The other day my co-worker Layla (name changed to protect her privacy), gifted me some homemade falafel mix. If you’ve ever made falafel from scratch, you know this is quite a present. Falafel from dried fava beans is a lot of work. I was definitely touched by this gesture.
Layla is Egyptian, and as the only two MENAs (Middle Eastern North Africans) in an Anglo-Saxon work environment, we’d bonded over food. As we followed the children we were tasked with protecting around the halls and fields of the school, we talked about recipes, ways to preserve the excess mint and cucumbers in our gardens, and what stores we favored: Super Jordan, Patel Brothers, or Maharaja Farmers Market. When a recently immigrated relative of hers was applying for jobs, I looked over the resume and corrected the English. We complained about our husbands and kids like all moms; she invited me to a festival at her church.
Unfortunately, our relationship became awkward after November 8th. You see, even though Layla is Egyptian, she voted for DJT. The day after the election, she was all smiles and I was shell-shocked. We had a weird exchange. I’d made the assumption that, as a Middle Eastern person, she wouldn’t go for him.
I had this strange experience again with another woman friend. My across-the-street neighbor is a single mom with three daughters. Let’s call her Nataly. She’s an immigrant from Peru, and over the years I’ve given her kids rides to school (she used to leave even earlier than me for work), and we’ve had coffee together. Lately, we’re both so busy we only meet when we are gardening in our front yards, or as it happened after the inauguration, when we are both in the street shoveling snow. I was wearing my pink Women’s March knit hat, and I proudly said, “I went to the Women’s March!” Nataly replied, “Oh, I went to the March for Life.”
Again, cognitive disconnect. I’d made the assumption that as a Latina immigrant, she wouldn’t go for DJT.
I was trying to figure this out with my husband. The two groups DJT demonizes the most are Middle Eastern people and South/Central Americans. And he disrespects women. Yet these women voted for him.
“I guess they’e one-issue voters,” my husband said. Of course he meant abortion.
I think he may be right. Both women are some form of Catholic. But I think there’s something else. Lately I have been reading about how people who vote conservative really do think differently than people who vote liberal/progressive. These women both come from traditional patriarchal cultures. (As it has been pointed out over and over, DJT is patriarchy on steroids.) They may be more able to tolerate a blow-hard misogynist like DJT as a result.
I could resent the way DJT has inserted himself into every aspect of my life. Even my friendships are tainted by him. Or I could be the better woman and value these women even as I disagree with them. After all, we are going to have to keep living with each other. It is better to share falafel and coffee, to shovel snow and follow children and share rides, than to argue. I will not be able to change their minds with anything I say. But maybe I can be a powerful example of a life lived as feminist. Maybe they will eventually see the error of their votes through no action of mine. Maybe it is the friendships of women that will heal the country when this nightmare ends–and it will, as all nightmares do.