Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Digging Deep

Dear Jules,

I'm very sad today: sad that a man who made fun of a reporter with a disability, a man who has said really hateful things about Muslims, about women, a man who joked about the act of rape, will be our next president.  I'm sad that you and I couldn't celebrate the first woman president of the United States, even though she won every single debate and had a much more complex, nuanced view of world issues.  I want to say more but need to acknowledge that I'm sad.

So where do we go from here?  Well, I think we need to dig deep, to figure out what it is we stand for and to fight for it.   This is, thankfully, something our family is really good at.

Both Nagyi and Nagyapa, your grandfather you never met, grew up in communist Hungary.  It was a very stifling, totalitarian government: they told everyone what books to read, what history to learn, what groups to join, what jobs to do, how to think, how to act, and more.  My father literally fought for his beliefs, joining in the 1956 Hungarian revolution and then escaping from the country, telling no one in his family so that the government could not persecute them.  He always sent presents and money to his family, including to my aunt, who was intellectually disabled.  At that time, and even now, people with intellectual disabilities were treated very badly in Hungary, but he always kept in touch with her and taught me to see her as an individual.  Her embroidery is something I remember and, to this day, envy.  She was a talented woman.

Nagyi also fought for what she believed in; when she applied to college, she was asked to join the communist party but refused.  This almost cost her the opportunity to go to college.  Your great-grandfather, my grandfather, also fought hard: he also refused to join the party and believed in the power and strength of education.  Although he was a Latin teacher and a school principal, he was forced to become a peasant and then work on the railroads.  He had precious little time with his family, but he always made sure to tell stories about Hungarian and world history (he even told some of them to your daddy), and he always made sure to play his violin.  Oppression and fear could not keep him from his music.

My grandmother, your great-grandmother, believed in her religion, Catholicism.  Even though going to church was looked down upon (and could even be punished), she went almost every single day of her life and raised her children as Catholics.

Growing up, I heard stories about communist Hungary.  It sounded horrible, it was scary when we went to visit to see all of the soldiers, and I wasn't sure it would ever change, but my family kept being true to their values, their beliefs.  Eventually, it did change; it's not perfect, but it's no longer a totalitarian society, and people are relatively free to speak their minds.

My point is not that Trump's America will be totalitarian; I don't want to get into that here.  My point is that, no matter what the situation, good people have always dug deep into themselves to figure out their core values, their core roots...and then they have figured out a way to maintain those and effect change in their worlds.  It's definitely easier when society is with you: it's the difference between running a 5K and a marathon.  But if we dig deep and stay true to our values, we can affect our friendships, our families, our schools, and, in some small way, our society.  So I will continue to advocate for disability rights, to make sure that bullying is never, ever tolerated in our schools, to do my best to treat people equally, no matter their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or station in life.  And, because I believe words matter, I will be very vigilant lest the discourse of this political campaign begin infecting our schools, our workplaces, our communities.  It won't be easy, it won't be painless, but it will be right.  

In one of my classes today, I was teaching the Ode and thought I would show this video of an ode read at Obama's 2008 inauguration.  It's about the small things we live with every day, and about how each little act results in a new day, new potential.  I honestly thought it would go well with Hillary Clinton's election, but I think it also works well now: it's good for us to remember that we are products of our ancestry and that, by looking back, we continue to move forward.  So here it is.

Love, Momma

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