Since this is supposed to be a blog about writing, I’m going to start this off with a line from one of my characters from one of my many scripts: “A heart can break in many ways.” For dramatic purposes, we usually see heartbreak as a romantic thing, but a heart can break in so many, many other ways. And this past week, my heart has broken over and over and over again.
I’ve told this story before, but I tell it again because I think it has relevance; at least it does for me. My father grew up in Franco’s Spain. Franco was another egotistical, power hungry fascist dictator. And anyone who knows my father knows that he likes to tell stories over and over and over again. Often, the same stories. The older he gets, the more emotional he gets while telling these stories. As a child growing up in the 80s, these stories didn’t seem to pertain to me or my life or anyone’s life that I knew. They’re stories about the Spanish Civil War and how his father, who was too poor to get an education, insisted that both his son and his daughter were equally educated to have the same chances in life. (My aunt and her husband own a pharmacy in Barcelona that has had her name on it for as long as I can remember.) Stories about how they could only speak Catalan at home (the language spoken in his region of Spain) because Franco made it illegal for anyone to speak anything other than Castilian Spanish. Stories about how his father disappeared for a few days, presumably because he went to jail for doing something that opposed Franco’s government. My father and his sister, both young children at the time, didn’t know if he would return, because Franco went after the people who opposed him. He didn’t just go after them; he killed the people who opposed him. Ever heard of the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca? Look him up. Find out how and why he died. My dad also speaks often about the Holocaust, tears streaming down his face, because of the horror and the terror of that time.
So, my dad did the thing that so many other immigrants have done. He looked to America. He looked to the writings of Abraham Lincoln. He looked to freedom of speech and freedom of religion and democracy. And with no money, not knowing a single soul, and only a medical degree in his hand, he came to America and eventually became an American citizen. Because he honestly believed in what the constitution stands for. He loves Spain and will always consider himself Spanish, but he believes in America.
My dad now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a disease that is slowly taking his body and his mind. While I know that he understands what’s happening in this era of the Crusty Cheeto (I will not call this man a president), I’m not sure he can fully process it. Because I know that what is happening now in America would BREAK HIS HEART. But here’s the thing: Through all of those years of stories, I was listening. I did hear him. Those stories did not fall on deaf ears. So, it’s my turn to pick up the mantle now. It’s my job to tell these stories. It’s my heart that breaks so his doesn’t have to.
If you lived in Germany in the 1930s and you had the gift of knowledge, of what would happen, of what Hitler would do, wouldn’t you warn everyone you knew? Wouldn’t you tell people that this can’t continue? That this so called populist leader will harm millions of people before he’s done? Well, we have the luxury of history. We have that gift. We have our warning: THIS IS HOW IT STARTS. Everything that the Crusty Cheeto has done in the past week: THIS IS HOW IT STARTS.
For those of you who choose to turn the other cheek and just ride this thing out: I hope for all of our sakes that you are right, but I am not willing to take that chance. For those of you who still support the Crusty Cheeto: How far are you willing to go to do his bidding? Who will you betray? Because history teaches us that you will be asked to betray a lot.
Maybe through all of this, you’re still smugly thinking, but what about those terrorists, huh? Well, I lived in New York City during 9/11. After the subway system finally reopened, I got on the F train and rode it back to my apartment in Brooklyn. And as it came above ground in Brooklyn everyone turned to look at the huge billow of smoke that took the place of those two buildings. The entire train was silent. Yes, it was scary. Yes, it was deeply upsetting and sad. But I understand that it was a crime perpetrated by a few, not by an entire race or religion. If you are white and male and Christian, do you believe you should be lumped in with the Sandy Hook shooter?
I am far, far, far more afraid of what the Crusty Cheeto and his puppet master, Bannon, will do to this country than I ever will be of Muslims or terrorists. Because I know what can happen. Because my father told me what can happen and what did happen. And now I’m warning you. THIS IS HOW IT STARTS. #RESIST