I wasn’t going to write about the election again, for a number of reasons. First of all, Support for Special Needs isn’t my personal site, and alienating any of its readers is a pretty poor way of rewarding my employer. And I’m pretty sure political stuff isn’t why you come here. Mostly, I figure the postmortem on the election is getting a little old. Time for something else. Anything else.
I got sick this week and had to push my post back a few days. When I notified my editor of this, I promised not to write about the election or Donald Trump again. Her response? “You can write about Trump.” I guess she’s got a better sense of how this is affecting people, particular families of those who are vulnerable, like people with disabilities. Our families are scared, and for us, all politics really is personal.
Mostly, I felt like the harder I tried to write about something else, the more it felt like I was conspicuously writing about something else. So here I am, a week after, and I’m writing about it some more. Sorry, I guess.
The thing that people of my particular political philosophy are doing now is trying to work out why so many citizens chose to vote the way they did. For those of us in the disability community, there’s an added layer. We still remember the video of Donald Trump mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski. We still remember Trump referring to Marlee Matlin as “retarded”. We don’t forget his campaign against the Affordable Care Act, or his threat to dismantle the Department of Education (and thus so many of the protections our kids enjoy in public education). When we ponder our family members and work friends and neighbors, people who know and love our kids, we think, “How can you vote for this person?” We see Trump waving his arms in front of a campaign crowd in an impersonation of Kovaleski, to the uproarious laughter of his people. “Ah, ah, I don’t remember!” We hear that voice when we see the president-elect. We are always going to replay that in our heads. We find it inconceivable that anyone could watch that and vote for the person who did it and who never apologized or even took responsibility. We can find lots of reasons not to vote for that person, but this is all we need. And we can’t grasp how it’s not the same for everyone else.
There are many, many marginalized populations who fear what this new administration means for their communities. Like us, they’ve been dealing with this all along. They and their loved ones have their allies, and ours have us. So many in our community are unable to effective self-advocate at this level, and they depend on us to do a lot of the heavy lifting. And so we do, and will, for as long as it takes. Maybe forever. Probably forever.
But the days roll past, and the Big Scary Thing becomes more and more background as the Many Small Monsters continue their work. We don’t make peace with it, because when we close our eyes, it’s always there. (“Ah, I can’t remember!” cue laughter…) But we push it back as best we can, because the life he’s mocking is a hard life, and it’s hard and time consuming no matter who’s the president. Our monsters aren’t all that concerned with politics. Our devils don’t vote.
Schuyler has been struggling to grasp the intricacies of a world that feels like it’s changing around her. She wants to wear a safety pin when she’s out in public with us, because she gets that she wants to help marginalized people, but she is justifiably afraid to wear it when she’s alone at school because she understands that in all the ways that matter, she’s one of the ones who may need that help. A girl in her school district was assaulted last week, her hijab pulled from her head by a fellow student. A pretty serious fight broke out at her own school, and while there’s no indication that I’m aware of that it was related to the election, it is undeniably true that the world feels a little less safe. She texted me fearfully and sadly yesterday from one of her classes to ask if I had ever heard of Sandy Hook Elementary, which they were apparently covering in one of her classes. (“Tomorrow we’re going to talk about 9/11,” she told me. So we have that to look forward to.) She’s unsure how to process the culture of violence that seems to be blossoming around her, but she feels it, and she understands the danger it presents.
But then time proceeds somehow, and the talk moves away just a little from the elephant in the room. While I feel a little guilty about that (and also don’t believe for a second it will last for long), the thing I feel the most guilt about is the relief I feel. I don’t know what to tell Schuyler, but I won’t lie to her and say everything is going to be okay, because I don’t know that or honestly even believe it.
But I guess I can tell her that everything is going to be okay today, and that’s not much but it might just have to be enough for now. I am hopeful that I can chase some of her fears back just a little because they are a little formless right now. It’s like shooing away ghosts. I understand that they’ll return, and soon, and in corporeal form. I’ll do my best when that happens, the way I always try to do.
Last night, we bolted from our couch and raced out into the night air, looking for a Pikachu that popped up on our Pokémon Go app. We didn’t catch him, but it hardly mattered. We were a family doing a silly family thing together, and not being depressed or fearful about it. Those moments have been infrequent this week, and the future feels ripe with hard realities. But that’s for tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that.
And I suppose that’s how we start to patch up a damaged world as best we can.
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