ESSAY
Building a Wall: Trump and Familial Politics
Margaret Evelyn

There is a mosque down the street from my house. It hasn’t always been there; I don’t remember when they built it. I guess I could look it up. Post 9/11. Small furor, but it subsided quickly. Now it is just there, and not much attention is paid to it. 

My mother shudders—visibly—when she drives by it. It makes her uncomfortable. Why? Who knows. She is one of those hypocritical Christians: church every Sunday, says the rosary at the nursing home in my city, sitting with the elderly, every Wednesday. Judge not, yet ye be judged. Maybe she can’t conceptualize that. She has always been judgmental, there has always been a cognitive dissonance when it comes to her idea of faith and actually acting upon that faith. 

My mother’s life mottos can be purchased on inspirational signs at craft stores. “Prayer: the Original Wi-Fi”, “Home is Where Your Story Begins”. She buys them and hangs them up, but never has the willpower to live according to the script. Or scripture. I point out her hypocrisies, she asks me what I know of the Bible. “How do you know?” has been the theme of my entire life. Well, I read the Bible, multiple times. I know because I know. Because she had impressed upon me, my entire life, that being educated was important, was something you should strive to be.

Because she punishes me every day for being smart. “You think you’re so smart.” Like an insult. 

* * * 

As I write this, I am preparing to move 3000 miles away. My parents, never able to handle my mental health issues, never happy with my life choices, ever infantilizing, have virtually disowned me. By the time this is published, if it is, I will be far away from them. But I have always been far away from them.

I was taught, growing up, to keep your politics to yourself. Who you vote for is your choice alone, and it was rude to ask after someone’s political leanings. When did this change? Maybe once social media became a thing—all your thoughts and opinions, however good or however bad, out there for the world to see. But my mother doesn’t use social media. She barely knows how to use a computer. So I am not sure when her views became everyone else’s cross to bear.

“I like Trump,” she says. I am sure you can guess what comes next: “He says what he thinks!”

“Funny,” I say, “you hate me for the same reason.”

Of course, everything Trump says is ridiculous. Racist. Pandering. 

“You think everything is racist.” 

Yes.

When you shudder as you drive by a mosque, when you say you feel bad that a woman at your grandson’s basketball game is wearing a hijab, you’re racist. 

“How do you know what that’s called?”

“A hijab? Well, I bothered to learn.” I turn, stone- faced, back to my son on the court. I turn back: “How do you know she isn’t proud of that? Her faith? Not everyone is CATHOLIC.”

I want to hit her every time I am near her. I chew Klonopin like I chew Big Red. She is oppressive, suffocating. 

My mother is the epitome of Trump’s target audience. She might as well be the wide-eyed, maniacal woman waving a small child in his face at a rally. She is under-educated, and as she grows older she refuses to challenge herself, think outside the box. She is a woman in a routine, going through each motion every day with shocking and mind-numbing normality: wake up, work, watch tv, bed. A person speaks Spanish in front of her, and it is the end of days. “Ladadadadadada,” she says quickly, imitating the quick patois of the Hispanic community that we live alongside. “Puerto Rican, of course,” she adds as a modifier to any story in which she is dissatisfied with whomever’s actions.  She is used to her white America, her Christian bubble, a world where you suffer through a job you hate just for benefits, never rock the boat, never complain. Never stand up for anything, even when it is right. Even when it is hard.

“You know that Trump is using you, right? Making you afraid? Just like Fox News—they’ve done studies—“

She does not want to hear it. “You think you’re so smart. How do you know that?”

I just know.    

* * * 

Food stamps are a disgrace she says to her daughter who relied on food stamps throughout graduate school. Obamacare is the worst she says to her daughter who has Mass Health for insurance. You need to get a real job she says to her daughter who works from home for three different companies. 

You will never be as successful as your brother.

The last time I tried to be close to my parents, it was my father’s birthday. We had a party at my house. I put a moratorium on politics for the night. No politics at my house. She rebuffed me. Said she could talk about whatever she wanted. “Not at my house” I said, going back to the chicken I was cooking. She berated me all night. When they left, I cried for hours. 

Trump wants women to be punished. He said that once, regarding Planned Parenthood, but I read about the multiple rape accusations and I believe in my heart that he is the type of person who wants all women punished, always. My mother wants to punish me, maybe subconsciously, but, at the very least, she doesn’t want to be accessible. 

Once when I was 14, screaming and wailing, I admit to her: I was raped.

“Well, that happens to everyone.”

Being a woman is punishment enough. 

* * * 

Strike that. The last time I tried to be close to my mother, I had just come back from a trip to California. I saw Salvation Mountain, grand testament to God and faith, gorgeous painted visage in the middle of nowhere. I am of little faith, but faith nonetheless—I thought I could never see anything more beautiful. I thought she would want to see the pictures, how gorgeous and religious an experience it was. 

She barely looked at my photos, opting instead to spend money on earrings on HSN— a weakness. Building a wall around herself. Me, building a wall around myself. Sealing myself behind that wall.

This was supposed to be more about her support of Trump, how it was the final nail in the coffin of our relationship. How I thought of all the nights I sat in my tub, sobbing because I will never have a normal mother/ daughter relationship with her, how after that trip to California, all those Trump conversations, I realized I had to let go. Thirty-four years old and finally letting go of the need for my parents’ approval, because I do not want the approval of bigots, of the willfully ignorant. How I will always love my father, my mother, but when I look at them I see no common belief system. Just hate. 

I have always been accused of being hateful, of being filled with negativity. You’re so angry all the time.

I am a product of my environment. I hate because I look at my mother and see nothing worth liking. I hate because I was raised to love, to be educated, but also to fit into a mold, to not act smart, to not speak up, to keep my head down. I was raised to love everyone, but now I see that just means love everyone who fits into a comfort zone: white and middle class at least, Christian, nothing else. It is as if they have forgotten everything they’ve taught me. 

I have to finish writing this. I have been putting off packing, sending boxes of my items to California, to the new life I have waiting for me. My mother sobbed when she was told I was leaving. My father was furious. I could not tell them face to face. I could not tell them I didn’t want them anymore. My mother said, “This is my fault.”

I have to pack. I have to apply for an absentee ballot. I have to write. I have things I’ve needed to do. I have to do them.


Margaret Evelyn is a pseudonym for a young lady who is not quite ready to burn all her familial bridges. She has published numerous essays and poetry, but you will have to figure it out yourself. She lives in California.