The Lilith Blog 1 of 2

February 6, 2018 by

Welcome (Back) to the Resistance, Mom

It was just a few minutes before Shabbat, and I was rushing to get everything done (read: running very late). Not an ideal time to talk to anyone, so of course the phone rang. And of course it was my mother. And of course she was very agitated.

Time to pause.

Take a deep breath.

And listen.

I’m glad I did.

My mother didn’t know what to do with herself. She was so, so angry. (Not at me). She was confused. She was genuinely and sincerely trying to understand how people she liked and respected could hold such terrible and selfish and fundamentally illogical positions on matters of basic human rights and dignity.

My mother was, it turns out, having coffee with some Trump supporters.

Now, she’s met Trump supporters before. And she’s disagreed with them before, but these were casual conversations, usually in passing, that were easily abandoned for the sake of keeping the peace. She’s Canadian, my mother, so it frankly doesn’t come up all that much. But like many Canadians she spends some of the winter down south in Florida. Sometimes it gets real down by the pool.

My mom and I disagree on a lot of things, political and otherwise. But she’s a pretty rad once-upon-a-time lefty who spent her teens and twenties hanging out with draft dodgers and hippies in the then-filthy (but now-fancy) Yorkville area of Toronto. The soundtracks of my childhood were Gordon Lightfoot, Peter, Paul, and Mary (if you don’t know who they are, you’re not Canadian), Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen (you probably know who they are, even if you are not Canadian), and The Beatles. When it comes to protests, my mom knows what’s up.

Or, she did. Like most of her friends, she got married, had kids, settled down. Developed different priorities. (“Got practical.”) She stayed relatively liberal, raised me to be independent and free-thinking and to know my own mind, but got a little nervous when that mind seemed to be veering ever left-ward. Especially when it came to egalitarian Judaism. Especially at family gatherings. Especially when Israel came up. (Really, especially at family gatherings when Israel came up.)

I think she’s been proud of my political convictions and activism over time, even as she’s been nervous, even as she’s sometimes disagreed. Even disagreed adamantly. Even, now and again, fought with me over politics. We’ve disagreed less lately, certainly on the state of US politics. But like most people not living in the States, people privileged to observe our current insane shitshow with outsider status, most of her reactions have been incredulity mixed with a dash of smug superiority. (Which: who can blame her? Like I said, she’s Canadian.) She’ll call me sometimes just to complain or vent, just to be angry or annoyed at the latest blatant sexist, ableist, xenophobic, racist thing to come out of the mouth of the United States President. In a casual way. Because, say, it’s Tuesday.

This was different. This was a conversation with the wife of a Holocaust survivor who was supporting anti-immigration legislation. Who was talking about the difference between desirable immigrants and those that a country needs to guard against. This was a conversation with someone who could not fathom why Canada would possibly grant health care to refugees. Who could not fathom why a country should even grant entry to refugees. Who was entirely opposed to granting asylum to refugees. This was someone who, in my mother’s words, would rather see Syrians die than be allowed into the United States. Or Canada.

This was someone who, in my mother’s words, should know better. Someone whose entire family would have been saved had the United States—or Canada—had a less restrictive immigration policy to Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. Someone who should know what it is like to have politicians not give a damn about your survival or basic human rights to exist safely, and someone who should know that it is wrong. Should know the very serious, literal life-and-death stakes to that kind of xenophobia. Someone whose tradition and religious (supposed religious) Jewish observance should dictate a worldview that welcomes the stranger (for we were once strangers) and prohibits placing a stumbling block before the literal and metaphorical blind.

Which made my mother think: shouldn’t every decent human being (not just Jews, not just once-upon-a-time hippies, not just vaguely radical feminist daughters of once-upon-a-time hippies) know better when it comes to refugees? Which made my mother think: what values do these people hold? Which made my mother think—and say—how dare they?

Which made my mother get into it right then and there with these Trump supporters, whose sincere commitment to these ideas genuinely shocked and horrified the hell out of her. These weren’t the supposed downtrodden Middle America small town working class Trump voters of media fantasy. These were people just like her, except maybe richer, more narrow-minded, and a hell of a lot more selfish.

Welcome (back) to the resistance, Mom.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.