I’ve been a little tense.
The election isn’t helping.
Therefore, I jumped at the chance to receive a free spa from a neighbor, their cast off as they trade up. By Super Tuesday, we had it running. I sank into the steam with high hopes for a moment of stress-free soaking. Breathing deeply, I counted the peppertree branches above my head, my version of meditation, I suppose. Tiny canoe-shaped leaves floated softly through the breeze, only to land abruptly in the water and be sucked under by the jets. They never had a chance.
By the 32nd branch, I saw my eldest daughter peering out our back door. Cognizant of my need to relax and a far more thoughtful teen than I ever was, she waited for me to notice she was there before speaking. I dreamily turned my head toward her. She looked weary. “Mom, Trump just took another state.”
Every muscle in my body that had begun to unknot, every joint that had released itself in the warmth, seized up in agony.
To my daughter, black and born in Haiti, a member of our family by adoption, just speaking those words, I knew, caused a part of her to crumble.
“Mom,” she said, “Why are people voting for him?”
The problem, as I explained it to my daughter, is not only that people are voting for him. The more disturbing issue that people are not voting against him. Whereas Obama’s elections saw historic rises in voter turnout, Democrats ready to usher in a new era, this election is marred by a lack of voters refusing to accept Trump’s nomination. So while early voter turnout exposed 26% more Republicans than in 2012 voting, presumably for Trump if his numbers are any indication, close to the same percentage fewer Democrats even made it to their polls or caucuses (see more here).
Given Trump’s* views on just about every important human rights issue, this reveals one of the nastiest forms of bigotry: apathy.
Apathy is quite literally placing a mark on the heads of people like my Haitian teen daughter and son.
I have been a progressive Democrat for as long as I could form autonomous political thoughts. I was among those standing in the park at my university, distributing fliers against Apartheid and advocating for immigrants’ rights, et. al. I assumed that, as a liberal Democrat, I was doing enough. But the truth is that, aside from isolated issues, I was able to go about my business relatively free from political stress. Sure, I cared, but from a safe distance.
My inability to connect the political dots on issues of human rights during the first half of my life has directly contributed to our current political and social environment — one in which a candidate like Donald Trump, with all his hateful rhetoric — is so easily able to soar to success. My apathy caused this.
Now, I am a mother of children of color who understands what it feels like to know that people, some in my own community, think my children vile by virtue of the color of their skin, that people will jump first to criminalize my children over white children, that people march publicly to decry their hatred towards people like my children, that laws are passed to penalize my children, and systems are developed that endanger them.
But worse than all that is that a presidential candidate in 2016 is rising to success on the backs of people like my children, on the backs of babies and children and thinkers and workers who are an integral part of what has made this country so valuable.
Trump, without any real political clout, is able to rule over large groups of people to promote bigoted violence. If he is elected, history tells us through the likes of such dictators as Adolf Hitler and François Duvalier (Papa Doc), both elected by the people, he will become all the more dangerous and divisive.
This might not bother people who have no connection to those affected, as issues that led us here did not seem to bother my liberal young self, but we need your voices. We need people who are relatively unaffected to use every bit of energy available to speak for those who, like my daughter, are already weary.
According to Jim Messina in The Atlantic, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, “…America is still very close in presidential elections. We haven’t had a blowout since 1988. And so in close national elections like these, a 3- or 4-point [decline in the white vote share] in a battleground state can shift the entire thing.” This means that every vote really does count in this election. It means that every person who does not fit into one of Trump’s populations meriting vitriol (people of color, immigrants, LGBTQI people, unattractive women, people with disabilities — the list is long) needs to vote on behalf of those who do.
Mine and my husband’s votes will serve our two Haitian children. They reside under an umbrella of white privilege in that way. But who will vote on behalf of your neighbor, the elderly Latina woman who brings you roses from her garden? Who will vote on behalf of the transgender teen who goes to school with your teen? Who will vote on behalf of your friends awaiting their green card?
If you do not get out to vote against Trump, no matter how removed from the issues a presidency like his will create for you personally, you are making a statement that you do not care about those voices that most need to be heard. In doing so, you are also creating a future for this country that you, like me, might someday regret yourself.
*For the purposes of this post, I focus on Trump’s candidacy. I find Cruz’s candidacy equally as disturbing, but his numbers do not paint him as the bigger threat.