An American Daughter’s Revolution

‘We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage.’ — Republican Party Platform, July, 2016

Golly gee, thank you! I feel honored to carry my burden. And recognized for my courage. I won the Republican Platform jackpot.

Especially from a party with the guy at the top of their ticket who bragged about screwing over his ex-wives, literally and financially, and who finds parenting one big blah. He violated his first wife, threatened to withhold alimony from his second wife if she spoke negatively about him, and boasts about wanting to date his daughter.

Terrific family role model. Really, really terrific. Men using money to control women, that’s certainly traditional.

It’s actually not challenging raising a child on my own. The only reason it’s even remotely an issue is because my ex (a Republican, incidentally) prefers to not fully support his child. It was years before I received anything at all…and then, bubkes.

So when I see the fancy talk from the Republican platform, I need to pause and take a look. Not just for me, but for all of us poor, burdened, brave single moms, whacking down trees just to trudge through the jungle of life.

I get it. You really think I’m less than. And my kid? Poor thing. Her mom couldn’t give her what she needs most in life. Bottom line, we are a family that deserves to be marginalized, disrespected, pitied.

Which means it’s deplorably ironic that Republicans seek to make our burdens harder. I’m not sure this platform wording was fully directed at the hetro community. I’m guessing this was aimed at the LBTGQ parents. Nonetheless, thank you to an entire political party reflecting roughly half of America, for letting my daughter know that in your eyes, no matter how incredible, brilliant, loving, caring, talented and extraordinary she is, she will never measure up to a child of a two-parent marriage.

That’s dignity for you. I’m ever so appreciative.

But because I am a devoted mother, and because I know many phenomenal single moms who are raising remarkable kids, I really need to tell you…I’m not buying what you’re saying. In fact, it’s you, not me.

You see, I can’t speak for a gay couple, though the evidence is overwhelming that their kids are amazing, loved and successful, which really shouldn’t have to be said. In fact, children from same sex couples and single parent homes are as emotionally sound and often physically and socially healthier compared to hetro two-parent families.

However, my daughter and I have talked about this. I know this may shock, so hold onto your flags, but there are advantages to being a child of a single mom.

It’s been just the two of us since she was 10-months-old. She’s grown up in a peaceful, loving home. She’s had the benefit of my attention and total dedication. We have an honest, close relationship. She knows that there is absolutely nothing holding her back in life and that I believe in her one hundred percent. She is both sensitive to others and resilient.

So, let me tell you about my teenage daughter, now 14. She published a young adult novel at 12, will publish the sequel this year. She’s written more than 20¬†beautiful songs, each one better than the last. She’s raised money for charities for pediatric cancer patients, collected and donated clothing for a women and children’s shelter, fed the homeless, delivered meals to the poor, performed for lonely elderly patients and shut-ins.

She was an advanced gymnast, dancer, soccer player. She knows a second language and is learning a third. She leads a children’s choir and is well versed in the Bible. She is in two Jewish youth groups. She’s starred in plays, performed before hundreds, can belt out an original song on stage with utter confidence and charisma.

She’s a loyal friend and a loving daughter, niece, granddaughter. She loves our dog and all animals. She has a big heart, a deep soul and she’s humble.

So, you get the picture. She’s a shining star, full of joy and light, and I could not be more proud or grateful. And she’s done all this with a lot of creativity and little money.

I don’t know exactly what your family or corner of the world looks like. I just know the laughter and overwhelming love that lives in our home.

I know that I value community and that because of close friends and¬† community, I am not all that she has, or all that she’s learned from.

I think some of you have fabulous marriages and some of you have lousy marriages. Tradition is lovely. Tradition! (Cue music.)

But traditional is not superior. It’s merely one choice. It might be the right choice for you. But like it or not, you can’t drag others by the heels to keep them from moving forward.

I’ve listened to my traditional friends. Some just can’t shake their prejudices or mindset. Some genuinely feel that alternative lifestyles are interfering with the values they want to impress upon their children.

Ultimately, this is a product of different religious practice. Of course, among Jews, most Orthodox are strongly in favor of ‘traditional’ marriage, where as the majority of Jews are more accepting. But in the States, they’re not aggressive about it. American Jews are wary about legislating religious choices.

This particular platform and other religion-influenced Republican platforms are a direct result of Christian ideology. Namely, that proselytizing is a good thing. Judaism does not believe in proselytizing. (Interestingly, Christianity and Islam share a regard for proselytizing.)

Once you are steeped in a religious culture that is extensively invested in proselytizing, it’s quite easy and reasonable to think that this practice should extend to politics and the law. If you are already certain that yours is the only true way, it becomes nearly impossible to imagine that it’s…not.

In his convention speech, Trump mentioned that Republicans will protect the LBTGQ community from foreign ideology. However, he, (and the Republican platform) said nothing about protecting LBTGQ Americans from fellow Americans.

I don’t think every Republican holds their platform close to their heart. Some of you disagree, or think it’s nonsense. Some of you don’t even think the cultural war matters.

Perhaps it doesn’t until you’re the one it’s targeting. Or worse, putting your child in its crosshairs. This platform seeks to legalize disdain.

If you knocked on my door and tried to persuade me that my cherished beliefs are inferior to yours, I’d politely shut the door. Nearly every Jew in America has experienced this phenomenon.

But you’re not just knocking on my door. You’re banging it down and marching into the haven of my living room, kitchen and bedroom. You are looking to control the most personal, spiritual and meaningful choices I can make. You’re trying to judge me, my child, my friends’ children, and put into law that your family is better than mine.

Kindly stop trying to convert America to your religion or stigmatize our children. Have more faith that your choices are right for you…trust in that. Just as we trust that our choices and path are perfect in God’s eyes for us. Or just perfect, regardless.

As any single mom will tell you, it’s a new world. The tea has been thrown overboard and you can’t get it back. The best you can do is adjust to the changes and steer forward in a new direction. Cherish independence.

You know, I understand religious evangelicals have a mission. But I have come to expect more from my Jewish neighbors and people of all faiths, from agnostics and atheists, too.

Let your friends, family, community and political leaders know that you will not tolerate legislation or language that is demeaning to progressive families. Do it on social media and in real life. Make sure it counts.

You have an obligation not to abdicate to ‘the silent majority.’ I think this is the burden of Republicans this year. Heavy is your mantle. But fortunately, you have tradition to guide you.

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women* are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ – Declaration of Independence, July, 1776

*editorial note

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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