I moved recently, so I currently have a backlog of books to review that I haven’t gotten around to. I thought when things quieted down, that I’d eventually go through them, but after last night, the only thing I can think of is what happened in our nation.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m an unapologetic liberal deep in my bones. The roots of my beliefs stem from both my upbringing and things I’ve witnessed over time. I grew up believing that my neighbors — who I perceived as people like me, shared my values… Sure, I’d traveled to the south on family vacations in the ’60s and ’70s, driving through rural parts of the country, and being lectured to by my parents to not mention anything to anyone that would lead them to believe that any of us were Jewish — although I didn’t understand why at the time, that this was an era of lynchings and murdered NAACP workers. I was raised with people like Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of my heroes. My best friends, when I lived in the Bronx, were a girl who was the daughter of Hungarian immigrants who had fled communism, the son of a mixed-race couple (who I found out years later had lots of problems because he was not fully accepted by black or white people in his schools), and the son of a Japanese businessman. But it wasn’t until I witnessed a race riot in front of my house, that I realized that I really didn’t know anything about my neighbors.
There was this guy, a neighbor, who was in the same grade as me, also who played little league. We really traveled in different circles, but we’d still say hi to each other. He was friendly and an all-around nice guy. I remember hitting a double off of him in Little League when he was pitching (to this day, I’m not sure if he purposefully went easy on me). A few of his friends, who lived down the block, really didn’t like me for whatever reason, so we didn’t socialize). Anyway, his family was moving, and somehow news got out that the prospective buyer for his house was a black family. Note that they wouldn’t have been the first black family in our neighborhood — I knew one guy from High School, who wrote poetry for our literary magazine, and who was a dancer (he was destined to study dance in college, against his father’s wishes), who lived on the outskirts of the neighborhood, but I suspect they were invisible to a lot of people.Anyway, one evening after the news had gotten out, a mob gathered in front of our mailbox
Anyway, one evening after the news had gotten out, a mob gathered in front of our mailbox. They were angry and there was shouting. I remember my mom and dad telling my brother and I that we should stay in the house. My dad (as imperfect and human as he was, knew how irrational what was going on was — sidenote, he was very proud of the fact that he had been honored by a church in Harlem and asked to speak to their congregation — a Jewish lawyer speaking in Harlem. So that should give you some idea of where he stood.Anyway, my dad went outside and did his best to calm people down.
Anyway, my dad went outside and did his best to calm people down. But by then, someone had already vandalized my friend’s family’s car and had thrown a brick through their window. Since then, I’ve never assumed that I knew what was in the hearts of my neighbors, that we are all, for the most part, fair people willing to give strangers the benefit of the doubt regardless of their race, or religion or ethnicity or heritage. Since that time, I’ve witnessed, and have even been a victim of bigotry of various kinds. But that was the first incident that made me realize that bigotry wasn’t just something that happened elsewhere, in other countries or in other parts of our country.
Which brings me to President-elect Donald Trump… I wish I could say that I was surprised by the support he received from hate groups and that he did not speak out against them, by his supporters persecution of Jewish journalists who did not support him, by the fact that people rallied around his hateful statements about Mexicans and Muslims and women, and his making fun of physical handicaps. Because I’ve known about our big national secret for years, that our nation has always had an undercurrent of hatred for foreigners, in spite of us being a nation of immigrants, a hatred of anyone who’s out of work and simply needs a helping hand, in spite of the fact that in most cases, those people paid for their safety net, a hatred of anyone who’s simply different.
It pains me to know that many hate-filled people will now take the results of our election as reassurance that their hate speech and hateful acts are mainstream, that they are ‘ok’, that the American people joined with them on election day to let them know that their hatred is now acceptable. Good job, America. Well done.
This is something that I’ve seen the signs of for years. I know that there are people who are shocked by this. I’m not. I did have hopes, based on the fact that there were Republicans who went with their conscience, instead of their party, that there were people who realized that a vote against Trump was a vote against hatred and racism. There wasn’t enough of us, though. The only good thing that might come out of this is that people will eventually come to their senses when we see what kind of country they have voted for, the way they eventually did when GWB was elected. Unfortunately, it would have been better to make the right choice to begin with than to learn from experience.