I came to Target to buy canned peaches. I stayed for a slice of political pie.
"I'm getting a job to make bricks for the wall," the stranger told me.
Last night I went to Target with my daughter to pick up (what else) canned peaches and a couple of baking ingredients for my first Impeach Pie. The universe works in funny ways.
The man ahead of me in line, a nearly-dressed older gentleman with caramel skin, salt-and-pepper hair and Warby Parker-esque glasses, started chatting with me. And what he said was shocking.
"I'm 62 years old and I've been a tailor my whole life. I'm ready for a change. I'm gonna get a job making bricks to build the wall," he told me, unsolicited, his voice inflected with a foreign accent.
"I'm gonna get a job making bricks for the wall," the man told me.
"The...wall?" I asked, a little distracted. My 6-year-old daughter was in the cart, grabbing for some gum as I started putting groceries on the conveyer. The line was getting longer.
"The wall around Mexico that Donald Trump is building."
Now he had my full attention. Was he testing to see if I was racist? Was he joking?
"You're being sarcastic, right?" I laughed a little, attempting to signal that I was not on the side of PresiDON'T-Elect Trump.
But nope. Nope. He was dead serious.
"You have an accent, so you probably...weren't born here," I fished, trying to be polite but not cowardly. I wished I hadn't engaged, but the journalist in me also wanted to understand. "How on earth can you support that idea?"
"I'm an immigrant," he answered. "Not an invader. I have papers. My mother brought me here legally from The Dominican Republic. THOSE people aren't real immigrants and that's why we need a wall."
"I'm an immigrant," he said. "Not an invader."
I went on to splutter things about being Jewish and having family who escaped the Nazis...how could he believe Donald Trump cared about his people...did he really think...
"You'll see," he said in that calm and knowing way—the tone used by a law-and-order type who gives absolute faith to their leader. "Donald Trump is a classy guy. His son-in-law is Jewish. I have two daughters in their thirties. I'm older now and I see things differently. You'll see. He's gonna be good for this country."
Oh my God. Sir, you are my father.
You see, my dad is an immigrant too. A Sephardic Jewish immigrant from Israel, who moved to Detroit when my mother was pregnant with me and my twin sister. My dad spent 25 years as a landscaper, driving around Michigan in a pickup truck filled with tools, working in people's yards. I worked with him well into my 20s. My dad has olive skin and salt-and-pepper hair, too. And he's been regularly mistaken for Mexican or some other where-are-your-from ethnicity in Detroit.
My dad, who encouraged me and my two sisters to be educated, strong, independent and entrepreneurial. To be self-sufficient in every way and never to be dependent on a man, including him. (Oh God, does this make me Ivanka? Must. Go. Process.)
The dissociation from "those people" is something I know very well, because I grew up witnessing it. My dad, like this man at Target, is a person who thinks that stigmas and stereotypes don't apply to him. He's "good." He's "different." He "works hard and follows the law."
He sees himself as an educated and law-abiding American. He's one credit shy of having a Masters degree. He owns his home and some Proctor & Gamble stock, watches Fox News and subscribes to The Wall Street Journal. He ACTS and THINKS like the patriarchal leadership that's overtaken the country again...and therefore believes he is fully one of them.
Here's a newsflash, for all the law-and-order types who think being a "good" immigrant protects you: Racial and ethnic profiling NEVER takes your individuality into account.
And I GET why people want to dissociate from stereotypes. We don't want that shit on us. We want to be seen for our merits, not shamed and silenced and thrown into the discard pile to be shipped off to the Land of the Misfit Toys. As one of a handful of Jews in my suburban Detroit school district, I was harassed and even attacked for having a "big nose" throughout my childhood. I went blonde as soon as I could get my hands on a box of Clairol Nice 'n Easy and haven't gone back since.
So I can get the dangerous mindset my father and this Target(ted) man share. They want to fit in. They want to believe in AMERICA, the haven and land of opportunity.
If your safety net isn't safe for you anymore, then your entire worldview gets destroyed.
The notion that this country really wants the "tired, poor and weak" washing up on its shores is Statue of Liberty lip service now. My dad grew up on a kibbutz in Israel. His family was dirt poor. His mother died while he was an infant and his father was the town drunk. At a frighteningly young age (four or five), he was sent away alone to live on a kibbutz while his relatives stayed in the slum district outside of Tel Aviv. He was the only person in his family to go to university.
Poverty was like a toxic sludge my dad wanted to cleanse from himself. Who could blame him?
But where my dad went wrong is by turning against the poor, not poverty.
He separates the world into "us" and "them" and identifies with the might-makes-right power grabbes (and pussy grabbers) like Trump and Pence and any hardline military type who wants to wipe out "the enemy." He hates the nearby "ghetto" of Detroit, which reminds him of his past. (It drives him crazy that my mother is an outspoken activist there, but thank God at least one of my parents shares my values.)
My dad despises government assistance and "handouts," insisting that he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and downplaying the support he received from his in-laws when he first moved to America. He thinks people on welfare are ruining the economy and uses the term "Obamanation," sending me spinning into one of the countless blood-boiling rages he has triggered my entire life.
On a good day? On a good day I can see him as a hardworking, idiosyncratic provider who is deeply flawed. And...he's my father, which forces me to constantly negotiate which parts of him I want to inherit (the work ethic) and which I reject on principle (racism, victim blaming, self-hate masquerading as superiority).
Wow. I think I just had an Ivanka Moment.
"He's a hardworking, idiosyncratic provider who is deeply flawed—and also my father. I think I just had an Ivanka moment."
My husband is also awash in some of these delusions. I married a Dutch-Indonesian man with deep brown skin who is "ethnically ambiguous." When I met him in New York City, I thought he might be either South American or from India. To my surprise, he was 100 percent European, born and raised in The Netherlands.
But in Holland, the Indonesians—who couldn't look more different than their towering and sturdy blond neighbors—live completely integrated and accepted in the Netherlands culture. The "enemy" there is the Muslim population that's come from Turkey and Morocco.
My husband, who could easily be mistaken for a Muslim, Latino or North African in the United States, is shocked when people eye him curiously or even start speaking to him in Spanish.
After all, HE knows he's Dutch and European...so doesn't that make him immune to this anti-immigrant nonsense? As I remind him more than ever now, HELL NO.
Nobody on their way to commit a hate crime every stopped and thought, "Hmmm, maybe I'd better check this person's birth certificate or see if they have a green card before I unleash a senseless act of violence or deface their property."
So yeah. I was going to Target for peaches and butter and a toy for my daughter. I got #woke instead.
And I learned a few things about targets too. Namely: Now, it's more dangerous than ever to walk around in a bubble. We are all potential targets for hate crimes and the spread of mass cultural racism, a mindset that forms the building blocks for genocide. And THAT is why I'll do anything—even something as "frivolous" as preheating my oven and making pie—to stand against this.