Telling You How To Feel

I’ve always liked a phrase that my friend coined (or borrowed? I dunno) years ago, “Feelings aren’t a democracy.” Feelings aren’t wrong. I don’t believe in telling people how to feel or not feel.

That said, I’m going to make an exception right now. Sorry-not-sorry. I’m going to defy my own rule, and tell you how you should feel….

You should feel deeply and personally hurt by Donald Trump.

You should feel attacked. He didn’t have to attack you personally. He’s attacked “your people.” He’s attacked “your own.” He’s attacked us, all of us, over and over again. Being attacked hurts. It’s personal.

Because guess what? When Trump started his campaign by bashing Mexican Americans, he was attacking Americans. He wasn’t attacking “them.” He was attacking “us.” When he attacks Muslim Americans, he’s attacking our own. When he attacks women, he’s attacking all of us.

It doesn’t matter which subgroup of the American population he’s attacking in any given moment, these are our people. United we stand, right?

We all know that instinctive fury that takes over when somebody hurts our family member, close friend, or other loved one. Even if that person annoys us and is hard to get along with, we still want to protect them from danger, because they’re our people. Deep down, we care about them, and we care deeply. Every single one of us should be feeling that same hurt, anger, and instinctively protective fury over every one of the countless attacks Trump has made on our people.

(If being part of the American family isn’t relevant or important to you, then how about the human family? That has to matter.)

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Maybe it’s more natural for me to feel hurt by Trump, because so many of the attacks have been extremely close to home.

Somewhere in the deluge of his attacks against everyone under the sun, I think some have almost forgotten about how shamelessly he mocks and belittles people with disabilities. But some of us can’t forget. Some of us will never be able to forget.

We know, of course, about the time he insulted and mimicked the reporter with arthrogryposis. It’s irrelevant whether Trump realized at the time that the man had a diagnosed condition; the point is that he saw a physical difference, something outside the narrow spectrum of “normal,” and his instinct was attack! mock! belittle!

Maybe even more telling than his original insult, was his response afterward: “Nobody gives more money to Americans — you know, the Americans with Disabilities Act—big act. I give tens and tens of millions of dollars and I’m proud of doing it.” Huh?? What is that even supposed to mean? Does Trump think the ADA is some sort of charity that he gives to? This and other quotes have him trying to convince us that it’s out of the goodness of his heart that he puts ramps and elevators in his buildings. Except that accessibility isn’t a kindness; it’s a legal requirement. I don’t owe any more gratitude for the accessible entrance that was built inclusively for me, than you owe for the MANY inaccessible entrances that were built exclusively for you.

Or maybe the dollars he’s referring to are settlement money for all the times he’s been sued for ADA violations? It’s much harder than you’d think to successfully file an ADA suit. That law is getting weaker and more loopholey all the time. But Trump’s violations have been egregious enough to hold up.

Most recently, reports are coming out of Trump mocking Marlee Matlin, the talented and Oscar winning Deaf actress, for her disability. Apparently he repeatedly called her the R word, and was demeaning to her face and behind her back.

When Trump sees a disabled American, all he sees is a target. I’m not sure he realizes  we have the right to vote. If he did, surely his platform would address disability issues in some manner, right? But it doesn’t. We’re nowhere to be found on his website. There isn’t much record of him discussing disability, although I did manage to find a quote from 2011 where he addresses “the disability racket,” complains about the number of people who “claim disability,” and rambles on about the cost to tax payers.

Guess what? I’m a disabled American, and I vote, and I pay my taxes. (It seems pretty likely at this point that I pay more taxes than Mr. Trumpbucks.) I work hard, and I’ve definitely  done more this week to make America great than Trump ever will. So I don’t appreciate being ignored at best, and at worst, treated as the butt of a joke and a manipulative drain on the economy! It’s a president’s job to represent me and my interests. It’s a presidential candidate’s job to court my vote. I’m ready to be courted! Wine me and dine me!

(Psst, if I were unable to pay taxes for whatever reason, it would still be their job to represent me. My worth doesn’t come from my financial contributions.)

Both ADA (accessibility law) and IDEA (special education law) were passed the year I started kindergarten. I’ve been blessed to grow up in the best possible time in American history so far for the disabled. Not that it’s been sunshine and roses–we’re still light years away from sunshine and roses. But you know what isn’t light years away? Pre-1990. That’s still close enough that I can taste it. I know how close in time we are to a world where I wouldn’t have got the education that I did. Where I wouldn’t be able to enter the buildings and ride the buses that make up my world. Where I definitely wouldn’t be living and working where I am, and most likely would be locked away in some institution. That terrifying alternate universe is never far from my mind, and it’s never far from my reality. It would take very little for my entire world to come crashing down. One policy change could easily do it.

I hate feeling vulnerable. Don’t we all hate feeling vulnerable? The Trumpian world I suddenly find myself in leaves me feeling more vulnerable and afraid than I’ve ever experienced as a disabled American. And not just because of possibilities and hypotheticals of what he might or might not do in office. Because of what he’s already done. Because he’s already pointed a finger at me, and labeled me as weak. Because he’s already given the world permission to laugh at me, to disrespect me, to put me down. Because even though I spend every day trying to teach kids that “difference is just fine,” Trump has a wider audience, and he’s told them exactly the opposite.

It’s not ok for a person who wants to be our country’s leader to make me feel this way. It hurts. And if I’m hurting, and my community is hurting, that should make you hurt too. We’re your people.

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I want to write about how Trump has hurt me as a woman. But I don’t feel like I can say anything on the topic as powerfully as Michelle Obama did. So if you haven’t watched her speech yet, do yourself that favor. It’s worth the time.

All I’ll do is repeat: It’s not ok for a person who wants to be our country’s leader to make me feel hurt and vulnerable. To make all women (#YesAllWomen) feel vulnerable. Even if all allegations past and present are false (and there’s no way they’re all false), the way he openly speaks about women is more than enough harm done.

It hurts. We’re hurting. And you should be hurting with us.

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Then we go out a degree, to where Trump’s not talking about me, but he’s talking about people I care about…. I’ve addressed it before: here, and here, and maybe even here. But I don’t feel like I can say it enough. Trump’s America, you’re scaring my kids. You’re hurting them. And that hurts me more than I can express.

I should be trying to convince my students to pay attention and take an interest in the election, the way my 7th grade teacher did. (I vividly remember watching the ’96 DNC, RNC, and debates because of you, Ms. Fell!) But I don’t have to tell my kids to pay attention, because they can’t stop paying attention. Instead, I’m trying to shield and distract them from the worst of it. I’m trying to nurse their wounds. I’m trying to help them feel safe and valued, despite the nightly news telling them the opposite.

A new batch of Americans finally decided “that’s enough” last week when Trump bragged about groping women. And to that new batch, I say welcome to the light side. But my kids and their families have been Trump’s punching bag since day one of his candidacy. They’ve been relentlessly attacked  this whole time. They hear again and again that they don’t belong here. So many of my kids are going through life without roots, without feeling like they belong anywhere. They’re hurting.

Our community is hurting. Our people are hurting. We should all be sharing this pain.

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Jesus said to “love one another” and “mourn with those that mourn.” The Mayans said “in lak’ech.”

In Lak’ech

Tú eres mi otro yo.

You are my other me.

Si te hago daño a ti,

If I do harm to you,

Me hago daño a mi mismo.

I do harm to myself.

Si te amo y respeto,

If I love and respect you,

Me amo y respeto yo.

 I love and respect myself.

That horrible feeling that’s been filling the air, suffocating us all, isn’t politics as usual. It isn’t even as much about “the election” as we think it is. It’s the pain of millions of Americans who’ve had their very core identities attacked.

It isn’t them; it’s us. The victims aren’t the other; they’re us. It’s not those people; it’s our people. What might hurt even more, is that the attackers are also us. We’re hurting our own people. And that’s more terrifying than any external threat.

It’s Hard To Like People

I’ve been having a hard time lately coming up with words for what I’m feeling. This year has been so…? Every time I turn around, it’s more…? So I’m just…?

Words are hard.

I finally came up with a short sentence, though, that describes a pretty big portion of what’s been bothering me in 2016–it’s hard to like people

This isn’t me, for the record. I generally like people! That might not always be obvious because I’m definitely an introvert–scared of big social events, terrible at small talk, big fan of Friday nights with Netflix. But I do like people.

I like deep conversations, getting to know who people really are, what drives them. If I don’t like someone yet, it generally just means I need to dig deeper. I like to sit back and observe people. I like to lean in and love people. I grew up going to church with the most delightfully quirky congregation, and I learned to enjoy all the spice and variety that humans have to offer. (Suddenly, it makes sense that I feel so at home in “keep it weird” Portland….) Long before I knew where exactly my career path would take me, I knew that it would have to be a job that involved working with people, helping people. Other things in life try to get in the way, but people have always felt like the most important priority. Things are just things, but people are people.

I like finding connections with people and appreciating how we’re similar. I like learning more from what makes us different.

I’ve always liked people.

Right now, it’s really hard to like people.

So hard to like people!!

People of my generation-ish, do you remember when we used to ask ourselves how we would have behaved in Nazi Germany? Or how we would have behaved when the Civil Rights movement was fighting Jim Crow? Or how we would have behaved when Mormons were being violently expelled from the United States? Remember when we used to wonder which side we’d have taken?

Do you remember? Because I don’t. I don’t think I ever asked myself those questions. I just assumed that I would have been the “good guy” in each scenario. That I would have stood by the people being dehumanized, and seen them as more than “other.” That I would have loved instead of feared. I assumed any rational person would be the good guy. I couldn’t fathom who these crazy people in history were that supported the obvious wrong over the obvious right.

I miss that innocent, ignorant bliss. I miss when the “bad guys” were just people in the history books, most of them nameless and faceless.

Now they’re my neighbors. Now they’re everywhere. They have names, faces, and I’m supposed to love them.

Politics and election years have always been divisive, but we all know this year is more than that. I’ve seen bad politicians before, and bad presidents, and people who I strongly disagree with. But this is the first chance in my lifetime to witness a true, through-and-through Bad Guy seeking power in my own country. There’s no question that history will remember Trump as an embodiment of evil. Our grandchildren are absolutely going to be asking us the same questions that the kids are asking now, “Why?? How?? Why did you let this happen??” I’m afraid that I’ll only have the same pain in my eyes and lack of satisfying answers for those kids as I do for the current ones.

Is it even necessary to recite the laundry list of evils again? Sigh. Let’s make it quick…. Trump got his initial campaign momentum by calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. In practically the same breath, he proposed banning Muslims from entering the US. For those already in the US,  he suggested deportation, tracking systems, and shutting down mosques. Every time he talks to or about a woman, he objectifies her; he even speaks sexually about his own daughter. He made fun of the reporter for his physical disability. He attacked the Muslim parents of a fallen US soldier. He’s advocated for torture of not just enemies, but also their families. He cheats people out of money owed left and right. Trump University was entirely invented to swindle money from vulnerable people. He brags about how easy it is in his position to assault women…..

We all know I could keep going. But let’s stop the list there, and state the obvious: Trump hates Americans.

Yes, he’s also the lyingest liar that ever lied. And yes, he’s verbally trampled all over the Constitution. It’s easy to argue that he hates American values, ideals, and laws. But remember, my first priority is the people, so let’s keep in the front of our minds that Trump hates Americans. Black Americans, brown Americans, female Americans, Americans with handicapped parking passes, Americans in hijabs…. Trump hates Americans. It’s not a secret. It was never hidden or sugar coated. Since the very start of his campaign, we’ve all known that Trump hates Americans.

And here’s the thing. No matter what happens in the election next month, the damage is already done. It’s not going away any time soon. Because Trump isn’t spewing his hate alone in a vacuum. There are Americans eating up every word, and proudly waving Trump signs. And there are Americans who aren’t fond of him, but they’re holding their noses and voting for him anyway, because they think there are bigger threats than a president who hates Americans. They’re willing to tolerate the hate.

We’ve now seen our country’s population in a very unflattering mirror, and we can’t unsee it. And as offended, disgusted, repulsed, and nauseated as I am by Trump hating Americans, the truth is that he’s made it so much harder for me to like Americans.

I’m struggling to like the people who excuse Trump’s behavior. I don’t know how to like people who are ok with blatant racism, sexism, and so many varieties of hate.

When I repeat comments my students have made about Trump or the political climate in general, people act surprised. “Wow, s/he’s that aware of what’s happening?”

Are you kidding me?! It’s the air my kids are breathing. They can’t turn it off, step back, or ignore it. Not just Trump, but all the people who think he makes good points, are everywhere–attacking them, harassing them, threatening them. “You don’t belong here” is whispered, implied, and screamed at them by peers, by the tv, by the adults who are supposed to be keeping them safe and modeling how to function in society. They’re terrified of this election, and with good reason. But no matter how the election ends, they’re going to have to keep existing in a world that’s taken giant leaps backward and given people permission to spew hate in their direction.

I don’t have kids of my own, but I do have mama bear instincts that kick in when “my” kids are threatened, hurt, or treated poorly. Those instincts have been raging for the last year, with no end in sight. And I don’t know how to like people who are complicit in attacks on my kids!

Let’s not forget that I’m also one of those Americans Trump hates. I’m a woman, I’m disabled, and I’m a teacher in a public school. He wouldn’t hesitate for a second before describing me as a sexually repulsive drain on the system.

His judgement wouldn’t even bother me too much. But what about all his supporters? They either see me the same way, or are ok with stepping back and letting others keep me down.

It’s so hard to like people!!

I have a long running list of topics I’d like to blog about, and this school year is making it almost impossible to find the time to write. But every time I do make the time, this seems to be what comes out. I have to keep processing, and I have to keep doing my small part to speak against evil. So I can look the kids in the eye tomorrow, and fifty years from now.

I really wish I could go back to easily, naturally, by default, liking people.

(Song playing in my head as I wrote: “History has its eyes on you……”)