An Open Letter to My Father and Other Republican Family Members

So, here we are.  As we all know from experience, family and politics never mix.  Many a family dinner or special occasion has been ruined over political discussions that pit uncles against nieces, fathers against daughters, and brothers against sisters.  While I’ve never actually thrown my Thanksgiving dinner across the table and screamed, “What the hell is wrong with you people?” It’s only because I love turkey and cherry pie too much to waste it on an family argument.  And because I love them.

I grew up with my favorite aunt and uncle trying to indoctrinate me into the so called intelligence and viewpoints of Rush Limbaugh.  When I was 30 and pregnant with my daughter, another aunt quipped, “Well, when you’re young we’re all liberal, but when you mature you’ll become a Republican.”

Silence is Complicity.

My father is also a Republican.  Albeit it one that I view curiously from the perspective in the book What’s the Matter with Kansas?  He’s Republican based on the idea of what being a Republican is, not where the Republican party is now.  He gets his news from mainstream network news and is unbending in his political bias.  When politics is brought up between us, it’s a firestorm in under 5 minutes.  So we have learned to avoid the topic as much as possible when we see each other and try to stick to ‘safe’ subjects.  He knows I’m a women’s rights activist, he supports me and my sister’s dreams and believes we deserve the same as any son he could have had.

Another family member commented on a recent Facebook post I had made that she had voted Democrat in every election previously but this would be her first voting Republican.  Wait a minute, you voted for Obama? Twice? But now you’re vote for Trump?  Where are you getting your information from that you would change your vote to a misogynistic, racist, lying, blowhard whose never served in public office?  A man who proudly flaunts not paying the taxes he owes, a man who debases and insults women repeatedly, double downs on his flagrant lies, and who has done next to zero for real charity and service towards others.  A man who is frighteningly ignorant of the Constitution and the Declaration Independence and the moral compass that this country is founded on.

You don’t like HRC? I get it.  You don’t have to like her. That’s not the issue. Is she flawed? Yes. So am I, and so are you.  Has she made mistakes? Yes.  So have I and so have you.  Is she qualified?  More than any other candidate in recent history I can name. You still don’t have to like her, but you should respect her.

Over the years I’ve watched as we slide further apart on the politic spectrum; my father, aunts and uncles, and some cousins into the red and me firmly, proudly liberal in shades of blue.  We don’t talk about it too much, or at least we don’t engage each other in fierce debate, because we are family and feelings get hurt, and rifts arise.  Yet if we can’t debate our family, the people that love us best and unconditionally, about what is best for our country, what does that say about the bonds between us?  Discourse, debate, and differences of opinion shouldn’t be limited to a debate stage or protests.  Debating is about hashing out the truth, taking a stand, and engaging in intelligent discourse about what our core values are and what we want for our family, our community, our country, and the world at large?  Why are we too scared to debate the ones we love?

My core values?  Simply: I believe in equality for EVERYONE, not just people that look like me.  I believe in justice for EVERYONE no matter their nationality.  Skin color, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, culture, language, or economic standing are not acceptable reasons to discriminate.  Whatever rights you have as a white man in this country, which is still where the power of this country rests, are the rights that every man, woman, and child deserve – no qualifications.  Everything else comes underneath and we can debate the ‘how, when, and where’ but we cannot debate the ‘what’.

Silence is complicity.

The fact of the matter is, if you vote for Trump you do not have the same values I do.  And by values, I don’t mean menu list of specifics of gay marriage, single payer health care, taxes, abortions, etc.  I simply mean the core values that I strive to instill in my daughter; respect, justice, compassion, and equality.

I see a lot of talk about making American great again.  What isn’t great about this country is that I, as a woman, still have to fight for my rights in society.  Equal pay, family planning, birth control are all issues men control in order to ‘protect’ us, while at the same gender violence is at an all time high, and women are shamed, blamed, and ignored when we are victimized.  And I’m a lucky one because I’m white.  If I were a black woman or hispanic, or an immigrant?  My rights drastically diminish even further.  America has racism, sexism, poverty, violence, and economic gap that is now so wide between the 1% and the rest of us that the middle ground is disappearing.  We need a leader that champions equality for all, not one who fat shames women, believes in stop and frisk, and peddles fear for votes.  He is the lowest of the low, a liar and a fraud, and we must keep the high ground.

So here’s my voice.  If you vote for Trump, you are promoting a future country based on racism, sexism, ignorance, bullying, and profit uber alles.  A man who promotes anger and finger pointing instead of solutions and collaboration.  I don’t need to embed links to all the articles that back this up as fact.  You don’t need them, and you wouldn’t believe them if I did.  Just listen to him, he proudly spews all of that on a daily basis without a filter.  Today it’s former Miss Universe putting on too much weight and Twitter rants about a sex tape. Yesterday

I don’t care about your politics. You have a right as an American to align conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, Green or Libertarian, and to mix and match based on what candidates you feel represent your values.  But if your values in any way restrict the rights of others based on their skin color, religion, gender, or sexuality – than you don’t want to ‘make American great’ again.  You want to make America YOU.  White. Christian. Male. You are not America. America is all of us.  Believing that diversity makes us stronger, that equality is a human right for all, and that justice is blind.

This election is now beyond politics. This election is about humanity, intelligence, tolerance, and diplomacy. The Presidency of the United States needs to be held by a person that holds up the best of our country as an example for the world to see, that swallows ego and pride in the face of justice and diplomacy.  If you are voting for Trump, you are voting for misogny, racism, ignorance and intolerance. Many of you are simply voting against a candidate which is very different than voting for the future of our country. There has never been a time that I would say, if you vote for a Republican then we can’t be friends, or that our family relationships are at risk… because its never been a choice between a extremely qualified, intelligent, dedicated, yet flawed candidate that has made mistakes, and an ignorant, sexist, bullying blowhard that couldn’t give two shits about poverty, racism, equality, justice, and diplomacy before.

We can not be silent about this. Politics IS personal, but THIS is about a much more than politics and we cannot sit by and watch this like a reality tv show.  We must debate, talk, and be open about this if we are to get the leader we deserve. This is not entertainment, this is our future.  

#NeverTrump

The Third Gender

aina-meeting-2Being a foreign woman in Afghanistan is a unique experience.   It presents a unique learning curve, operating within the parameters of a country where women are not equals.  As a member of the female gender, I fall underneath certain ‘rules’.

The most visual rule is the headscarf.  Looking around Kabul you see women wearing a variety of styles and colors.  Large scarfs thrown over the head and shoulders in simple black or bright patterns, tight white hijabs, thin scarfs tied under the chin, and the bluebird colored burqa.   On the first day three things became painfully clear.   First, I could say goodbye to my peripheral vision.  Second, it is ALWAYS slipping, and it becomes an exercise in repetition, tugging the scarf as it tries to escape down the back of my head.  Thirdly it does nothing to help me blend in.  My height and blond hair sneaking out around my face ensure that I attract a crowd.

Since the Taliban were kicked out, women’s rights have come back to the forefront and women hold positions of power in politics, military, and business.  There are many female parliamentary members, I know of at least one military commander, and of course the well respected governor of Bamiyan, Habiba Sorabi.   At the same time, there are women still wearing burqa and riding at the back of the bus.  There’s an extremely wide range of acceptance and equality.  Women in Afghanistan are often segregated, in schools where boys and girls are taught together, boys are on one side of the room, girls on the other.   Traditionally women do not shake men’s hands in greeting, instead they simply place their right hand on their heart.

I arrived knowing some of these female pre-conditions, only to find that I am treated much differently as a foreign female.  Men shake my hand, eat and drink with me, and speak to me as an equal.   As a female, I am able to go into female-only areas where men are not allowed, yet can also mingle with the men where Afghan women do not.  I am a hybrid of sorts, a third gender.  Neither male, nor ‘only’ female.

There is the occasion where a man won’t talk to me, or instead of offering his hand he places it grudgingly above his heart.  But that occasion is rare.  I am greeted and treated as an equal, particularly as the majority of men I’m meeting with are educated and proponents of women’s rights.  Men are happy to show me around construction sites like the one in Murad Khane, or even talk politics with me.  We may discuss the importance of girls education, and often they may be the men creating and running those projects.  Yet these same men serve me tea from their kitchen and do not introduce me to their wife, unseen in the kitchen or another part of the house, as though invisible.

Its exciting to play on both sides of the fence, but frustrating to know the same rules don’t apply to my Afghan sisters.

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