Trump: Forget Your Perfect Offering

As a child growing up in Pakistan, I went to many Friday markets. Trimmed meat was on display: poultry and goats hanging — skinned but whole. Scrawny cats and aggressive flies competed for offal scattered on a dirt floor. Ask for fresh chicken and you could watch the butcher slit its throat and throw the dying bird into a decrepit crate. The headless chicken noisily jerked around for a minute before it was plucked, gutted and handed to you in a blue, plastic bag. I knew where my meat came from with no aversion or hesitation. This awareness allowed me to respect food and understand where it came from.

Children will never maintain their innocence but they can be taught to think for themselves. Shelter a child and that innocence quickly becomes ignorance. Adults selfishly coddle children artificially maintaining a bubble of innocence, which inevitably bursts. Just as my children will not be brought up thinking supermarkets are a natural segment of the food chain – I will not calm my children and downplay the recent election process in the United States. This is not the time to normalize American politics.

Donald Trump ran a campaign leveraging anger, dispossession, and anxiety of a class of white people. He provided a pessimistic view of the United States – blaming minorities, immigrants and the establishment. He refused to distance himself from the likes of David Duke and embraced people like Kris Koback and Steve Bannon. Trump empowered supporters with his divisive rhetoric and behavior.

Trump supporters attacked a black activist in Alabama last year. The next day, Trump tweeted a graphic supported with racially incorrect statistics. The graphic showed African Americans killing people at a disproportionally higher rate than either white people or police officers. Trump mocked anyone who criticized him. “I think they’re looking for trouble,” he once said of the Black Lives Matter group. When asked by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly to get his facts straight. Trump responded, “I like it because I can get, also, my point of view out there. And my point of view is very important to a lot of people that are looking at me.”

Trickle-down racism will now impact our lives. Michelle Obama was recently referred to as “an ape in heels.” A schoolteacher in Los Angeles told Latino students their parents would be deported. A Muslim woman was told to hang herself with a headscarf. It also hits home.

One evening, during dinner, my seven-year-old son asks, “What does the word nigger mean?”

“Where did you hear that,” my wife and I asked, incredulously.

“A couple of boys in my class called me a nigger in the washroom,” he responded.

Giving it some thought he segues and quietly asks, “How does a bully like Donald Trump become a leader?”

We talked to my son about slavery and colonialism that evening. I told him how I was placed on the US No-Fly List after 9/11 for my editorial cartoons. My wife told him how Pinochet had imprisoned her father. I told him how I remembered Pakistan’s Prime Minister being hung in 1979. I told him how a cowardly military stole democracy from Pakistan on that day. I told him how violence became a daily occurrence in Pakistan. But, I reassured him, with knowledge we were empowered to thrive and not live a life of despondency and despair. I told him about Leonard Cohen. I shared with my son his lyrics that often help me maintain perspective – “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” These were complex concepts but my seven-year-old got it.

We need to teach our kids to find the light. They must not be sheltered. Like with the dying chicken – it will be noisy and it will be bloody, but this is not the time to shy away. We need to stand strong, knowing this is not the true reflection of America but rather the death throes of white privilege.

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