Donald Trump has promised to build a wall and I have seen its ugly and garish rise, like another Trump Tower, separating my extended family. On one side of the wall is fear. Fear of immigrants, fear of religious persecution, fear of job loss and fear of the American way of life. On the other side is hope. Hope for the end of gun violence, hope for clean energy, hope for LGBT and women's equality and hope to end climate change. Hope and fear do not play nicely with each other; they battle, because one lives in the light and the other in the shadows.
Our family is like many American families. We are made up of white, middle class citizens, LGBT members and immigrants. Our reunions take place on a large green lawn overlooking Gloucester harbor in August. Yellowed photographs of deceased family members are passed around and their life stories are lovingly recollected, family histories are retold. All of this promotes a sense that we have a shared narrative and a common set of values, and in many ways we do. But when we return to our smaller family units, we face different realities. And for many of us, the reality is that we are the enemy.
Trump's rise to power is based on authoritarianism. Those who support him believe that they face a common enemy who is easily identifiable and that Trump will destroy them. It is the immigrants, infiltrating our country with rapists and murderers and taking our jobs. It is Islam, bombing our cities and orchestrating terrorist attacks. It is the LGBT population, taking away our religious freedoms and destroying "traditional marriage," wide swaths of the population. But what happens when members of those populations exist within our family? How do we tell our parents, aunts and uncles that when they vote for Trump, they are affirming his war against us?
My belief is that we must speak up and illustrate how Trump's rhetoric, lies and policies will destroy America, while my husband believes that in order to keep the peace, we should not talk about politics. Somewhere in between is the answer. Perhaps the best way to bring the point home is to actually talk about our homes.
My home is made up of two gay Dads and our blended family of five children. We work hard. We pay taxes. We send our children to college and tell them they can love whomever they choose. In a Trump/Pence world, our family would not exist. Trump has stated that he will appoint Supreme Court judges who will overturn marriage equality. If our children are gay, we can force them to undergo conversion therapy. We can be denied basic services at neighborhood businesses and restaurants.
My cousins' homes are made up of first generation immigrants who work hard and have two beautiful daughters. In a Trump/Pence world, they are the enemy who are stealing our jobs. Their parents would be deported and their family would cease to exist.
To my extended family members who support Trump: you can say that you are fiscally conservative and socially liberal, if that makes you feel better, but the reality is your vote quite literally trumps your words. You are not voting for bits of a candidate's platform, but all of them. You cannot say you support us, when you vote against us. If you don't believe that he will follow through on hateful policies that would destroy our families, then why do you believe anything he says?
I support your right to vote for whoever you choose, but that does not mean I will not be hurt by it or that our relationship will not suffer from it. My hope is that after the election is over, the wall between us will be torn down, but my fear is that it never will be.
William Dameron's personal blog is The Authentic Life