Veteran’s Day 2016

by jkatejohnston

Dear Max,

I’ve been writing about this horror show mostly in terms of, what will this do to the morale of girls? How do we explain this to the children?

Fuck the children. They’re fine. How do we explain this to ourselves? (It’s easy to get sanctimonious about kids. But they’re just people, only worse.)

I talked and emailed briefly about the election with two Trump voters, just to establish human contact. They’re both white women that I like—one is my paralegal and the other is one of my grandma’s pals. You can’t just divorce half the country, right? But it felt false. When they go low, you go fake. But it can’t be right to say that someone casting a ballot is going low. Voting is never going low, is it?

The falseness and brevity of those conversations felt a little bit like something that happened last Saturday, back when we only knew half the bad news. (We already knew that a very large proportion of the population was mild-to-severely racist, but we still thought that wasn’t enough to win an election.)

Anyway, last Saturday Enzo and I went to a fish pond on private land. You pay to fish there, and the old man who took our money told us, friendly as pie, about a troop of boy scouts who were planning to come to the pond. He explained how the boy scouts couldn’t go fishing at the river because of all those people who hang around down there. And I just smiled and gave him the money, and I didn’t even feel shitty and false about it until a few minutes later when I understood what he was saying.

Why is it so hard to say, “Those people? What people?” It’s that old habit of pleasing. I could have at least told him that Enzo and I have been fishing at the river almost every weekend this fall, with mostly black and brown people because we’re usually on the Rancho Cordova side, not the Fair Oaks side, and we didn’t find ourselves polluted by it. (Rivers separate neighborhoods by class, income and race even more effectively than freeways do.) But I never think of these things until it’s too late.


I want to say something that requires a whole different feeling. It can’t be said in the same breath as what came before. Today is Veteran’s Day. And Captain Humayun Khan is dead. That was their boy.

How dare we? How could we?