Sarah R. Callender

Sister

In General on January 20, 2017 at 9:32 am

An Open Letter to a Working Class White Woman

Dear Woman,

I don’t know who you voted for, but data suggests you voted for Trump. Data suggests that I, living in the blue-leaning bubble of Seattle, darkened the Hillary circle on my ballot. But none of that matters. The election is over. I truly hope the next four years will abound in American Greatness, but I don’t know what that will look like or how we will get there. I certainly don’t know how we can get there together.

Because I don’t know you.

True, we’re white women, you and I. We are mothers and daughters, aunts and sisters, grandmothers and granddaughters. We were both raised in dysfunctional families by imperfect parents, grandparents and caregivers. We, you and I, want love, stability and success, however that may be defined. We both care about our children and will fiercely defend them, sometimes to a fault. We want access to quality education and meaningful work where we can earn a decent salary. Regardless of whether you and I plant ourselves in church pews on Sundays, we both do our best to love our neighbors. We value loyalty and nature and family. Both you and I are still heartbroken by September 11th. We are both horrified by elementary school shootings. We both wish we had more vacation time. You and I observe our own bodies, amazed, as our knees creak, our tushes sag, and our hands resemble the hands of our mothers and grandmothers. We both like to laugh and feel beautiful. Sometimes we wish we were more beautiful. We both hate feeling misunderstood.

But we don’t see those similarities because we don’t ever cross paths. How would we? Why would we? Just the idea of it tires me. Where would we meet up? What would we talk about? And after a single, uncomfortable conversation over a cup of coffee or an ice cream cone, what would happen next?

Anyway, it’s much easier and more fun to focus on our perceived differences. We urban bubble-dwellers think you don’t care about helping others. You think we liberals don’t care about Constitutional rights, Made-in-America or the beauty of sweating on the job. We see you as drinkers of cheap beer. You see us as sippers of four dollar lattes. We think you don’t want anything to do with immigrants. You think we don’t want anything to do with white working class people.

On that last assumption, you may be right. But I don’t want you to be right.

So here I am: A former high school teacher, I now am a self-employed writer. I have two children, and most days, I feel ill-equipped to parent as well as I wish I could. I love God, and I struggle every day to be what He calls me to be. I have a loving and imperfect marriage. I curse too often. Guns scare me, though I have no interest in taking yours away. I worry about my kids’ future, and I worry about cancer, and I worry about how technology is changing us into people who are uncomfortable connecting in authentic ways. I love my dog. I love democracy. I love nachos with that bright orange cheese. I love America.

You might love, value, question and fear those things too. I don’t know you, but I’d like to.

Hillary Clinton, the candidate I voted for, called you deplorable. Others have called you ignorant. Some have called you stupid, foolish, naïve, gullible. Those words come from a place of fear. Those words are not OK.

I am fearful too. I worry about how the next four years, and years beyond, will impact those who live lives more fragile than my own. But you are not deplorable. You are not stupid or ignorant, naïve or gullible. You are my sister.

And I’d like to get to know you.

Sincerely,

A Middle Class White Woman

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  1. The ‘deplorables’ comment was Hillary’s only misstep that I’m sure she regretted. In frustration.

    But I want ALL Americans to have healthcare, to have good schools for their children, to be able to live where they want, go to church or not as they see fit, and I see it being very difficult in some places.

    I think there is enough for all of us. I don’t want to be super rich and have far more than a decent share. I want kids in the midwest AND in California to have opportunities, to love family, to have a decent life.

    I include the disabled (often ignored), women, people of every shade, and everyone who came here from somewhere else to pursue a better life in that ‘ALL.’

    I also expect everyone to keep trying – as long as they can.

  2. O Sister! My Sisters!

    Well said, as always, Sarah. As I live and breathe in the red state of Missouri, I feel your pain. As a matter of fact, I live it. I am a semi-educated (formerly), middle-class mother of three young adults, wife of a commercial artist, a “working” woman (whatever that means), and a die-hard progressive liberal. My attempts to move our family to a more progressive thinking community have been thwarted at every turn for too many years to count. I’ll not feel settled until we find *Our People*.

    That said, there’s only so much misery I can stand. It dawned on me as we slumped in the doorway, wallowing really, in The Long Good-bye to our first born when he left home for college, and as our eyes turned to our two younger teens standing there with their feet and elbows out of the door, like they were playing a round of the Hokey Pokey, that IT indeed was coming. Oh, yes! We would too soon be those Empty Nesters, no longer finding our contentment in our Little Ones as they grew into Little Me’s. Suddenly, community, outside of the Little League ball fields and our local High School haunts, became much more significant. My heart felt the twinge of being left behind somehow. There was no question. I knew how we’d gotten here. Even John Lennon knew it. “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Am I right?

    I had been looking for someone to talk philosophy with from our lawn chairs, all of us lined up at the edge of the football, baseball, soccer and track fields; as well as those halls of the Science Olympiads, DECCA competitions, and our school Honor Awards Nights. Our family was not only accepted into these parent groups, but we often brought the party with us to these gatherings. And yet, it still became obvious that I was, again, the odd man out when it came to my political opinions. I fell back onto those two or three friends I’d made when we first moved into this small, rural town in the mid-west. A hodge-podge of sisters!

    And here’s where my feelings of hopelessness turned into something more like… well, Hope.

    A Paralegal, an Insurance Agent, a Homemaker/Writer, and a woman without an identity of her own outside of her husband.

    A Catholic, a Baptist, an Agnostic, and a woman without an identity of her own outside of her husband.

    A Republican, a Democrat, a Progressive Liberal, and… a woman without an identity of her own outside of her husband.

    A Mother, another mother, yet another mother, and… a mother without an identity of her own outside of her husband.

    Four women. Living their lives while they’re busy making other plans. All of them still learning about WHO they are, WHO they were, and WHO they think they want to be.

    I may be still on my way to somewhere “better”. I may never find myself living next door to “My People”, but until I find them, or they find me… I have hope that HERE IN THIS PLACE with those I am with today, they will continue to learn something from me, and I will continue to learn something from them.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

    Perhaps what’s more important is that we continue to share our ideas, our stories, our fears… with those who see the world differently. For, if not us, then who will?

    Love!

  3. I think it’s a lovely gesture. I do feel that getting to know each other will help mend the divide. My husband posted today that he hopes each person can get their news from both sides. If you listen to CNN, try to listen to Fox sometimes. If you read Huff Post also read RedState. We might find that sometimes we are wrong.
    For my part, I’ve chosen to fight and work towards healing. Something every day.
    Cheers–Vro

  4. Beautifully written. I hope you and Jeff are doing well. Kathy Albrecht McKenzie

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. Well stated, and sadly still needed seven weeks after…what a world…thanks for voicing many of my thoughts and concerns!

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