Dad, did Trump Lose Your Vote? | Opinion

Dear Dad,

Coming up on Father's Day.... and also just 100+ days to the presidential election. You and I watched the last one in the same home but on different channels, in different rooms, you cheering, me weeping.

Here we are, just a few years later, stuck at home in the middle of a killer pandemic and deep recession. The streets of America are filled with protests against racism and police brutality. These are dark days that call for great leaders. I'm wondering, dad, would you vote for Trump again?

Sadly, I can only imagine your answer.

We had a military honor guard at your funeral. A proud veteran of World War II, you would have been gratified to see the smart young officer salute and present me with a perfectly folded flag—with the respects of President Donald J. Trump. I like to think that my expression was impassive, but my daughter, who arranged for the ceremony, jabbed me in the ribs.

Trump was just the latest skirmish of our Cold War, which was rooted in the 1960s and intensified as we drifted to opposite ends of the political spectrum. You saw me as an addle-headed, hopelessly naive socialist, militant feminist, and godless atheist. I saw you as a feisty old gladiator whose world view was toughened by the depression and the Holocaust.

When you could no longer take care of mom, my husband and I moved you both into our large apartment, purchased back in the days when a family-sized home on the upper west side of Manhattan was a reasonable stretch for a two-salary couple. Rooms once occupied by my three children were empty. You were 92, mom was 90.

We were an unlikely multigenerational household. You told visitors that I kidnapped you from your beloved suburban home with the birds and the flowers and your close-knit religious community, and transplanted you to the noisy, smelly, chaotic streets of New York City. In taking over as caregiver, I knew that I was also opening the door to your "isms:" racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, creationism.

Still, all things considered, we did pretty well, because we shared a bottomless well of love for my mother.

During the nearly four years that we lived together, you walked in Central Park almost every single day. The dog walkers stopped for a salute when they saw your WWII Veteran cap. Sometimes I exited the subway just as you came up our block, pushing your walker, and you always greeted me the same way, "Darling! How was your day?"

Sometimes I was naughty. You had to sit patiently at the breakfast table for our daily dose of Morning Joe to end its automatic recording before you could change the channel to Fox. I could have fixed that. Sometimes you were naughty. I came home from a business trip to discover that you had changed the artwork in a shared hallway. You could have asked.

Sometimes we just could not keep things from boiling over. The year 2017 began with the inauguration and the Women's March, and ended with the steady drumbeats of accusations against sexual predators who groped, attacked, stalked, and insulted women. As the revelations piled up, you would say, "It takes two to tango."

This line of reasoning opened up a whole new world of pain for me. On the subject of sexual assault, I go from zero to 100 mph in fury. Like many women, I have my own MeToo stories and I shared the worst of them with you.

You stopped talking about the tango. For the first time, I saw you flickering like a light bulb, your instinct to rage against the accusers checked by the feelings of a father, grandfather, and great grandfather.

And then there was Charlottesville. Years before, at my daughter's college graduation, our whole family toured the grounds of the University of Virginia, and I remember how my mother, a Holocaust survivor, was moved to tears at her family's link to this most American college campus. After the march, I could see you flickering again. There was no mistaking the loud sound of those Nazi slogans, no way to miss the faint condemnation from the White House.

See, it isn't politics or even Trump himself that makes me crazy. It is the way he stomps on every value I hold dear. Sometimes, there are not two sides. I struggled to keep my cool, muttering shalom bayit, Hebrew for "peace in the house" like a mantra to steady my nerves, while you managed to shrug off each fresh assault from Washington.

The protests over Black Lives Matter would have brought us to the gates of Armageddon. The same man who questioned my grief over Martin Luther King's assassination would not have grieved over the tragedy of George Floyd and would have mocked the national convulsion over racial inequities. The looting of New York stores would have dredged up awful memories of the Harlem riots of 1968, when my grandmother watched from her third-story window as the men's clothing store founded by my grandfather was looted and burned.

But dad, dad, things are different now. The drumbeats of dissent are getting louder. I suspect you would be squirming under the growing chorus from the most respected names in the American military. Nobody of substance can work for Trump, which means they can't work for us, the American people. You admired him because he was a strong man, no bullshit, no political correctness. Could you look at him now and declare again, yes, he is the leader we need at this moment of nearly unbearable global complexity and national unrest—because he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

You did thrive here in my city. If aches and pains kept you indoors, neighbors would inquire, where is Dad, haven't seen him for a while. You were the oldest member of your Orthodox Jewish synagogue and a great favorite with everyone in the congregation. Remember the drunken fellow who brought you Purim treats, then looked around admiringly at our apartment and asked me, "how long have you lived here with your parents?" People even began to ask for your blessing! You liked that idea, assured me it worked: God had listened to your blessing for Donald Trump.

I believe that you would sit out this election, unable to vote for Joe Biden, or to validate another four years of Trump. Would the light that I saw flickering after Charlottesville have grown strong enough to fuel a full-blown retreat? Maybe, but it would have been less likely after months in quarantine, wrangling over COVID-19 restrictions, a constant struggle to keep you home and safe. Then again, if you still wanted to vote, you would have had to mail your ballot, as you always have. If allowed. By your president.

In my imagination, we are walking together towards the park, both of us wearing masks. Before I head down the steps of the subway, I look back and watch you entering Central Park. Your mask is still on... at least until you disappear from my sight.

Ann Kirschner is a writer and strategic advisor in education, media, and technology.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.