Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Bad Week to Be a Parent

“Hello,” I said to the staffer who answered the phone at Johnny Isakson’s Atlanta office. “I am a constituent of Senator Isakson’s, and I had a problem this week that I need some assistance with.”

“Absolutely!” she said, “How can we help you?” She sounded relieved. Maybe I wasn’t calling to yell at her about Trump. Maybe I needed help with something simple, like a neighborhood meth lab.

“Great. Well, two things happened, actually. The first is that my 5-year-old saw pictures of the march in Charlottesville. She saw the picture of people marching with swastika flags and confederate flags, and then she also saw the picture of the guy carrying the torch and chanting and wearing the Make America Great Again hat. And she asked me, mom, why do Nazis like Trump?




“And so then, later, we were driving behind a pickup truck over in Monroe and the guy had a bumper sticker on one side that said ‘Trump’ and one on the other side that said ‘Trump That Bitch’. And my eleven-year-old asked me what that sticker meant, and what did it have to do with Trump, and weren’t we not supposed to use words like that.


“I didn’t know what to tell either of them, so I told them I’d call and ask all our representatives. So I’m starting with y’all. Why do Trump supporters create an environment where I have to explain ‘bitch’ to my kids on the way to the Kroger? Why do Nazis like Trump?”

“Well, ah, I can tell you that Senator Isakson has released a statement condemning the events in Charlottesville, and saying that this kind of bigotry and hatred has no place in our country,” said the staffer.

“Right, we saw that, and we were glad that Isakson came out with such a forceful statement. And so, now, what’s the plan? Is he going to stop voting for Trump’s agenda? If this kind of thing has no place in our country, is he going to say that Trump is unfit for office?”

“Well,” she said, “Trump did also come out and say that he condemned white supremacists.”

“Yes, he did,” I said, “He read that prepared statement. And then yesterday he disavowed everything in it. You saw that press conference, same as me. He said the marchers were ‘fine people’ who only cared about preserving history. But that wasn’t the Charlottesville historical society; that was 500 white nationalists carrying torches and chanting about Jews. To say that he disavowed what happened in Charlottesville is disingenuous. You know better than that.”

“OK,” conceded the staffer. “But when Senator Isakson votes, he’s not voting about that. Senator Isakson doesn’t agree with the president’s statements about Nazis (bolding this, because that's where we are, now), but there are some policies that he does agree with, and those are the ones he votes for.”

“OK,” I said. “So what I will tell my kids is that the Isakson camp says there are some policies that are so critical, and so important to the welfare of this country…”

“Yes. Yes,” interrupted the staffer.

“…That it’s worth putting up with Nazis to see them enacted.”

“No no, don’t tell them that,” said the staffer. She sighed. “Look, what happened in Charlottesville is one thing, but policies are a completely different thing. The two have nothing to do with each other. They are completely unrelated.”

“Uh,” despite the high-pitched ringing in my ears and the forceful nosebleed I was suddenly experiencing, I persisted. “You don’t think that policies that disenfranchise minority voters, like the ones that were struck down in North Carolina, have anything at all to do with white supremacy? You don’t think that Trump’s refugee ban, which was struck down as unconstitutional because it specifically targeted Muslims, relates in any way to bigotry, or hatred?  You don’t think that Trump considering pardoning Joe Arpaio, the Arizona Sheriff who was indicted on racial profiling, sets a precedent that says this kind of thing is OK? You don’t think the Nazis in Charlottesville would like these things?”

“But those aren’t the policies that Senator Isakson cares about!” said the staffer. “He’s focused on, you know, the policies he feels are going to be best for our country. Those are the ones he’s voting for.”

“OK,” I said, calming down. “Like NAFTA. Or like farm subsidies. Like economic things.”

“Exactly,” said the staffer.

“Got it.” I said. “So, I’m going to tell my kids that I called Senator Isakson’s people and they said that so long as the president is passing things that are good for the economy, we shouldn’t worry about Nazis.”

“LOOK,” said the staffer, sounding mad for the first time, “If the president tries to enact policies that are PROVEN to support white supremacy, Senator Isakson would vote against them.”

“OK. So, like, if the president decides to come out with some kind of bill declaring it ‘Hug a Nazi Day,’ Senator Isakson would definitely vote against that.”

“I can’t speak for the Senator,” said the Senator’s representative, “but yes, I feel that Senator Isakson would definitely vote against ‘Hug a Nazi Day’.”

“Great,” I said. “I will tell my kids that Isakson is not planning to force people to hug Nazis. Is that accurate?”

“Yes,” said the staffer in a sort of choked voice.

“Thank you for your time,” I said, “God bless America.”