Reliving The Sixth Grade

Editor’s note: We haven’t waded into these elections yet other than this more general piece on parenting in this election year. An individual in our community submitted this piece and therefore we are publishing it. We also welcome your pieces if you have something to add to the conversation. Email [email protected].

Sixth grade was the year I stopped speaking up. For the first time in my life, I dreaded going to school. I awoke each morning filled with a heavy, hollow pit in my stomach. That was the year I was relentlessly bullied by a small but vocal group of my classmates. They huddled together and pointed, laughing out loud at my “Jewish nose,” the tone of my voice, the distance between my eyes, my bookishness. I quickly learned to keep a low profile. I kept my head low and my clothes plain. I wore my hair down to cover as much of my face as possible. I developed nervous habits like twisting my hair, wringing my hands, and snapping my fingers. I didn’t dare raise my hand in class. The teachers told my parents that I was “reticent,” but they were wrong. I was scared.

This fear of speaking up and speaking out lingered throughout my childhood and well into adulthood. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I was able to walk into a room without fear of people pointing and laughing at me. Only recently have I come to believe, rather know, that my voice matters and my opinions have merit. Only recently have I understood that I have the right to demand respect and that I am not, quite literally, a joke.

I see in Donald Trump the same qualities my 6th-grade bullies exhibited: cruelty, laughter at differences, belittling, teasing, boasting, lying, and a constant need to assert power and dominance over others without regard to the fallout. My negative reaction to Trump’s antics is visceral and primal. I watch in horror and disbelief as the potential leader of our country insults and denigrates those he perceives as weak in order to lift himself up. Seeing all of this unfold before our eyes, I am transported right back to being that fearful, self-conscious, inhibited 6th-grade girl. But this time around I am older and wiser. I can take a deep breath, push back against those insecurities and fear, and say: NOT THIS TIME.

I dedicate my No-Trump vote to all those whose voices have been, or continue to be, stifled by fear. I dedicate my No-Trump vote to my three children who I pray grow up believing in their own self-worth as well as the worth of every human being regardless of what they look like, which god they pray to, what color their skin is, or who they love. I dedicate my No-Trump vote to women around the world who wake up daily facing discrimination and bias and yet push forward and fight on. I dedicate my No-Trump vote to my 6th-grade self who didn’t have the courage to stand up and make her voice heard. I’m standing up for her now.