On Thursday I received an email from the principal of my daughters’ school. This email was sent to all parents in order to reassure us – and, by extension, our children – that we should not be afraid of clowns. Although reports of clown threats and suspicious clown sightings across the country had been whipping our nation’s population (especially its younger members) into a frenzy of fear, our principal dismissed the uproar as a hoax. No threats, he went on to say, had been made against any school in our district.
Then on Friday, the news broke that Donald Trump, the Republican Presidential candidate, had been recorded on a 2005 videotape speaking about women in shockingly offensive terms and laughingly boasting about making unwanted sexual advances.
As a parent, as a citizen, as a human, what do I do with these things? How do I explain to my young daughters that they don’t need to fear clowns, but the real danger is simmering underneath the surface of our country? That the scary clowns aren’t the ones in white face paint and red noses, but are instead running for the highest elected office in our land? That I am bequeathing them a country in which power continues to rest unequally with the white, the male, and the rich, and where this power is defined too often as, “You can do anything you want?”
The question running through my head throughout that weekend was: What is happening to my country? This question was followed closely by: What even IS my country, and was it ever mine to begin with?