As Insurrection Unfolds, Child Cries Over Chicken
Cognitive dissonance at all-time high
I’m not sure what to say, in the context of this newsletter, to you, today. Ever since I woke up this morning, I’ve been spooked by normalcy—the normalcy of a day following a literal armed insurrection, a takeover of the halls of the Capitol by white supremacist groups incited by the current President of the United States, and a quasi-Constitutional debate over the admissibility of electoral votes to a purely ministerial Congress. Those debates only glancingly referenced a brief and failed coup attempt, a slight awkwardness that also characterized my totally normal meetings at my totally normal job today. What does normal feel like on the day after a coup? I drew a newspaper for my pre-literate child and tried to figure out what the headline should be, is what it feels like.
Last night, with dinner on the table and the tear gas in DC still lingering in the Capitol rotunda, Kina was crying. Laurea had made a delicious dinner of chicken and mushrooms in lettuce cups—a great distraction for cook and diners alike—and Kina’s lettuce was falling apart, to her evident dismay. I sat there watching the tears flow down her cheeks as my phone buzzed on the windowsill next to me, knowing that there was a lot to be sad about, in various chicken- and non-chicken-related areas, in the world. How much was our fear on her mind? Would she have burst into tears over a messy taco had democracy not been falling apart?
There are times when Kina’s sadness is indistinguishable from our own, but her sadness and mine are often at least distantly related. Often, I’m blue because she’s blue, or vice versa. At other times, we’re sad for different reasons and the whole house becomes a confusing maelstrom of rage and grief. It’s like that in marriage, too, but a kid can’t yet reason that somebody needs to step back from the brink if you want the bad vibes to go away. This means that you find yourself, as a parent, accepting that the only way to de-escalate is to let your petulant four-year-old weep over a floppy piece of lettuce while you take a deep breath and smile as the fascists take a stroll. It is surreal.
I found myself asking this morning what I would want to say to Kina about the riot yesterday, the tepid response to it by the same law enforcement groups that tear-gassed Black Lives Matter crowds simply standing in Lafayette Square just six months before, about the fact that this was unusual and scary, and how it made us feel. I watched her playing with Legos and thought, as I often do, “It’s my job not to tell her any of this.” We made a decision, once she got to be old enough to notice things, to let Kina live in a bubble of our own design, to shut our mouths and seal the bad world out. I don’t know how sustainable or righteous that is, but I swore I’d give it until Trump left office; I’m starting to wonder what that timeline looks like, and at what cost I’ve made that deal.
Before I sat down to write this tonight, I went to look for a past newsletter that talked about all the unusual and scary things I’ve had to pretend weren’t happening, and why it was important for me to maintain that emotional barrier between the world in this house and the world outside it. I’ve certainly thought a lot about that emotional barrier in the last ten months—it’s been tested on more occasions than I can count. I must have written about this. I searched all the terms I could think of: “denial”, “cry”, “shelter”, “pretend”. I couldn’t find anything, and I’ve written a hundred and ninety-five of these things. Maybe it’s not just Kina I’ve been keeping in the dark. Maybe you, too. Maybe me.
I hope you’re okay today and dealing with this dissonance in your own ways. We’re holding up fine, which is strange, but that’s the point. Kina enjoyed dinner and played with a friend. She had a totally normal day.