Driving Between Worlds

There were three highway accidents this week on the road between my home and the school where I work. First I chalked it up to the suddenly new sunrise greeting early rush hour drivers in the days after we clicked off Daylight Savings Time, but now I’m revisiting that theory. Clearly something is broken around here.

On election night we waited until it was obvious that Trump was going to win and then we tried to go to bed. Crying ourselves to sleep I had dreams that things took a year 2000 overnight turn, but I awoke to the reality that America had elected a disgusting circus clown, like a late Halloween trick.

I keep seeing Trump supporters wishing their opponents would just have more of a sense of togetherness, as all Americans should feel, etc. What they fail to understand is that the sickness I feel from my belly to the marrow of my bones and right up to the guttural edge of my very breath is a retching that comes from how connected I feel to my country. This is something we did, like a gang rape our own fraternity committed the night before. Our own specific actions don’t matter. We are in this together, and this is something truly horrible. And it’s the morning after, and there’s no way to rewind, and the hangover is real, and the wreckage is still with us, and moving forward means moving through it, trudging along with some horrible realities piled on its back.

Using middle school students to take the pulse of a fearful nation is always a wobbly proposition. On Wednesday morning they came to school a little more riled up than usual, and all of them had “Trump” on their lips, the same way they’d all be talking about McDonald’s if one of them smelled a single McGriddle at some point on their sidewalk trek to school. They asked me if I was happy that Trump had been elected, because I’m white and they’re not, and they aren’t the most attentive population in the world…I’m not sure how they could have confused anything about my personality or teaching style with that of a Trump supporter, but, on the other hand, maybe I’ve done a better job this year of keeping my politics close to the belt. Not like last year, which I spent with three huge Bernie pins adorning my lanyard.

When I told them hell no I’m not happy about Trump being elected, they were all like, “oh, ok, good.” One girl, whose family just moved here from the Dominican Republic, told me it was a sad day. But she said it with a smile on her face, because that’s how she talks to people. She always has a smile on her face. Even when she isn’t happy, it’s almost like she wants you to feel that she’s happy talking to you. I love that. And it makes me so sad that someone has made her so sad.

I don’t speak to many of my neighbors much. We know each other’s names and we holler hello and wave as we drive by on our ways to our own places of work and play. I live in a white-looking neighborhood nevertheless populated by a surprising number of non-white residents. But it still feels white. It feels like most other country-suburban places around here, which are so terribly isolated from the pockets of cities where I feel more at home, where I work, where I play. I’m not sure how most of my neighbors feel this week. I know at least a few who are happy, to some degree, which is to say they voted for Trump. I don’t want to attribute any other feelings to them, especially considering how things have unfolded since 11/9.

When I see my students, I see the future. When I see my own kids, and the kids of my whole modern family, I see the future, and I am hopeful. But when I see the complacency and confusion of anyone around my age or older, I feel terrified. I wonder how I got here, how I went from growing up in the country to finding myself in the big city to living back in a country suburb and working in a place surrounded by darker skins, sidewalks and the kind of genuine human interaction I just never felt in the midst of these rolling hills and falling leaves. I wonder how we got here, although I have a few ideas, and I wonder where we’re going, and I have no idea what that looks like.

That’s how things look from here. I’ll keep you posted.