The first morning after the 2016 Presidential Election, I wasn't sure how to feel. Granted, it has been a busy semester helping daughters get moved into new homes, taking on new sewing projects, teaching two classes--which I've discovered is one too many for me anymore. Austin fall season is wreaking its normal chaos with my lungs and brought along a friend--anemia--to make my energy level up to about -2. I tried to be upbeat walking into class the day after; I asked everyone how they were doing. Perhaps they were in the same shock I was. Or perhaps they didn't want to let me know that they weren't. But one of my students, an ex-Marine, looked up and said, "It's going to be all right." From that moment, I felt better. Maybe because my dad, who was a soldier, always made me feel safe and it might have been a message from him. Another student has inspired me to write poetry again, and now I find myself having spent the past six hours reuniting with my blog-journal.
When I first saw Mr. Trump cruelly mock a reporter with a physical disability, I thought no one would want that kind of heart, mind, and soul leading our country. I took it personally; it was our daughter, our girls' sister, he was mocking, our daughter who died to get away from the pain of living as 'other.’ He was mocking the children of my friends who’d worked for years to make our world a place where every single child and adult-- no matter the ability, the disability, the challenge, the illness, the behavior, the mobility—would have access to the environment surrounding them with all the gifts it offers. At times, I was honored to work alongside these fellow human beings.
Suddenly, I feel unwelcome here, again, in this country where I was born and where my Cherokee great-grandmother was born and where my African threads of heredity were worked to death to make this country 'great' and for which my father fought in three vicious wars that sped the cancer that killed him at 59 years old and where he was called a nigger in the 'great' times of 1980's America.
I'm confused because there must be many people I know and walk past and work with and teach who are pretending that I am exactly as equal they are, pretending to believe in faith, love, compassion, helping those in need, pretending to abhor hatred and violence and bigotry, perhaps even pretending friendship.
I'm disappointed that the film footage my grands will see of what was to be another progressive, historic marker of American ideology is instead a rude, mean old man making fun of people and calling one of their own cousin’s entire race horrible names and promising to build a wall between our related countries instead of building answers to our shared problems.
In the 70s as a new 18-year-old faced with freedom that I was ill-prepared for and a bit too naïve to handle, I found myself in a situation that led to my being raped. It was by someone I knew. It was someone from a group of “friends.” Unfortunately, I was not wise or strong enough to report what happened because I thought it was my fault; I was ashamed. However, as a new, young secretary at an engineering firm four years after that event, I managed to stand up to one of the senior engineers and tell him never to pat me on the behind again after his welcome to the department. There will be footage of this new President using language that supports crude, inappropriate, vulgar, and unwanted advances toward women that I will have to explain to my granddaughters and grandsons. I don’t know what I will say.
I remember meeting Governor George W. Bush and feeling that he was a kind man. He had provided funding to the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, to which I was originally appointed by Governor Ann Richards. He seemed genuinely touched by a picture of Annie that I gave him and told him she was deaf and that the money would help provide services to others like her.
I went on an advocacy adventure in 1994. Mrs. Clinton and others had orchestrated a bus tour across country (for us, from Austin, Texas, to the White House) sharing our stories of the negative impact of not having insurance that followed the insured or not covering pre-existing conditions or not paying for certain therapies or new technologies for delivering insulin or helping restore some sound to those who chose the option. I remember the bomb threats to our buses, the “Nazi-Hillary” signs, and the rage toward us for trying to help provide a program benefiting anyone in America who needed health care. I met amazing individuals challenged with trying to heal from or live with cancer, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, medical catastrophe-induced poverty, or just trying to receive treatments or medications to help ourselves or our children. We represented all ages, backgrounds, races; we were like a health care Woodstock.
Mostly, I will always remember the bravery of a 10-year-old Annie and a 12-year-old Asha. I will remember Annie asking me what all those people holding up signs and shouting with angry faces were so upset about, and what was that sign language they were using. I think that’s when she learned the words for being flipped-off. She thought a minute and told me, “Just wave and smile at them.” It was our little joke to pretend they were saying nice things and waving to us as we grinned and waved back. Asha soaked up the sights of the trip. She never wavered on doing her blood tests and insulin injections several times a day and every day. She made me brave enough to go to the subways so I could take them to one of the Smithsonian Museums and to see the Lincoln Memorial—which stops your breath; the Kennedy flame that burns the 60's era of civil warfare still; and the Vietnam Memorial that made me cry because maybe I touched the names of my father’s friends he lost there. I remember Mrs. Clinton talking to my girls as mothers do and accepting drawings Annie made. I remember her asking about Peter and how he was doing with work, knowing we depended on its insurance for our family’s care—Asha’s Type I diabetes and Annie’s hearing loss, my asthma and high blood pressure. I remember being asked to bring Asha back to make an appearance to a Congressional committee on health care reforms. I remember her sitting beside Mrs. Clinton and her leaning over and whispering into Asha’s ear after she spoke. I asked Asha about what she said. Asha was beaming and said, “She told me I was beautiful and did a great job." I remember my own awe as I sat in within walls of history and the sheer true greatness of it all.
These are the thoughts I am having the first mornings after the 2016 Presidential Election. I took my girls with me to vote for many years when they were babies. Now I have gone with them and taken my grandchildren. On Election Day 2016, I left the voting area hugging my oldest daughter and saying, “I really love America.” Perhaps I just continue to cling to that feeling and tell my grands if they should ask: always cling to the righteous spirit of an ideal dream.
Faith has taught me love will win in the end.