Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Near Miss

I don't think it will surprise anyone to know that I have donated to Hillary Clinton's election campaign this year. You also won't be surprised to learn that this means I receive multiple emails each day from Democratic luminaries, mostly asking me to donate again.

Today, a different sort of email landed in my inbox. It seems President Obama is coming to town for a fundraiser at a private home, and I could buy a ticket to attend. I was curious how much such a ticket would cost, so I clicked through. The cheapest $250 tickets were sold out by the time I noticed the email, but I could still buy a $1000 ticket. And for one wild moment, I seriously considered doing it.

I decided not to, because while I could afford that cost, it would be a heck of a splurge. I also realized that if the $250 tickets had still been available, I probably would have done it. I would have bought three tickets, for me and my two daughters.

Honestly, the money would have been wasted on Petunia. She has only a passing interest in this year's election. But if I took Pumpkin, I'd have to take Petunia, and that money most definitely would not have been wasted on Pumpkin. One of the many, many things that makes me sad about this year's election is that it is the first election Pumpkin has really been interested in, and so much of it is inappropriate and possibly damaging for her to follow. I was ready to explain the somewhat sexist coverage—the focus on how much, exactly, Hillary should smile, and why people "just don't like her." But I cannot bring myself to explain the unbridled misogyny that is Donald Trump to my earnest 9 year old who is still so sure she can do whatever she wants in life.

(From the beginning of Trump's campaign, I have discussed his racism and xenophobic fear-mongering, though, and typing this I wonder why I'm more willing to discuss that than his sexism? I do not know.)

Pumpkin and Petunia have always enjoyed coming to vote with me, but up until this year, it has mostly been about getting that "I voted" sticker.

Stickers are powerful motivators.
This year, Pumpkin wants to know more. She is definitely excited that we might elect our first woman president, but she is also genuinely interested in the process. I'm trying to let her see as much of it as I can. We watched most of the speeches at the Democratic convention. Maybe another year, we would have tuned in for the Republican convention, too, but I didn't relish the idea of explaining the "Trump that Bitch" (and worse) signs and shirts. So we skipped the Republicans and watched the Democrats, who obliged us by showcasing the things I'm most proud of about my country. Pumpkin liked watching the big speeches, and even Petunia was transfixed by Michelle Obama's speech.

Pumpkin has followed along with the election since then. Even though I don't show her the worst of it, she has picked up on the tone. She heard some vague things about the Access Hollywood tape at school, which led to me having to try to explain what that was all about. (Thanks, Republicans! I enjoyed explaining that! I know you worry about how we'll explain same sex marriage to our kids, but let me tell you, explaining why a large number of my fellow citizens think a man who thinks he can do whatever he wants to women should be made President was so much harder. I wonder, what did you say to your kids about that? I could use some tips. In return, I can tell you what I said when I was asked about same sex marriage: "Sometimes two boys or two girls love each other like Mommy and Daddy love each other and then they get married." It really wasn't so hard.)

Anyway, as much as I've tried to protect Pumpkin from the ugliness of this particular election and just focus on the process, the ugliness has seeped through. She can see it in my face sometimes, I think. Last week was a particularly rough week for me, as it was for a lot of women. I didn't always hide that well. Reading about the assault on the airplane felt like a physical punch in the gut. I was assaulted on an airplane, too. It was my first international business trip. That was 16 years ago. I remember almost every detail of that flight. I remember what I wore. What I ate. What I drank. What the man who assaulted me did for a living (he ran a card shop in downtown Philadelphia).  I remember just wanting to get off the plane and go have a really hot shower. I remember no details of the return flight, which was uneventful.

So I waited to watch Michelle Obama's latest speech when I was home alone, so that I could outright sob without trying to explain why. I'm not ready to tell Pumpkin about the things men think they can do yet, although I know I need to do that soon. That may be the most heart-breaking thing about this election: the all too vivid reminder that things are not so much better that I could hope my daughters will be spared.

So when I saw that invitation to the event with President Obama, I was tempted to pull out my credit card for the chance to let Pumpkin experience the greatness of our system, as a shining thing to remember about what has otherwise been an ugly introduction to Presidential politics. President Obama and Michelle Obama embody what I think are some of the best things about our country and our system of government. I think President Obama is a brilliant, honorable man who has done his best to serve his country well. I think he and Michelle have brought grace, style, and a broader sense of including all Americans to the White House. They make me proud of my country.

But then I came down to earth. $1000 is within the realm of possibility. $3000 is not, not really. I forwarded the email to Mr. Snarky with a joke and then went back to debugging the data analysis process I was working on.

Later, I thought back to the first election I remember really following. It was 1984. I was a Democrat, growing up in a suburb of Phoenix, AZ, that was heavily Republican. Despite the fact that I had literally almost all of my classmates as evidence that Ronald Reagan was popular with a lot of people, I believed in my heart that Walter Mondale could win. I was so excited by the fact that he'd picked Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. I even played her in a mock debate. I happened to have a similar hairstyle, and I remember the boys commenting on that. I also remember the boy I debated. He was judged to have won, but he came up later and told me he thought I had debated better, but our classmates picked him as the winner because they agreed with him. Earlier this year, I found the note he wrote in my senior yearbook, and realized his character was far better than I gave him credit for back then, when he was just another Mormon boy I assumed believed I should limit my ambitions to the home. I'd bet serious money he is not supporting Donald Trump this year.

I remember going with my parents to our friends' house to watch the election returns, and all the adults trying to comfort me as it became increasingly clear that Mondale was going to lose by a landslide. They knew what was coming before the returns started coming in. I still cried.

And then of course, there was 1988. I remember the downfall of Gary Hart, and the reasons for it. I remember wondering why a man who wanted to be President would risk behaving like he did. I was naive then, but honestly, I still don't really get it, and I don't want to.  So we ended up with the Bush-Dukakis race. And the Willie Horton ad, the significance of which I doubt I grasped at the time.

The first election I could vote in was in 1992, and the stupid cookie incident is etched into my memory. I was in college, starting to sort out what my ambitions would be, and the reaction to Hillary Clinton was a not very subtle reminder that I'd be navigating a very different work environment than what my male classmates would face. Still, as I've written before, I was not a huge fan of hers back then.

And then, of course, came the sex scandals and the impeachment and all that.

Next up: the 2000 election, with the hanging chads and the faux folksiness of George W. Bush, a man who had been born to unbelievable privilege and pretended to be an average Joe. A man who made it to the top even though even his supporters seemed to think he wasn't that bright. And of course, we all know where that got us.

OK, so maybe, the idea of going to see President Obama was a little bit for me, too.

Maybe next time.

Sign courtesy of Petunia, so maybe she's paying more attention than I think. She made it on Saturday, after hearing me and Pumpkin discuss a weird thing we saw. We picked my sister up for a trip to the art museum, and saw a Hillary-Kaine sign in the yard of a house on our route. We later dropped my sister home, and on our way, we saw that same house, now with a Trump-Pence sign. Either there's a battle going on in that house, or someone is being a jerk. No prizes for guessing which I think it is.


  1. I speculate that racism is a little easier to discuss when you're white and less likely to be subject to "go home!" shouts in America or seeing your capable parents be treated like they're stupid because they have an accent. It's a little less personal?

    The sexism comes home with us and haunts all of us, to varying degrees. My mom sat me down when I was 6 or 7 and explained assault and rape and that someone perpetrating those things is most likely to be a relative or friend. I don't know how hard it was for her to tell me those things, but I remember taking it in stride that there are some pretty awful people out there and I was alert to being alone in rooms with overly familiar males, or letting anyone be too physically close to me that I didn't want touching me. Growing up, I was targeted by male classmates, probably since I was the smallest in the school, and because she had let me know it was ok and good for me to stand up for myself against being touched against my will, I wasn't afraid to push back. None of them ever tried it twice. It's crap that they thought they could get away with it in the first place but I think it was a lot better for me to learn early to judge character and not be fooled by the utterly casual way those boys attempted to touch me, pretending it was just a "game" or casual flirting.

    But that's just my experience. I don't regret her telling me so early, but I also don't truly remember a time I wasn't aware that some men looked at women as nothing more than objects for them to treat badly so I don't have a basis for comparison, to miss being innocent.

    1. Anonymous12:16 AM

      Thank you for sharing this... I have been wondering when to have the talk with my girl and your comment reassured me that it's ok to do it from a young age...

    2. We talk about their right to decide what happens to their bodies in general terms, and have done for years. I just find Trump's behavior and words too specific to share with them on purpose. Like I said in the piece, Pumpkin did hear about the AH tape, and so we addressed that. But I don't want to watch the debates with them, because there is a high probability of having to explain something I don't think a 9 year old needs to know if that much detail.

  2. Anonymous12:15 AM

    Cloud, if I may...you should show Michele's speech to your daughter. It is beautiful, inspiring and important! And it counter balance all the ugliness coming from Trump. And if you cry in front of her, that's ok. It will show her how important it is.

    1. I am a mother but also a person. As a mother, I would be happy for my kids to see any Michelle Obama speech. As a person, I needed to watch that particular speech on my own.

  3. I have two boys, 9 and nearly 7, and it has been a difficult election here too. It's been uncomfortable explaining Trump's behavior, but I think it's extra important for me to discuss this with them. I want them to be grown men who wouldn't dream of forcing themselves upon someone, and who would intervene if they saw someone else's assault.

  4. Suggestion: Keep your eye out for political speakers giving large speeches open to the public at UCSD and SD State. I've been able to take my oldest to see, for example, Nancy Pelosi, Ray LaHood, and Peter Orzag at our state university. Not the same as a small dinner, but the talks are usually free! You probably won't see Obama, but there are some pretty prominent people who come through and give big public talks to universities. Plus my sister got to meet Obama at her undergrad back when he was running for senator-- luckily she got a picture with him.

    (As a child I got to see Jaime Escalante, the voice of Ren and Stimpy, and many other people who I can't remember at the regional school where my mom works.)

  5. Anonymous1:05 PM

    So far as I can tell you have done an excellent job of the 'what your swimsuit covers is personal and private". You have probably talked about bullies too and to yell NO loudly around them. Trump is a mean bully who needs to respect women's rights. Now, when asked why in all heaven the GOP allowed him to be their nominee ... Well I can't help you on that but I do admire what you have done and are doing with your children. THANK YOU.


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