America, the Beautiful

Other than during last night’s debate, I haven’t made any political comments on social media in awhile. I think most people have made up their mind. And more personally, I’ve needed to direct my attention to important family matters.

Upon reflection, condescending facial expressions, hot-headed temper, extravagant sniffling and dehydration aside, one takeaway from observing and listening to Trump stood out for me. Of the many outrageous statements and lies Trump uttered, his remarks at the very end of the debate weigh heavy on my heart this morning.

He thinks that everyone would agree with him and not feel sorry for Rosie O’Donnell because he has called her a:

Fat Pig
Mental Midget
Disgusting Animal

Right now I need to say that it’s mind-boggling that these are the thoughts and words of an individual running for the highest office in the land. The casual cruelty of such a disturbed person is already harming our country. These epithets seem more fitting from a highly troubled bully on the playground who is desperate for negative attention and punishment.

But leaving that aside, to clarify, I always found Rosie O’Donnell’s portrayal of women in films to be refreshingly interesting and strong. She is, in fact, an:

Emmy award-winning actress
Profoundly generous philanthropist
Celebrated comedian and talk show host, once known as ‘The Queen of Nice’, amongst many other attributes and accomplishments.

I met Rosie in the fall of 2003. I had left my marriage in California due to domestic violence just under a year prior, was still Ultra-Orthodox, living in Monsey, NY at the time. Shopping in Amazing Savings, I heard a familiar voice and turned the aisle to tell the women she sounded just like Rosie…and lo and behold, it was her. I introduced her to my 18-month-old Rosie, and we then fell immediately into a vibrant feminist discussion about Martha Stewart, who she was vigorously defending to the press at the time. I even had a (discounted) Martha Stewart home decorating book in my cart.

Rosie lived in nearby Nyack, NY. She was as friendly, warm and down-to-earth as anyone could be. We agreed that the level of viciousness and vengeance directed toward Martha was especially fierce because she was a woman who had dared to grab ahold of power and money. This conversation was memorable for me not only because of her celebrity, but because it gave me a then rare opportunity to talk about feminist ideas, as a matter of course.

I was still reeling from the fact that my religious husband had tried to kill me. I was well-educated, affluent, successful, had worked on the editorial staff for Ms. Magazine — how could this happen to me? At that point I had been ultra-Orthodox for about eight years and feminist discussions had disappeared from my life. For those 10 or so minutes, I felt like me again. There were glimmers here and there, but I would not fully know that feeling again until over 10 years later.

This fall I am scheduled to prepare creative and memoir writing exercises for high school girls at a Reform congregation. One of the topics in the syllabus will be body image. I’m trying to fathom how on earth to explore this topic if God-forbid, this man is Commander-in-Chief.

I look at pictures of myself as a child and see now that I was actually slender. But I always saw myself as overweight. Always. I’ve struggled with weight issues much of my teenage and adult life. Sure, I had slim decades, but I always felt defined by my weight. This year I made a decision to live at a healthy weight and I’m more than halfway to my goal. And I do feel better about myself.

However, I still cringe in horror when I hear the way Trump speaks about women. It’s like a nightmare come to life. Women have come a long way, but we have an even longer way to go. America, the world, will be so much more dangerous for my daughter if we don’t rid ourselves of the scourge of misogyny, of the vitriol of a person such as Trump.

By contrast, we will enjoy a much brighter future with Hillary Clinton as President, with infinitely more hope to offer my daughter’s generation. I have worked so hard to lead an emancipated life, to protect my daughter, to lift her up. When I consider a world where Trump is President, I am filled with despair. It’s just unimaginable. And now that I am no longer affluent, I feel more vulnerable than ever. Even though, the truth is, they simply don’t make women much stronger or more resilient than me. And my daughter, she is more courageous than any adolescent should have to be.

But still…it cannot, must not, come to pass that America will bow down to such a despot, who takes pleasure in emotional savagery. We are loving, caring women and girls, mothers, sisters, aunts, wives, grandmothers, daughters…though I suspect Trump sees himself this way, we are not:

Fat Pigs
Disgusting Animals

I would like to talk for a minute about the daughters…and forgiveness, especially as it’s that time of year. Forgiveness is moving forward with one’s life. It’s not letting the flawed or in our case, evil acts of a husband or father, or any horrific person, define one’s life. It doesn’t mean we ever have to say that what they did was acceptable.

Recently I heard Chelsea Clinton remark that she and Ivanka Trump were friends and would remain friends long after the elections. To tell you the truth, I found that unsettling. Does their money inure them to the real life stakes of this election? How could Chelsea forgive a woman or even be friends with a woman who could actively promote a man who would threaten our daughters’ lives and the lives of Americans in a myriad of ways? Was this all just a political game to them?

Perhaps their friendship has something to do with their relationships with their fathers, men who betrayed their mothers, and in Trump’s case, violated her mother. Maybe they feel like survivors who understand one another, and that shared experience matters more to them than the values they hold.

I don’t really know for sure about them. But I know for many women and girls, we will face ever more violent, sad, disempowering lives should our country elect a Chauvinist-in-Chief. Honestly, I’d rather be spending my precious personal time these days writing poetry. But I felt the need to say for the record, I do feel sorry for Rosie O’Donnell being verbally abused by Donald Trump. I feel sorry for all women and girls and all peoples hurt so deeply by his horrifying rhetoric and policies.

We are complex individuals coming from different family dynamics. Gender does not automatically produce a common frame of reference. Some men are feminists, some women are adamantly not. Overcoming adversity renders some  more compassionate and grateful. For others, like Trump, good fortune and perhaps, guilt, inspire a callous brutality.

I just know that I can’t give up. And I  teach my daughter every day not to give up. We have to have faith in ourselves. To claim, and see our own beauty. No matter what ugly, ill intentions lie in the hearts of others. And because of Hillary Clinton, our daughters will all look Presidential.

About the Author
Dana is a Jewish feminist, writer and poet. She is passionate about her daughter, love, kindness, spirituality, the artist's voice, and speaking out for the vulnerable. She lives in Music City, Nashville, TN.
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