I’ve had a hard time talking to you lately. A really hard time.
I’m worried that communicating with you will only get more difficult throughout the next four years, which is sad to me because we have some happy things coming up in the family, weddings and graduations, and I really don’t want to make a scene at those events. I see myself holding my tongue then, for the sake of those whose days I would ruin otherwise. But right now, I can’t do that. Right now, I still have time to say something.
We’ve had our political differences for as long as I can remember. Or at least as long as I’ve been an independently thinking person. My political and social convictions are something I know you have never fully understood or respected. My logical way of looking at things has never appealed to you. The way I cite fact and news events in opposition to your feelings and biblical ways has always ruffled your feathers.
I also know you didn’t intend to raise my sisters or me to be what we are: independent and self-sufficient—rebelliously strong women. As a kid I remember going over Sunday school lessons and bible verses with you, and always, above everything else, the message was that the man was the leader of the family. The children and the wife were supposed to be obedient and the man was always right. I think that because of this, at least partially, you detest my political leanings. Not because they’re inaccurate or un-factual or incorrect, but because they conflict with your beliefs, with your faith, and with your status as male head of household.
On January 28th, 2017, not even a week into Trump being president of this country, I felt the need to finally tell you that I reject your faith, or at least your form of faith.
More specifically, I reject the danger of it. I reject the harm it has already done. I reject the baseless, senseless way you have looked at the world, the way you voted for Trump because it was “the correct conservative decision,” because he was the candidate who best represented “Christian values.” I reject what you did because it is already dangerous, for me and for the people I care most about.
On the morning of January 28th, I woke up to a message from a friend at Harvard, whom I’ll call Amir. “Meghan, my visa may be revoked…” he wrote at 6:30 a.m. “I feel so powerless. It’s so humiliating. I haven’t been able to sleep.”
Amir is a Canadian citizen who was born in Iraq. We met and became close while I was still in my PhD program at Harvard. He was one of a handful of brilliant people admitted to a joint PhD program through the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. I don’t use the world “brilliant” lightly, either. Amir was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. He’s worked for the World Health Organization and the World Bank studying and researching public health initiatives throughout North Africa and Europe.
He started his own NGO when he was still an undergrad. He’s worked for Microsoft, for the Canadian government, and he’s written for numerous Canadian news outlets. He’s one of the most gregarious and naturally motivated people I’ve ever known, and that is why, when I received his message, I reeled. The danger of Trump’s presidency was right there in my face in a way I hadn’t yet been forced to confront.
I didn’t see his message until two hours after it had been sent, and as I processed his words, my throat constricted.
“How is this f***ing possible,” I asked him in about 15 different ways. “Is there anything I can do or anyone I can call?” I knew there probably wasn’t. That’s the disgusting reality of what happens when a man with the patience of a fruit fly is allowed into the Oval Office. Big things happen too quickly, without checks and balances.
All day we chatted back and forth, both reading more about what this meant. He sent me an article from the Wall Street Journal confirming that the “Trump Visa Ban Also Applies to Citizens With Dual Nationality,” which means that even though he has citizenship in Canada, he’ll still be barred from the U.S. simply because of where he was born.
The thing I don’t understand, Dad, especially after the first telling week, is how you voted for Donald Trump.
Part of what makes it so difficult for me to understand is that you are a father and a union member. You have four daughters who don’t need another man out there to call us sluts or whores or to grab us by our pussies. On top of that is the union thing, which you’ve even acknowledged is in conflict with Trump’s “business” ideology (if you can call it that).
But the one issue that really irks me in light of recent events, the thing that, to me, is unfathomable for you to look past, is the fact that you’re an immigrant.
When you came to this country from Germany in the wake of WWII, how did you feel? How did your parents feel? Did you not benefit from the goodwill of the United States? Were you not treated with equal dignity and respect? Did you not grow up in the 60s and 70s with the same freedoms as every other American teenager when the alternative could have been living through Germany in the Cold War era?
Did your father, whom I never met but know was a Nazi soldier, not make a life in this country with the same freedoms as every other citizen? Wasn’t he given the same opportunity to thrive as every other person who happens to be born here or who crosses the borders?
How, after experiencing this, and witnessing your parents’ opportunity to make a life here, could you decline that opportunity for anyone else? Haven’t you lived a life of freedom here? Haven’t you been able to worship as you please and marry whom you’d like and work whatever trade you desire? Haven’t you been able to move freely in the world since you got here? Don’t you think other people have this right? Don’t they also deserve the chance to reject what their countries and cultures have done, the atrocities committed by people they don’t know, and make their own lives for themselves?
I am angry with you Dad, just as I am angry with every other person who voted for Donald Trump.
It is because of you, however directly or indirectly you want to look at it, that I sit here today seething with rage because a friend of mine, a peer of mine, with so much to offer the nation and the world, is at risk of being forcibly removed from this country as if he were no more than a pebble in a shoe.
All I want from this, Dad, is to say I’ll continue to struggle talking with you. There will be times that I want to scream or yell or give up on you and your bigotry. But I’ll never stop the dialogue. That’s one thing I can promise. I have a small shred of hope that somehow you’ll see what a mistake you’ve made, and that maybe someday you’ll try to right all the wrongs you will have caused other people by 2020.
Your nasty daughter,