend, when at that same birthday party, I happened to check my phone and see a report of swastikas drawn on the doors of Jewish students in the New School. That’s a school within walking distance from my apartment. I can’t believe that all the outbreaks of hate I have been reading about in the country have hit so close to home.
Then this past weekend, a playground in Brooklyn Heights was vandalized with swastikas and the words “Go Trump.” It’s a playground dedicated to the memory of Adam Yauch, aka MCA from the Beastie Boys. All the Beastie Boys are Jewish, so this was a targeted attack. And it was on a slide in a popular park where children play every day. Thankfully, the community reacted quickly and covered up the hateful graffiti with a fresh coat of paint.
Then the community showed up for a demonstration, taping hearts to the slide with children holding signs that said things like, “Preschoolers 4 Peace” and “Don’t say mean things to people.”
These sentiments should not be divisive. They are cries for human decency and should be embraced by all, no matter who you voted for. Or if you were one of the many people who didn’t vote at all.
Another incident that happened this weekend in NYC was at Dallas BBQ. A waitress who has worked there for 25 years served a table of people and then in place of a tip, the patrons left a note on their receipt. That note said, “Safe flight back to Mexico.”
That should be universally appalling.
So for all those people telling me to stop talking about the election (“Get over it! You lost!” they say,) I wish it was that simple. People also like to tell me that I am unnecessarily educating my children on something that is too adult for them to hear. Yes. That’s true. One of the things I hate about the current state of politics is that I now view hearing a speech from the President Elect as not being appropriate for children. How, my friends, did we get here???
But you can’t shield kids from hate speech when it appears on their playgrounds.
For those of you who agree with my positions and my freedom to cover what’s going on, thank you for your support. It has encouraged me and made me feel great respect for our community.
For those of you who disagree with me, but are still reading, I thank you for not unfollowing. I am trying to listen and understand the other side (the people who are willing to discuss intelligently as opposed to bash me for speaking my mind) because I don’t believe anything will be gained if only like-minded people talk to one another. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place. I know these acts of hate don’t represent every Trump supporter and I’m betting a lot of people are upset that people are committing them in his name. But it’s happening. Racists and anti-semites feel emboldened and like their side is winning. If you are one of the people who voted for Trump for economic or religious reasons, please speak out against the hatred he has unleashed.
I am not going to make every post on my blog political, but I will continue to speak my mind as long as I feel it is safe to do so. I am looking to find people who commiserate and also educate people who maybe aren’t paying as much attention. I hope my readers, both the people who believe the same things I do and those who don’t, continue an open dialogue that is not about hatred but about working towards a common goal— a better future for all.
Especially for our children.