This election season has been one of many “firsts”. It is,
— the first time a woman has been elected as the nominee of a major political party, and also
— the first time an outsider, a non-politician, has been elected the nominee of a major political party.
No doubt you are mentally filling in some other “firsts”, depending upon which candidate you favor, like; “the first time a lying, thieving, bitch has been elected,” or, “the first time a narcissistic sociopath has been the nominee”.
But no matter what your views are about the relative merits or weaknesses of each candidate, what’s become clear to me is another, significant way that this election is unprecedented in our history;
It’s the first time we’re asking a woman to be our hero.
There’s a favorite internet meme that gets passed around in times of national crisis. It’s a quote attributed to Fred Rogers, the beloved, gentle host of the 1960’s children’s show that bore his name;
I’ve taken comfort from this thought over the years, and used Fred’s words to soothe the fears of my own little girl. It worked. Just imagining ‘the helpers’ could stop her tears and slow the beating of my heart. Then, to actually see, on the news, these real-life heroes respond to a tragedy was so reassuring. It always helped to reassert my belief that the world is made of mostly good people.
Before this election it never occurred to me that I wasn’t looking for good people to come help — but good men.
As I and a group of good friends watched the Presidential debate Monday night I paced anxiously. The knots forming in my stomach all day had tightened. I had no idea how the night would go, despite my belief in Hillary’s competence, my certainty that she was the most prepared of the two, and my trust in Lester Holt to keep both nominees on track.
Trump I trusted, would be Trump. I trusted that he would hide his lack of knowledge, preparation and experience with insults, innuendo and interruptions, as he always did. I had no faith that he could withstand 90 minutes of focused, deep discussion on the real issues we face, and I expected him to lose it — whether Hillary baited him to do so, or not.
But that didn’t comfort me, it made me more afraid. I realized that I was afraid for her.
I thought of Chelsea, sitting in the audience, and Bill. What if Trump started bullying her? What if he attacked her by bringing up Bill’s infidelities? What if she faltered, got shouted down, hurt? What if he made her cry??
Would they jump on stage?
Could you sit and watch your 70 year old mother, or spouse, or sister, take a beating and not act?
Would you ask her, in the first place, that she put herself in that position? For you?
When I imagine the helpers, I imagine firemen. Policemen. Male soldiers. And I don’t just imagine them, I see them. Men, who come to our rescue again and again when the scariest, most god-awful things happen.
I was taught to look up in the sky for Superman, not Wonder Woman.
We all were.
The image engrained in all of our heads – whether man or woman – is Lois Lane being caught by the Man of Steel:
“Don’t worry, I’ve got you, Ms. Lane.”
“You, you’ve got me??…who’s got you!”
It’s clear to me, to all of us, that we’re facing some scary, tough problems. Climate change. ISIS. Crushing debt. On top of that, the roles of men and women continue to change. The white majority is eroding. We don’t know who we are, or what is expected of us.
Who needs help? Traditionally, it’s been women and children.
Who are the helpers? Traditionally, it’s been men.
I understand that many people see Trump’s toughness as a source of comfort during this frightening time, a shield against the internal and external threats we face. It’s a familiar toughness, even if we don’t like it, personally.
And the alternative to this distasteful, tough man is…a woman? A seventy year-old woman?!
Neither Chelsea nor Bill jumped up Monday night. There was no need. They know that not only can Hillary Clinton defend herself, she can and will defend us.
And I think that’s what we were all waiting to see. Can this woman defend herself? Can she defend us? Can she lead us? Can she be our hero?
She did her part.
Now it’s up to us to find the courage to let her.