I voted in a presidential election for the second time in my life yesterday. The guy at the door to the school across the street from my home smiled, and people I’d never seen in my life nodded and said good morning as we passed each other on the stairs.
I ended up standing in line behind one of my downstairs neighbors, a fifty-ish woman who lives alone with her two small dogs and sometimes plays music too loud. She had her two dogs, a white westy terrier and a pug with her. I heard so many people ask if they the dogs voting also that I lost count.
I felt privileged to be voting, I became a citizen in January 2009 and I missed voting for President Obama the first time. That’s whom I voted for in 2012. When I got my ballot yesterday and looked around at my neighbors, black, white, Hispanic and Asian, it made my eyes well up. I felt like a real American, despite the fact that I’ve lived in this country for the past 60 years. I hadn’t expected to feel so emotional about it, but I did.
I am a Mexican American, and when I heard Donald Trump’s first speech, the day he announced his candidacy I was revolted by his assertion that Mexicans are murderers and rapists.
It turned my stomach years ago when I would read about his public feuding with Rosie O’Donnell, I wondered just what kind of a grown-up man would resort to the kind of taunting you hear in a schoolyard when you are 11 or 12. Apparently men like Donald Trump. Thinking of him as president was a scary thing to me, and I did my part by voting for Hillary Clinton.
I watched with dismay last night as the numbers started to flash on the screen, with the sinking realization that Mr. Trump was winning, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
He won by appealing to the base fear of the middle of the country, and it was plain to see by the map of blue and red by how the middle of the country was uniformly red, Colorado being notably the only blue state not on either coast.
I often wondered during the campaign how people could be so totally ignorant, so incredibly close-minded, but I had only to remember my days in the army when I was stationed in Ft. Bragg, N.C. and got to know soldiers from the Deep South and the middle of the country.
I was fascinated by their universal lack of education and general ignorance of the world around them. I was further fascinated by their concrete convictions about their view of the world; there was no room for dissent or new ideas. I have to say I was involved in a lot of arguments during my time on Ft. Bragg; sometimes we almost came to blows. That was scary enough and I was glad to be going home to New York when my time was up.
I watched in amusement this morning as the story about the Canadian Immigration website crashing because so many Americans were looking to see what it would take to do so.
During the 2000 election I was working as a doorman in a building on the Upper West Side, a place famous for being a bastion of New York liberal thought, a place that George Bush had little chance of winning.
There was a tenant, a really outspoken super-liberal who in actuality was a narcissist in the mold of Mr. trump, except form the other side of the political spectrum. I’ll call her Donna.
She boasted to anyone who would listen that if Bush won she was moving to France.
She did move out after the election, I didn’t know or care where to- I was just happy not to have to listen to her anymore. I was walking through Greenwich Village one day a few months later when I spotted Donna walking her beagle up Greenwich Street. I wanted to run up behind her and ask, “How do you like France, Donna?” I’m a wise guy at times. But I though the better of it, if I had belittled her I’d be just like her. She was of the opinion that all doormen were stupid.
I want to say to these people who are thinking of running away, what would that solve, except to sooth your own ego?
The work has to be done here. As a nation we must improve our education system, we have to show our citizens that we are all the same inside, with the same hopes, dreams, and aspirations, no mater what our skin color or country of origin is. Immigrants come here for a better life, they want to become Americans. They want to fit in, grow and help build a stronger democracy.
It will take time and work, and a lot of discomfort and dissatisfaction, but the only way to bring about change is to stay and work for that change, not run away from the bully. The only way to stop a bully is to stand up to him, and the Americans that care have to start standing up. Let’s make sure Mr. Trump is a one-term president. We can do it. It’s our privilege.