Monday, December 19, 2016

A Letter to my Father, The Man Who Chose Donald Trump Over Every Woman in His Life

This young woman writes powerfully, albeit no doubt futilly. She speaks for me.

Kamira Riis

Dear Dad,

On November 1st of this year, I will turn 30. I remember the first puppy you bought me, a sweet Dalmatian named Cookie with spots covering both of her eyes. I remember being five, putting make up on your face and curlers in what was left of your hair because you would suffer any fate to make us smile. I remember bringing home my first boyfriend, your jokes about buying a shotgun to ward the other boys off. I remember when you told me after every episode of American Idol that I should audition. That it would be our claim to fame. I also remember barely making the deadline to vote in the Bush / Kerry election.

At 18 I was still full of angst and registered independent, something I have not changed on my voter’s registration to this day to many of my die-hard Democrat friends’ disdain when primaries roll around. Maybe I was a touch absent minded, forgetting every year to take care of it so I could cast an early vote. Maybe I was holding on to what I saw as rebellious in my first year as an adult. I didn’t know much about your political views or my own at the time, but I knew I was different. I thought I was everyone with a less represented voice. “I am Latina and I am an independent woman,” is what I thought. “Don’t label me as a Democrat; I will label myself as an Independent.” I remember walking to my car having taken the day off from school to vote. I rolled the windows down and ran the A.C. before getting into the driver’s seat to replace the insufferable heat with coolant saturated air. The Florida sun is unforgiving. You stuck your head out of the front door and looked at me for a bit longer than you normally would and said, “If you vote for Kerry, do not bother coming home.” I desperately searched for a smirk, a smile in your eyes that was telling of a light hearted joke, a flash of a dad teasing his daughter.

But there was no light in your eye, no subtle raise of the corner of your mouth. It was then that I realized that there was always going to be a divide between us, an impossible to cross chasm of political difference and disproportionately prioritized values. I voted for Kerry. I still went home. And we never spoke of it again.

As of 2016 we have survived two more elections. We have no battle scars to show from your small jabs about Obama’s birth certificate in 2008 or my backhanded comments about George Bush’s idiocy being a virus that spread to his supporters. I cringed but did not engage you when you called Obama a communist and likened him to Hugo Chavez who had turned Venezuela, your beautiful home, inside out. In 2008 I had already fled the nest for what I believed at the time to be the most liberal and liberating city in America. I voted for Obama and despite his win tumbling you into a fleeting bout of depression, you came for Christmas with mom and sister, the same smile you had in 2006 when Bush was still in office. We broke bread, exchanged gifts and said I love yous, appreciating the cool, calm breeze that shifts the air after a torrential downpour.

The 2012 election was truly Deja Vu. We were both bumbling Bill Murrays trying to do something differently and essentially suffering the same fates. During a year long Groundhog’s Day we made the same jabs, texted each other the same insulting propaganda videos, you suffered the same fleeting depression and in December, you came for Christmas and we said the same I love yous. We broke bread.

Dearest Dad, I am not writing you this letter to change your mind about your vote in 2016. I am not writing this to sway you, to convince you that Hillary Clinton is the better choice. That is not my goal, because I know that is impossible, just as impossible as an attempt from your end to get me to vote for Donald Trump. I am writing you this letter to tell you how heart broken I am that you have made this choice. Not because I am a broke student pursuing a PhD in a field that is not exactly lucrative. Not because I rent an overpriced apartment in the Upper East Side that I struggle to afford. Not because I fear I will never be the one percenter that you have “pulled yourself up by your boot straps” to become, an immigrant Latino with no college education who built a multi-million dollar corporation from the ground up with his bare hands. Before I continue this letter to you, I must tell you that I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you for hiring the sort of men that deserve a second chance, that no one else would ever employ. My heart swells when I think of the blood you shed to put food on our table, to put a roof over our heads.

But all of that seems to lose its spark in the shadow of your support for Donald Trump.

You see Dad, it seems you have forgotten that you have two daughters and a wife. And it seems you have closed your eyes to Donald Trump’s violent misogyny. Donald Trump is a man who calls women he does not like ‘fat pigs’, ‘slobs’, ‘dogs’ and ‘disgusting animals’ because he doesn’t “have the time for total political correctness.” Donald Trump is a man who said via twitter in April of last year that sexual harassment in the military is totally expected, because “What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?” Why would anyone expect women in the military to feel safe, right? As a Trump supporter who honored his country and served his time in the U.S. Navy, I’m sure you agree, right dad? Because if I had chosen to follow in your footsteps and serve my country too, well sexual harassment is just part of the package. And according to Trump, what am I but an aesthetically pleasing object? Where would I be without my sex appeal? Assuming I have any at all?

According to Donald Trump, I would be nowhere. Trump, were he to see my tattoos, my average curves, my collection of mumus and my facebook chat history full of Hillary praise, would see me on the same level as all of the other women he hates. Would I be a Bette Midler? Would he find my “ugly face and body” offensive the way he finds hers? It is possible you would read all of this and assume your eldest daughter is too sensitive. Too soft. That she should let body shaming roll off her back. That this is the change Mr. Trump is making. Donald Trump, you may argue to me, is making women strong again by forcing them to suffer insult after insult and grin and bear it. You may think, Dad, that the reason both of your daughters spent time in the hospital with eating disorders 15 years apart has nothing at all to do with insecurity or issues with lack of control in our lives because of our gender and the amount of pressure placed on a young woman from birth until the very end. No. That isn’t why. That isn’t why Alicia Machado, the Venezuelan Beauty Queen, ended up with an eating disorder either, is it? It wasn’t because Donald Trump told her, and told the media, that she was fat, a “Miss Piggy”. She was a person who “really really liked to eat.” According to Trump, an eating machine! No. It couldn’t be anything external. It is internal. We are just much too sensitive, aren’t we Dad?

And what about the rest of it? What about Trump’s slip up inference to engaging in sexual relations with his own daughter? I raise the question of how you would feel if at Christmas dinner your own brother stood up and said of my sister, “If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her uncle…If I weren’t married I’d perhaps be dating her.” If your own flesh said this of your daughter deep down in the pit of your stomach I know it would make you ill. I know you dad, and you would go to the ends of the earth to protect the dignity of your youngest daughter because you are a good man. This is why I still cannot understand how you feel so confident in your support for Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a man who would strip women, your wife and your two girls, of our rights to affordable healthcare. Just because you can provide healthcare to Mom and my sister, just because Mom no longer needs birth control and you would forever deny the fact that my sister could probably put it to good use in her first semester of college, that doesn’t cover everyone in your familial vicinity. There is still me who, at 30, takes care of myself. My life has been an uphill battle, ever independent and always doing whatever I could to survive on my own. And here I am, my back bent by the weight of the patriarchy; I have made it as far as a woman can make it on 73% of a white man’s income, working the same backbreaking hours, having the same education. So why not bring a man into office who will roll me back down the hill I have suffered to climb my entire life? After all, rolling downhill seems so much easier than crawling up it.

But it is not just us you are neglecting, dad. It is not just us you are throwing into a fire fueled by sexism and inequality. You have also forgotten your mother who is on Medicare. When Donald Trump rolled onto the scene he promised no cuts for medicare and medicaid. But just a few months ago he endorsed house speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to gut both. Did you know that I have Obamacare, dad? And that everyday I take a life saving medication I would not be able to afford without it? And abuela, your mother, what will she do when Medicare is no longer an option for her? What will she do when the monster that is Donald Trump takes it away? Because isn’t she just another immigrant abusing the system, stealing what is ours, naturalised or not? But wait. According to Donald Trump, none of this, any of it, belongs to you.

I have to ask you, Dad, will you care for us all? Will you feed us, clothe us, pay for the things we need to live that Donald Trump has taken from us? Or will you forget us the way Donald Trump has forgotten us, watching us flounder in his wake.

My biggest fear, Dad, is that by supporting a man who so nonchalantly insults women, a man who believes us below men, believes us to be bottom feeders, I fear that in time you will come to share his sentiment. Because when Donald Trump strips us of our rights, when a Trump presidency pushes me to a place where I am forced to need you, am I not just the “gold digger” all women are in Mr. Trump’s eyes? But why suffer to the point of needing your help. I don’t really need healthcare, I don’t really need medication, right? Because what am I worth anyway?

As a note, I hope you did not give mom access to any financial assets because, as Donald Trump suggests, you can’t even trust your own wife. And what a wonderful thing that you and mom were never able to have a second child because, according to Donald Trump, pregnancy is an “inconvenience for employers”, and mom was employed by the Miami Dade Police Department at the time. What would we have done when her pregnancy inconvenienced the entire department? It doesn’t matter, does it, because like Donald Trump you seem to easily forget the things you have done when someone moves to contest them.

According to Trump, you cannot trust your immigrant friends either. How does it make you feel when Donald Trump insults immigrants? When he insults the Hispanic community? When he infers that Mexicans are rapists and that because you live in a hispanic community in not-the-safest part of Florida, that you live in “hell?” Do you take a hit to your own pride because you are proud to be a mix of Venezuelan and Cuban? And did your heart break for the African American men you employ when Donald Trump relayed that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization? I mean, you can just replace your ethnic employees with white men, right? Because they will most definitely respect you the way Donald Trump respects you and your fellow immigrants, won’t they? I am saddened that your priorities don’t include much more than the money your company is worth, your salary that has placed you well into the category of 1%. But Donald Trump is notorious for scamming small businesses, whether you choose to accept this or not. But I guess that doesn’t matter to you now that you are worth millions of dollars. Isn’t it nice to look back at where you came from, struggling through so many failed business ventures, and choosing to forget how hard that was? For you and for us? Yes. Forgetting must be so nice. You made it! Forget those following in your footsteps! And somehow still sleep well at night.

Another question I have to ask you, Dad (and would you like me to apologize for my excess of inquiries, as women should not inquire so much, should they?). What about my Iranian in-laws? I can only assume you think them terrorists. I can only assume you fear them the way Donald Trump does, the way he implores us to fear them. Do you secretly hope that when they fly home to Tehran to visit their family that they won’t be able to get back into the country? I mean, what if they are the few bad Skittles in the bowl that Trump, Jr. warned us about? I guess they are not worth the risk.

My dearest Dad, over the last three decades we have had our ups and downs. I like to think the good times have always overshadowed the bad times. I can’t help but feel I am somehow indebted to you for everything you have given us, for helping to shape me into the strong woman I am, even if it is because I spent so much of our time together deflecting the hurtful and unnecessary verbal punches you threw at me when we didn’t agree. Not unlike Donald Trump.

Between your love and Mom’s I have become a person I feel I can be proud of, an accomplished and educated minority destined to be a force in my field. But if Donald Trump wins the election in November of 2016, it is not him who takes away everything I have fought so hard to attain. It is you. You are the cold blooded killer of the rights women have fought for for as long as we can remember. It is you who will rob millions of young women of the respect they deserve, the future they deserve, and the feeling of safety we are barely clinging to now. It is you and only you who will give your daughters the gift of an impossible uphill climb, a bleak future stuck to the bottom of some man’s shoe. And you will cut the chord that has connected us for so very long. I must pose this question to you Dad, because it is really and truly the only thing I want an answer to: Do you really care about someone who is nakedly contemptuous of you and what you have accomplished more than you care about your own daughters?

When I was 14 years old, there was a moment when I made you so angry you told me that you hated me. In the whirlwind of my teenage years I may or may not have been insufferable. I never once considered that you might have meant it because the apologetic hug you gave me in what I’m sure was a wave of guilt cancelled out the pain. That moment has always lived in the very back of my mind, deafening in its quietness. Knowing that you are voting for Trump, I can only assume that what you said half a lifetime ago was true.

It is possible you don’t entirely hate me, maybe it isn’t personal. Maybe you just have a complete disregard for women. This idea has crossed my mind when I am grasping at straws, when I am desperate and pained. But your current actions speak louder than 16 year old apologetic hugs, and I am so heartbroken you have chosen a racist, sexist monster over every woman in your life. If Donald Trump wins this election, then what you said to me so many years ago, when you looked me in my eyes and told me you hated me, maybe it is true. And I will just have to grin and bear it, won’t I dad? I thank you for the gift of life, but reject your gift to me, to women everywhere, of the most sexist candidate the free world has ever seen.

Maybe this election year, Dad, this potentially devastating Christmas, when we break bread, it will be in silence.


Your eldest and seemingly forgotten daughter


  1. Cat, I am sure that is a worthy letter and good to read through, but just tonight I am not up to it. I am sure you will understand. When I heard that today the Electoral College voted for DT, I thought, "What the heck good are they if they can't do what the Founders intended?!" Then, when I heard that the Russian Ambassador had been assassinated today, I shivered and thought of the Archduke Ferdinand. Then I heard that Russia is suggesting it was planned by the UN and Western interests. God be with us. May sanity come back into fashion soon.

    I feel like all that is holy and wise and good is going underground again, as has happened so many times in history. Let's protect the Prayer Book and the icons and the deep down loving goodness. Let's be secret conduits for God/Love/Goodness.

  2. Note: Find a copy of Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It is vital reading for this time we are in.

    1. Forgive me, Listener. To each her own, but I don't think a children's book is what I need right now.

    2. You are free to not read the book, Cat. But why call it simply "a children's book"? It is a novel and it is the 8th in the Anne of Green Gables series, yes. However, while it is deliberately a novel, it is taken from the journals that the author kept during WWI. As such, it is an historical novel and perfectly accurate in timing and event. Moreover, it gives a rare look at what the general public (including women in Canada) thought of our government at the time, especially when it took the USA so long to get involved. The conversations in the book, about leadership and tyrants and the consequences of power run amok are what made me recommend it for this time we are in.

    3. "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” ~ Madeleine L'Engle

  3. Now I know why "May you live in interesting times" is a curse.