Today we elect a new president of the United States, Vera. And it’s personal.
Donald Trump is one of the candidates. I remain amazed that a man of his character and psyche could be on the ticket. He is the most unfit person for the office that I’ve ever seen since I first cast a ballot for president in 1972. But I’m not going to bore you with all the reasons here. It’s not your concern. You’re too young. It’s ours, the so-called adults in the room. But I will share with you one of the multitude of reasons, because it’s personal — for both you and me.
Your ancestors on your mother’s side came from Mexico, as you will well know by the time you’re old enough to read this. It’s not particularly relevant to anything I suppose, except Mr. Trump made it relevant.
Mr. Trump, you see, makes a habit of treating others with contempt, particularly women and people of color or non-European ancestry. During the campaign, as Andrew Sullivan noted in his most recent essay, Mr. Trump made it abundantly clear that “He sees the judicial system as entirely subordinate to his political and personal interests, and impugned a federal judge for his ethnicity.”
That’s your cousin (third cousin, I believe) Mr. Sullivan is talking about. And it’s because of his Mexican ancestry that Mr. Trump impugned his character and integrity.
The judge, who, by the way, has a stellar reputation, is Gonzalo P. Curiel. He’s an American. I don’t know him personally and have never appeared before him in court, but from what I’ve heard, you should be proud of him — very proud.
Mr. Trump’s racist attack on Judge Curiel was a reflection of Mr. Trump’s character, not Judge Curiel’s integrity or abilities.
As I said, Mr. Trump has said and done a lot of things in his life that renders him totally unfit for the presidency. His racist attack on your family is but a tiny footnote. But it made it personal. It was on attack on your mother, your grandmother and you, for no other reason than your ancestry and the skin color of many in your family.
Unfortunately, racism and bigotry are not rare. But never before, in my lifetime, has a candidate for the highest office in the land flaunted it. The incident with your cousin was only one of many instances. And it’s not only been the candidate. Racism and bigotry have been in display at his rallies and among many (but certainly not all) of Mr. Trump’s supporters. I’ve even heard it myself from the mouths of some of these supporters.
It’s tempting for some of us to feel superior to others simply because of our skin color or ethnicity. White Europeans have held power in this country since its inception. Some of these Europeans even took it upon themselves to enslave a race to do their bidding and build their wealth.
I can’t say I can even begin to understand what it’s like to be victimized by another race or ethnic group that thinks it is superior to my own. I can’t begin to know what a man of African descent must feel — what his experiences in this country of ours is like. Or what a man of Mexican decent must feel when he walks down the street of my current place of residence in Colorado. I’m told that, in years past, certain leading citizens of this town would take it upon themselves to ensure no black or Mexican put down roots here. From what I see today, they did their job very well.
No, I can’t begin to understand what it’s like to be the victim of racism, but I do understand one thing perfectly well: racism is a reflection of the worst in us. It diminishes us. It hurts — and, indeed, scars — other people. And it is wrong in the purest sense of the word.
I am proud of your mother. She’s a truly remarkable woman with an inspiring soul. To think that anyone would think less of her integrity and abilities because of her ancestry is abhorrent.
And I’m proud of you, too. Moreover, I realize that, if you were ever threatened, I would not hesitate to act to protect you.
Mr. Trump did not attack your family in a physical way. But it was a vile attack. In doing so, he made it personal for me.
There is nothing I can do to strike back at Mr. Trump other than to cast my vote for his opponent. This I gladly did. All that remains is the joy of seeing him lose the election, that is, if he is to lose.
We’ll know soon enough. If he ends up winning, it will be a sad and disheartening day for me. Once again, I will learn the lesson that bad actors can succeed — that justice and goodness do not always prevail in this world.
I already knew that, yet I always succumb to the luring temptation — the hope — that the spirit of goodness, justice and love will reign.
Perhaps some day. Perhaps some place.
In the meantime, all we can do it fight the battles and wage the war. Today, my weapon is my vote.