Shortly after August 12th, 2017, the man who would become my father-in-law in a few months shared a meme on Facebook, the crux of which was, “So, we’re not allowed to demand Muslims denounce radical islamic terrorism, but I’m supposed to denounce white supremacy because I voted for Trump?”
For months, though we were not “friends” on Facebook, my partner’s father would repost white supremacist propaganda, usually targeted at Muslims and Latinx immigrants. While I’m not going to go into the personal lives of my partner’s family, suffice to say that between me and someone else, I am the child of a Muslim immigrant, and he has reason to be more empathetic toward Latinx immigrants, as well. I told my partner that I was hurt and, frankly, afraid of his dad, which he conveyed via text message to his father. His father promised not to post anymore memes that would scare and upset me.
Apparently, this only applied to islamomisic memes in his mind, and not the kind of thing that would make me question if he cared, at all, that men marching through the streets of Charlottesville (where my atheist but culturally Muslim aunt lives) screaming “Jews will not replace us” and carrying torches to defend statues of Confederate war “heroes.” Question whether he was sorry, at all, that a woman was murdered. Question whether he agreed with them.
I asked him if I could respond to this post directly, if he was OK with that. He said, “Sure.” I said, “I’m going to read it to you first for approval.” He replied, “Write whatever you want. I don’t care anymore.”
I was livid. My partner was livid.
I didn’t hold back. I told my partner’s father that his heart was a void. I called him what he was: a white supremacist. I told him I would never speak to him again.
I don’t regret it.
My partner’s dad lost his mother and brother in quick succession that winter. He reached out to his son saying he didn’t want to lose his only child because of “this,” and asked what he could do. I told my partner to tell his dad that he needed to do 3 things before I would consider talking to him again:
Read No god but God by Reza Aslan
Write a book report about what he had learned and send it to me
Apologize for spreading white supremacist propaganda
My partner and I got married at the end of April. He told his dad I didn’t want him there if he hadn’t done these things first. He didn’t do them. His father still came to our wedding, despite me saying unequivocally that I did not want him to attend unless he apologized, first. He tried to speak to me, despite me saying unequivocally that I did not want to speak to him unless he had completed these things. He hadn’t.
Christmas came and my partner’s mother declared that I was tearing her family apart. She demanded that I speak to her husband. I said no, but I equivocated. I would accept an email from my now father-in-law.
In February, he sent me an email. It was long and heartfelt. He talked about how he understood his son’s position, that he would take his wife’s side over his parents’ side, too.
He still hadn’t read the book, as far as I knew. There was no book report. There was no mention of it. There was no apology.
It’s now been six months, and I have, every week, woken up and said that this would be the week I respond. And every week, the president has said or done something, or something has been said or done in his name, that is so egregious, so demoralizing and enraging, that I have started to compose my response and realized I could not go on without sounding preachy. Without anger and sadness and despair coiling together into a whip studded with poison tipped spikes.
Next week, I would tell myself. Next week, when things have calmed down.
It’s been six months, and not a week has passed that there hasn’t been some new outrage, some new atrocity.
And here we are, after a weekend in which a man, quoting the same white nationalist vitriol as the man my father-in-law voted for, targeted and murdered people en masse for their ethnicity.
I am exhausted by this administration. I sleep more and I work less and I feel utterly deflated every single day. I haven’t had, except when I have been in a foreign country, a single fucking day of this fucking administration where I could just not think about the goddamned president. I’ve hated presidents before. I hated George W. Bush. I marched against his war. I thought his presidency illegitimate. I thought, and still think, that he is a war criminal who started a war for personal reasons, under false pretenses, and lied to the American public about it. I despaired of having him in office many, many days.
But there were some days I just didn’t think about him.
I didn’t realize what a relief that was. The privilege to just not have to think about the person “in charge” of the country for a full 24 hours. Maybe sometimes even 48. At this point, while I have my preference (and my runner up) for the people I would like to be president after this grotesquely ignorant and cruel fascist, I would take just any placeholding, typical warmonger just to have a blessed break.
This is how fascism works, though, isn’t it? Just grinds us down until we are too thin and brittle not to break.
I don’t know what to say to my father-in-law. I don’t know how to treat a wound that is constantly fresh, that never even has time to scab over, that has never, since that evil, vicious man announced his candidacy, stopped bleeding.