After the election, I left my Hillary yard sign up for a week. It was meant as an homage to the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva, a custom of mourning for seven days after the death of a loved one. According to the Jews I know, its purpose is to acknowledge the feeling of sadness, not suppress it.
Obviously, Hillary is not dead, nor is she my relative. But I can’t ignore the profound sadness I felt on election night even before 10 p.m., and I went to bed, asking my husband not to tell me anything when he came in later, unless it was good news.
To soften the ensuing feelings of shock and disappointment, I avoided listening to the radio, NPR my go-to and most dependable source of accurate and actual news, and not once did I even consider turning on the TV (baseball’s over).
But as we humans do, I eventually baby-stepped my way back in, and tried to make sense of it all. Everyone tried to explain it, but no one could.
After a few days, I put my earbuds in and started out on my daily run. I actually began to make eye contact with people who I suspected are Trumpsters, though I reserved my smile for those I knew were not. I was hurt, because we have witnessed the death of our highest Office in the land.
Not a person, but a position currently filled by an intelligent, caring, educated, appropriate and extra-cool man who knows his way around a history book,
President Barack Obama, is passing away into the comically tiny and incompetent hands of a president-elect who is simply not capable of filling it. The Office will die, and in its place will rise a series of lessons best described as Phase One of Starter Apprentice Puppet Mogul.
As I ran that afternoon, I listened to an interview of Tablet Magazine writer Liel Lebowitz. Since all things Holocaust is our family business, I perked up when I heard him say his grandfather, Siegfried, emigrated from Vienna in the 1930’s, taking his two sisters with him, to what was then called Palestine. His reasons are interesting.
Siegfried was aware that laws were being passed concerning his legal status as a citizen. Describing himself as a simple Jew, he believed what he heard and saw. He left because he had no reason to think it would get better, and his family who stayed behind were murdered because they were Jews.
Lebowitz hastens to say he doesn’t consider Trump a Hitler, but that Trump uses similar propaganda: a well-timed, widespread threat targeting certain groups to be registered, kept track of, and deported, say, in tough times, because they were negatively affecting the economic fortunes of the “working man.” Historically, this tends to rile up said working man.
His suggestion: first, believe they mean it when you hear someone make hateful, xenophobic, misogynistic and racist remarks. No interpretation necessary. Trump used this “dog whistle” to successfully communicate his message, which was “Vote for Me!”, and people did. They condoned his speech, so believe their hate speech, too.
Second, hold people accountable for their vote. A guy at a party discovered I was unhappy with the election results, and seemed angry at me. He said that “you people need to move on!” Really? This man and all Trump voters need to answer the question: why exactly did you vote for him and will you own it if he turns out to have been a mistake?
Third, we should not accept this as the new normal. Lebowitz accurately calls the election of Trump a moral crisis. The President of the United States is not an entry-level position. Every day, Trump should be reminded that he accidentally inhabits a successful ideal that has been spectacularly singular in the world for over two hundred years, as a guy who snake-charmed suckers.
It’s not okay to appoint white supremacists to advisory posts, to deny climate change, to break up families through deportation, or to run a government while conducting private hospitality and development businesses.
A one-year mourning period follows sitting shiva: this time, if he makes it, will last for four.