This is not a big deal, he said. It’s all a hilarious spectacle. “Nothing bad is actually going to happen.”
It was the day Trump took his oath, and I was trying to swallow my breakfast. I crossed my legs under the table and twiddled the silver spoon between my fingers, staring down at the frozen blueberries — leftovers saved from last spring’s harvest at the farm — floating in their muddled pool of coconut milk.
Besides, he said, towering over the kitchen counter with hands punching marble, “He won fair and square. Fair and square.” He said the problem with liberals is that they focus too little on logical facts and instead overreact, forgoing economics and practicalities for their lofty ideals. They are far too emotional.
Are we? I’m the daughter of two psychotherapists. As a kid, whenever I came home from school with a gripe about a classmate who had copied my crayon drawing or hurled an unfair insult or otherwise transgressed my perception of good morals or manners in some small, childlike way, my parents always offered the same response: she or he is just “insecure.” I never knew the true definition of the term, but I took it to mean that beneath every offense, there’s a heartache, however conscious or unconscious; that every person’s inner life warrants acknowledgment and respect; that untangling the world’s knots of conflicts begins by compassionately considering the emotional experiences of any adversary. Emotions explain and expand understanding; they elucidate the true logic.
I’m sorry you’re upset, sweetie. But remember, he didn’t mean badly. He’s just insecure.
My mom and dad insisted that I voice my own feelings, too, even as I repeatedly resisted, wanting to be an independent individual without the mushy gushy mess of self-revelation. At age 12 or so, I recall curling up like a bug in my seat in the back of the car with my frowning face towards the splotched window, sad or jealous or pissed about something but insisting that I didn’t want to talk about it.
“Just because you like discussing your feelings, doesn’t mean I do. I’m not like you.” Not true. We have to talk about what hurts. To discount one’s emotions is to deny one’s humanity, to lose touch with what makes humans humane, to reveal sharpness, sourness, or bitterness instead of softness and warmth.
I looked up from my blueberries, which were staining violet swirls in the soupy bowl. “I disagree,” I said. I don’t think that those perturbed by Trump’s presidency are “too emotional.” I don’t think that cold, keen economics can solve societal puzzles in tidy mathematical equations. I don’t think it’s ever wrong to take morals and ethics as seriously as detached rationality. (As if any of Trump’s actions have been “rational” at all, rather than based in emotion, in insecurity. As if any supposed solution that leaves no space for empathy, generosity, or basic morality could ever be “rational.” As if emotions weren’t what earned his votes.)
Think about the people who have specific reasons to feel threatened in ways that you might not, I told him. Consider the father who lost his six-year-old to gun violence. Consider the daughter who spoke up about her sexual assault after years of scared secrecy, only to be shushed. Consider the mother who moved her family across the border from Mexico and works tirelessly so that her children can obtain the education she never had, and the one whose kid’s future depends on federal funding for students with learning disabilities. Consider the son who held his boyfriend’s hand in public for the first time when gay marriage was ruled legal. Consider the brothers and sisters and friends of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and so many other black Americans shot dead by police in 2016. Consider how they must ache. They are not “too emotional.” Just insecure, too. Just hurt. Just scared. Just trying to find a way to move through it.
By “too emotional,” what he meant was, too empathetic. Too sensitive. Too easily moved, instead of steady, unshakeable, fixed on success and stability at any cost.