I Have a Granddaughter
By Carol Smaldino
So, I have a granddaughter. She is little, too little for school. But as little girls and little boys can be, she is very sensitive; she is friendly and open and curious. And when something hurts her she gets upset, but of course. This really is not about her; it's just that when I felt the impact of Hillary Clinton's latest ad about Donald Trump's demeaning messages and direct insult to girls and women about their size and shape, I felt the degradation as personal. It's not really only because I have a granddaughter and would never want her to hear that degradation from anyone least of all a President of the United States, but because the things he has said in fact are personal.
I have gone through several mood swings through this Campaign, as I know many have. And I've heard political ads on both sides that seem calculated and in a certain way old, as in predictable. This one (see http://www.motherjones.com/.../hillary-clinton-ad-donald-trum...) did not.
It actually took me by surprise and got to my heart, not just for me or my granddaughter and daughter and daughter-in-law, but also for the girls and women in the pictures and in real life.
We've heard a lot about bullying in recent years, how much the cyber-bullying and in your face bullying can hurt kids to the point of provoking suicide attempts and actual suicides. Some of the adolescents who turn young adults who resort to violence have histories replete with bullying. And it is the emotional aspects of denigration, rejection and degradation that do equal harm as the physical.
Many people are confused about this Election. They hear how Trump is the biggest liar of all time but they (I live in Colorado) also hear that Hillary Clinton has lied, about emails and more and that she was responsible for Benghazi, period. They feel she is the least trustworthy person alive; at least that's how it seems. One young woman at the grocery store (yes I engage a lot) told me how sad she was that this is the first Election she can vote in and the tenor of the whole thing feels so violent.
She didn't say whom she is voting for but she told me she is concerned about climate change. So I can only guess.
The Election is hard because insult has seemed to reach a new standard of the unthinkable, if you will. And part of the standard is one put forth by Trump as he hurts the feelings, not only of women, but also of any girl who hears the way he speaks. For some reason this alone (please see the ad) is enough to make me turn away from the politics of hate and violence. The election is about immigration, that is immigrants, black people, race in general, poverty, war, and back again. But it is also about how we risk sinking into the worst slinging of mud upon our own children, who will reap the results of this most terrible of contests.
I have a granddaughter. I think, seeing her at close to two, that she will be able to be anything she wants, if college costs are manageable, and if we as a country deal with our domestic and international issues with diplomacy and wisdom and not with the kind of bravado that comes from grandiosity and denial. I want her to have a world with leaders strong enough to value good science and to agree on what that is, so that they will make sure to have the earth be as protected and respected as possible, not just for her of course. I want her to know that no insult of the color or shape of her body can do her in, but in addition that she could come to someone if that abuse were tried and something would be done about it.
I'd hope that she could follow the adage, "If you see something say something", and that it would make a difference.
I have a granddaughter, and at the same time I as many Americans and others, hold a special affection for children all over because they tend to be more open, more honest, more vulnerable, more in love with life and with play and even cooperation, where their beginnings have not been tainted with hate and violence. It's a terrible burden that so many children already have, to live in daily violence, to watch it on television and to watch it spoken and acted out by leaders of nations -- not only far away but here at home.
As a therapist, I also see from myself and almost every woman I know, the frequent struggle with food and eating and body image. This subject alone occupies so many hours of heartache, dieting with a vengeance and terrible swings of self-esteem, not to mention the costs on physical wellbeing. I can imagine a President of the United States campaigning for more emphasis on physical and emotional fitness (see Michelle Obama as First Lady). I can see even looking at obesity as the national health epidemic that it is. But I cannot see ridiculing anyone who is different, either from a temperamental or physical difference or because of a handicap.
I would ask all of you to see the ad, and to let it hit home. It may not make a difference to you. Trump may strike you as a funny guy who tells it like it is. I tend to feel that most women, at least, will think otherwise, especially if they imagine his words and tone reaching one of their loved ones who is a child still.
It is easily to be cynical in this campaign, and to see it as a never-ending soap opera. I'm hoping there are enough of us with basic humanity still holding in place who can talk and act against degradation, for our daughters and granddaughters, for children -- and adults -- everywhere.