The cashier helping me was Hispanic. I was in a national chain department store, picking up a couple of things for the grandboys. It should have been an easy, carefree moment. Routine, even.
The tall man standing behind me was dressed in military fatigues, a pretty unusual site in this area of Washington State where there are no military bases, no National Guard Armory. It made me wonder for a moment if perhaps he wasn’t one of those “fakers”, you know men who dress in military gear hoping for a discount, even though they’ve never served. It happens. Why else would a man be out shopping in the kids department of a chain store on the middle of the day in a town known more for its retirement community than its military presence? Seemed unusual to me.
But there I was, waiting for the sweet dark-haired gal behind the counter to finish my transaction when the white man with blonde hair calls out to the young girl he’s carrying: “Who’s your president?”
Because, you know, what parent doesn’t ask a five or six-year old that on a daily basis in public places?
The girl answered, dutifully, “Trump.”
But apparently the man didn’t think she said it loud enough for the Hispanic clerk to hear her, so he repeated his question again, only louder: “Who’s your president?”
“Donald Trump,” the young girl answered with more conviction this time, hoping to please the man asking.
This time the Hispanic girl heard it.
“I have a niece,” she said. “Whenever we ask her who the president is she replies, ‘Trumpet.’ That’s what she calls him. “Trumpet.'” She smiled uneasily as she said this.
This exchange took place less than an hour after I stopped by the Starbucks at the local Fred Meyer for a drink. As I stood in line with my daughter and my grandson, a man wearing an Army cap and an Army fatigue jacket approached us with a cart full of cookies, some half-eaten, and donuts. “Can I give the boy one?” he asked. We declined as the boy had just had a donut that the kindly neighbor lady brought over this morning. We thanked the man, thinking that would be the end of the conversation.
“We love women,” he said. He nodded back to a large gathering of retirees sitting around several tables.
We didn’t respond.
“Some think we don’t love women but we are the kind that love women,” he said. “Donald Trump he loves women. He pays them well. He’s always hired women and paid them well.”
I had to nearly bite my tongue in half to keep from pointing out what Donald Trump paid women well to perform. My daughter was holding her breath, hoping that her mother didn’t completely unload on this man who had no idea who he was trying to bait into a discussion.
I turned away from the man in the Army cap. It was all I could do.
When the incident happened in the department store later, I was so shaken I didn’t say a word. Not to the Hispanic girl or the man in the military fatigues.
It was obvious that the man asking the little girl to announce who her president was did so to intimidate the young girl at the counter.
And this is how Trump’s America is shaping up.
White men emboldened to intimidate and marginalize women.
The way Mitch McConnell did Senator Elizabeth Warren.
If this is making America great again, then count me out. I have never been more embarrassed to be an American than I am in Trump’s America.
I want to apologize to the world for this man.
And for all the white men standing behind him cheering him on.
My heart is heavy for my grandsons.
And for all those granddaughters out there.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY (Mercer University Press) and the forthcoming CHRISTIAN BEND (MUP).