I attempted to write a letter to my grandmother, who escaped Serbia after World War I. My post was meant to apologize to her. And to her sister-in-law, who only ever hinted at the raping of her German sisters during World War II. And to a beloved, wholly uneducated great-great aunt who crawled out of the dirt of Russia, and went on to send her daughter to college in Illinois.
I started to say I am sorry for what we are doing to this country they fought to get to.
But I stopped when I realized: They would not see the connection between what was behind them, and what lies ahead in Future President Trump.
It is so very difficult to see outside ourselves. These women were survivors. Immigration. Multiple Wars. The Great Depression. They did not mean to be pioneers. They did not mean to be feminists. They scraped by with nothing, and still managed to pay off their homes. They believed that hard work in this country leads to prosperity. It did. It did for so many in their community, in their generation. But that time is no longer, and wasn’t a time for so many Americans.
In the words of Rev. Dr. William Barber II, speaking at the Democratic National Convention:
Our constitution calls us to commit our government to establish justice, to promote the general welfare, to provide for the common defense and to ensure domestic tranquility.
Now, to be true, we’ve never lived this vision perfectly. But this ought to be the goal at the heart of our democracy.
We’ve never lived this vision perfectly (emphasis above mine).
I stopped saying I’m sorry to my foremothers, because this America is not a new America. It is the same country they walked, trained, and shipped to. Many of us whose families lived the American Dream are just now waking up. We are realizing our successes come from genocide and colonization, that the house in which our President lives was indeed built by slaves, and that Mississippi isn’t the only state still burning.
If I want to honor the women in my family, then I must live in a way they would not understand. I will speak out against our Milosevic-Stalin-Hitler-on-the-rise. He is an embarrassment to my race. I will put aside any notion that politics are icky. I will educate myself. I will understand that Democracy is a system, and a process, and it’s messy and uncomfortable. We are called to commit our government. We are our government.
I will stand with my foremothers by standing with Hillary. Not because I vote against a demagogue rising, but because I wholeheartedly support our Democratic nominee.
Sadly, history shows my family that my vote will likely be a losing one. This letter I’m not writing to my immigrant grandmother can’t cross over to the heaven she believed in anyway.