Birthday Regrets

This is the worst birthday present I ever got.  Yes I have received a few bad ones.  Sweaters from Grant’s, a statue of Our Lady, a microwave, and even a broken watch. (Lots of wrinkles and a bum knee but let’s not go there.) This is the worst.

Though the politicians did not have my birthday in mind when they assigned Election Day to November, to me it feels personal this time.  Very personal.  A woman of substance, who is probably the best prepared to govern lost the presidency to the most unqualified man in our history. A man who has zero governmental experience.  A man who trashed her in the harshest terms, calling her crooked and threatening to “lock her up”. Hard not to see unmitigated sexism at work.

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After more than half a century watching our country move many groups from the margins to mainstream I have lived to see a man elected who promises to turn back those gains and also promises to increase the specter of war. After devoting my life to education I see the election of a man who knows practically nothing about the position he will have.

I am supposed to go quietly into the dim regions of age at the ripe age of 74, to knit (as if I ever did), make cookies for the grandkids, read books rocking by the fireplace.  Instead I wake early enraged and grieved.

Not only is this man patently unprepared for office, he trashes minorities, women, and promises to roll back the single piece of legislation that gave health care to so many.  Even worse his running mate has actively worked against LGBT rights for years. Yes more than half of Americans voted for his opponent, but still so many voted for him.

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Who are these “elites” that the Trump voters railed against? Liberals are not elites!  We are from modest backgrounds.  We teach, we nurse the sick, we clean houses, we work in post offices, we pay our bills.  Some elites may be liberal.  But most of us just work and worry about our kids and want things to be better for them and for all our neighbors. So why can’t liberals and conservatives discuss civilly what is best for the country? Without all the hate speech.

My dad worked in a factory.  Money was tight. The little pot of money he got for his retirement was gone years before he died.  Both he and my mom ended their years on Medicaid, a government program that helped immensely.  I was lucky to get a New York State Regents scholarship which enabled me to go to college.  Both my husband and I became teachers.  We taught in city schools, we were committed to educating people like us from diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds.  We are not “elites”.  

In the 50s and 60s I was inspired by the Civil Rights protestors.  As a teacher I saw my minority students everyday working hard in school.  When President Obama was elected I rejoiced.  Maybe the sins of racism could be expunged and so many African Americans could aspire to take their place in our country.  Hillary Clinton’s achievements have continued to inspire me.  After I lived through the women’s rights movement in the 60’s and 70’s she seemed to embody all we hoped for and worked for then and now. I thought now all our girls can aspire to lead.  Now I worry about all these achievements being turned back. Even more frightening is that a man who boasted of sexual assault is heading the White House. What kind of a message is this to women? To my beautiful granddaughters?

Most especially I watched my dear son work for gay rights, come out under peril in his work and in his whole life.  Celebrating marriage equality with him and his husband as they both work under tremendous odds to raise two adopted children means so much. Now just a heartbeat away from the presidency is a man who has spent his political career denigrating LGBT persons, working actively to take away their rights. Will wise counselors point both these men onto a better path?  Will the people speak up loud and strong for inclusion and respect for all our countrymen and women?

Come on folks!  Let me have my quiet old age nodding by the fire. Give all of us a better birthday present, that of the values of freedom and democracy.