“That’s Donald Trump,” the little squeak of a voice said next to me as she drank her milk. While the duck-lipped Trump blistered and blustered loudly throughout the minute-plus morning show clip, I turned slowly to gaze down at my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter snuggled up against me.
Her adorably sweet face beamed gleefully. I smiled thinly back at her, fruitlessly trying to mask my utter terror.
Her innocent bright eyes beamed as she conveyed a sense of pleasure, a genuine satisfaction from being able to identify and name drop the orange-hued man-baby himself. I was dumbstruck.
Something about the way the Donald addressed his political zealots, from his mannerisms to his megaphone voice to the way he was surrounded by his usual sea of American flags, connected with her.
My thoughts scrambled as I grasped for what to do, what to say.
How could I carefully and gently convey to my intelligent, impressable, very observant toddler that this laughably scary human being, this incompetent in chief she was so tickled by, was actually, in the wise and sage words of the poetess Samantha Bee, a human “trash can fire?”
“Donald Trump is poop-poop caca,” I brainlessly blurted before I could fully consider a more refined, nuanced, well-rounded response.
Not my finest parental hour, I realized as my husband rolled his eyes in amusement. “It’s the media’s fault,” I stammered lamely.
Being a jaded adult who half watches/half tunes out the news, I had not realized just how much the media favored and featured Donald Trump over his political rival. Clearly, my more attuned daughter not only noticed but committed his ill-gotten name to memory.
Now, to be honest, I generally believe my child should be able to make up her own mind, determine her own likes and loves, and craft her own opinions. We encourage her to speak her mind and take a leadership role in her young life. I want her to grow into a confident, powerful woman. Even if (ugh) one day that means she becomes a (gasp) Republican.
But at two-and-a-half years old? She could not, must not, store anything of this man, much less his name, in her still-growing brain. As a parent, I will not, cannot allow his toxicity to seep into any part of her delicate neurons.
From that ill-fated morning on I made a conscious effort to actively point out each and every time Hillary Clinton appeared on the TV screen.
Very quickly I learned that I would need to work overtime — Hillary was allotted half the time in her news segments to her comb-over rival. It might be a battle, but I was undaunted.
Thus began my effort, during our daily morning snuggle, to follow up each appearance by Hillary Clinton by not only verbalizing her name but by also delivering a cheerful smile as well as a very enthusiastic thumbs-up along with it.
There are numerous reasons my household actively opposes Donald Trump — his sexism, bigotry, religious intolerance, his dislike of babies, the fearmongering, the hateful rhetoric, the lack of experience, his ability to incite a mob, his vile efforts to encourage divisiveness in our nation, his asinine claims without any factual evidence to support them, a general lack of class and decorum — but beyond all these terrible attributes, because of his desire to overturn my equal marriage rights, he is not a presidential candidate we can ever support.
Now, I don’t believe Hillary Clinton doesn’t also have faults of her own, although her most grievous flaws appear to be mostly manufactured — her emails (she’s apologized and addressed this 900 million times, can we please just move on?), Benghazi (she was cleared! Can we just move on?), she (maybe? possibly? probably?) lies, she’s corrupt (heresay and conjecture). The negative propaganda machine against her is massive and constant. Yet ultimately for us, the fact that Clinton supports my family’s right to equality trumps Trump.
What it boils down to — in the case against Clinton — is that she is a politician. And a female one at that! She’s part of the system. A system most Americans are finally realizing is broken — unless you’re a rich white straight man, that is.
While Trump wields his pulpit like a battering ram of oppression and fear, touting his outsider status like some medal of honor, Clinton makes every effort to connect with her audience as an experienced expert. Someone who understands, as only a politician can, how to, in fact, effect change in our political system.
Clinton has many attributes I would love my daughter to develop: her drive, her fight, her willingness to learn and admit mistakes. I trust that she, unlike the Donald, won’t bring about the destruction of our nation.
A few weeks later A.D. (after the Donald incident), having quizzed my daughter on who that neatly coiffed blond woman in the smart pantsuit was and after having received a casual “It’s Hillary Clinton” reply, I felt I had made a difference. My daughter finally knew and could identify a woman who might be president. Parental pat on the back time!
Or as least so I thought. Until a day or so later, as we were out in our quiet Bay Area suburb, and we passed an American flag in a neighbor’s window that my daughter gleefully pointed at and cheerily declared, “It’s Donald Trump!”
My eyes widened in horror as I struggled to mask the full range of my disgust. Somehow my nation’s flag, which speaks to me as a proud American, the red, white, and blue that symbolized the freedom and liberty of my great nation, had been usurped! The flag had become linked with Donald Trump and his campaign of fear. It was the first time I felt somehow assaulted by my flag.
Clearly, I thought, casual subliminal messages are real. Trump’s campaign knows this, hence the reason for the wall to wall Old Glories backing him up at each event.
It upsets me that Trump can wrest meaning away from a symbol of goodness and tie it to his awful message of gloom and doom. And it upsets me even more this message was received by my daughter.
I quickly went about changing the narrative of the flag by proclaiming “America!” in a joyful voice accompanied with my big eyes and a toothy smile.
Time to take a small break from the morning news, I decided.
Now, each morning, we snuggle while she drinks her milk, and we chat and laugh and play while she watches her favorite cartoons. Because, unlike the living political cartoon character that is Donald Trump, these animated characters won’t one day run for president of the United States.