I took my three kids, ages 9, 7, and 4, to the caucus with me last week. My husband was working late and couldn’t leave and it was important enough for me to be there so I dragged them out of the house even though I knew it would be a total pain in my tuchus to keep them entertained (though now is a great time to say, “Thank you, tablet-inventor!”). Did I mention that I didn’t even have time to feed them dinner beforehand so we came home and ate leftovers at 8:30pm?
While the process itself was interesting and enlightening, particularly considering I’ve never participated in a caucus, the conversation on the drive home with my kids continues to haunt me.
We were talking about the caucus process and why exactly we went there in the first place. We talked about voting and the delegates and about the candidates for president and how we elect them in this country. No surprise, my kids have heard Donald Trump’s name more than any other candidate – from other kids at school and at home from conversations my husband and I have had about this surreal election season. This night was no exception except that it revealed something startling to me.
The youngest of the three – Mr. Curious, age 4.5, piped up from the backseat. “OK so who is Donald Trump and what is he doing exactly?” Child #1 – Ms. Serious and Sensitive, age almost-10, responded, “He’s the one that wants to get rid of all the Jews!”
I audibly gasped – and tried to keep the car on the road.
As I tried to regain my composure and figure out what to say next, I watched as Ms. Middle Child (and I mean that in the truest, most stereotypical sense of that title), age 7.5, in the rear view mirror took a long look at big sister with her crystal blue eyes widening. “What?!” she responded.
I stammered as I tried to get the words out and provide some semblance of an explanation here. [Note to future self: honesty/my raw opinion may not always be the very best policy with my kids.]
“No, Donald Trump did not say he wants to get rid of all the Jews. He did imply, though, that he might consider getting rid of some other groups of people in this country.”
Crickets from the back of the car. I’m at a stoplight now so I turn around to check out their faces. They look perplexed. Believe me, kids, so am I. No one says a word so I continue.
“Don’t worry, kids.” I start to literally choke on my own words.
What I want to say is, “Don’t worry, kids. You don’t ever have to worry about that happening. This is the United States of America and it’s 2016. Jews enjoy religious freedom and freedom from persecution here unlike at any point in history in any place in the world. There is no way anything could EVER happen to us.”
But I can’t. I cannot bring myself to make those words come out of my mouth. My voice fades out to nothingness and the tears fall silently in the darkened car. I cannot bring myself to assure my kids that, in the comfortable, middle-to-upper-class suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota in the United States of America in 2016 or in any time in the future, they have nothing to worry about simply by being Jewish. Those who know me would agree that while I exercise my Jewish motherhood proudly, I am not ultra-paranoid or alarmist or even overly dramatic, snarky comments from close friends and immediate family notwithstanding.
If we are at a place in our society where this discussion can happen about “other” groups of people, who is to say that it won’t happen to “us”? And worse yet, are my kids learning that if enough people stand idly by, it can happen to anyone?