It has been a week since Donald Trump was inaugurated as President.
I was caught off guard on Inauguration Day. I thought that my feelings of grief had passed last November, when I set out to be politically engaged and vocal in my writing with a new feeling of resolve. But throughout the day last Friday, I had a sunken feeling of depression that I couldn't shake. My mood was matched by Kansas City's overcast skies.
Kyle and I went out to dinner the night before--as a sort of last hurrah of the Obama era--and we talked a lot about what this change means to us. I've talked about mixed race identity throughout these different blog posts. Kyle and I share a lot of the same experiences: We've both been asked What are you? We both know what it's like for our identities to shift from situation to situation. But my experiences as a second-generation immigrant are different from Kyle's experience with two native born parents.
What I told Kyle last Thursday, as we sat at a dimly lit table with a bread basket between us, was that this presidency defies the version of America that I grew up believing in. My grandmother fled China with her children; my father was born as a refugee in Taiwan. Nai Nai didn't feel like the strip of sea was enough distance between the Communists and her family. She wanted to come to the United States. She and my father arrived here in 1970, working at a hops farm in Yakama, Washington to pay off their immigration sponsors before moving to Boston. She believed in America's greatness, she believed in the opportunities it had in store for her son.
My dad had his own challenges when he arrived in the U.S. He didn't speak any English and was embarrassed to be assigned See Spot Run while his classmates were reading A Tale of Two Cities. But despite these odds, my dad achieved the quintessential immigrant success story: he found his calling as a martial artist. He found acclaim when he became the national champion, gracing the covers of magazines. He owned his own business and became one of Boston's hidden secrets, training everyone from college students to Boston Ballet performers to famous basketball players.
My existence was a product of the American Dream, and I maintained a reverent awe for that Dream until last year.
I told Kyle that this presidency was not what my grandmother believed in. It's not the version of America that I grew up believing in. In the America that I trusted, you weren't supposed to become president if you were a bully or bragged about sexual assault. You weren't rewarded for being a cheater or a swindler or a liar. I told Kyle that this election experience took something away from me--and really, it lessened the integrity of America--and I wasn't sure if we can ever get it back.
That was the loss I was mourning last Friday and what I marched for last Saturday.
My feelings of hope from watching the rallies around the globe taking a stand against Donald Trump were quickly challenged when I saw that there were people in my social circle--people I trusted and admired--who didn't support the protests. I learned that there were more people in my life who supported Donald Trump than I realized, and that became another form of loss.
These were people who I made art with, who I have shared holiday meals with, who I practiced kung fu with. These were people who I knew respected my father; people whose lives were impacted for the better by both my parents. These were people who have laughed with my husband, who flood my Facebook with Likes and Love when I post pictures from my family life.
I couldn't help but take their politics personally.
How much respect did they have for us, if they voted for Trump?
Didn't they realize that my father was an immigrant?
Didn't they realize how much my husband was at risk every time he gets in the car?
My knee-jerk reaction was to call out these people on social media and then cut all ties. But then I paused. I thought of this project. I started In Between Places in the hopes that I could, in my own small way, facilitate a little bit of common ground. I'm a woman of different races and cultures, crossing the divide between a blue home state and a red adopted state. I wanted to believe that, if anyone can try and mediate this situation, it could be someone like me.
This week, I had serious doubts about whether or not our country can find some consensus.
More than once, I wondered if this blog was futile.
It has only been a week of Trump's presidency, and the divide between sides seems to be getting deeper. With each day, with each executive order signed by the Donald, we lose a little bit more of the gray area. As Trump and his team try to silence the press, censor scientists, create a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants, and damage our relationship with our continental neighbors--not to mention the assault on the environment or women's rights around the world--the middle ground is eroding, quickly. What I am discovering is that you are either on the right side of history, or not.
I don't know if it's possible to change anyone's position on these subjects. It was hard enough to reason with conservatives before, and now we have people--willingly, enthusiastically--burying their heads in the sand with 'alternative facts."
I don't know if it's possible for me to divide a person from their politics, and continue to call them a friend while their values hurt not just my husband or my father, but the majority of my friends.
What I do know is if we can't change people's minds, then we need to mobilize the people who do understand that we have everything to lose under this isolationist, white nationalist, corporate regime. We have a responsibility to speak out, because when we use our voice, it empowers others to do the same. Silence in this situation is the same as complacency, acceptance.
As for this project, I'm going to do as Hemingway suggests: Write hard and clear about what hurts.