In the biblical rhetoric often favoured by Republican America, the name Eden denotes a paradise.
It’s a calm in the chaos. It’s the starting point before corruption sinks in. How apt then, that Eden was the name of a little girl at a Donald Trump rally — in April in New York.
I know this because, that day, I stood beside her for hours. I spoke with her mother. I learned about her Mexican father, and worried for her safety in a crowd polarized against her heritage.
See, out of morbid interest and genuine inability to understand, four members of The Journal staff piled into a car that day. Music blaring, we drove to the Gananoque border bright and early, looking to the open road while we chatted about our confusion.
How could a man with the political awareness of a confused toddler draw out crowds of supporters in the thousands? How could anyone believe in a platform we couldn’t even unscramble?
The natural consequence was to visit one of Trump’s events and do what we’d come to know best over a year as student journalists — ask questions and look for answers. To try not to villainize, but to understand. And we learnt a lot that day, about fear and promises.
But when I look back, I keep thinking about Eden.
The aftermath of the American vote hit everyone, especially those who Trump targeted. People of colour, those with physical or mental disabilities, immigrants, the queer community — the anger brewing is palpable. On the Queen’s campus, divided by an international border, the anxiety still holds strong.
And I can’t speak for everyone. But I can speak for myself, as a woman.
Since I was very little, I was privileged with a spectacular education. I learned in a single-gender school, where I was taught that an unshakeable grit and careful study makes any hurdle surmountable. Regardless of my gender, or even because of it.
I was taught that my body was autonomous, that no one should ever grab where they don’t have explicit permission. As I grew older, filling out my application to Queen’s, I was told repetitively that my uterus was under the jurisdiction of my own conscience.
All of these lessons were shaken watching Trump overtake Clinton in the election this week.
Besides the obvious lesson — that a woman with a lifetime of experience and preparation can be surpassed by a reality TV mogul with a microphone preaching hate and fear — the decision is rattling.
Nearly half of our neighbouring nation has endorsed a man who proudly claimed to grab women by the genitals. And I’m saddened — not only for the American citizens feeling unsafe, but for the education that this verdict will now mean for kids like Eden.
It’s now our responsibility as Canadians to take a lesson from our American counterparts, and to pay more attention to the messages our girls hear — and the lessons they learn.
We can’t rest on the laurels of Justin Trudeau’s self-labelled feminism, or the presence of female political figures like Elizabeth May. We are not immune to sexism or misogyny in the true North, and to ignore either of them is to condone their presence.
On that day in April, a young man was spurred on by Trump’s rhetoric, and screamed ‘Mexicans are rapists!’ within Eden’s earshot. It’s likely at less than two years old that she isn’t yet conscious of her Latina heritage. It’s my sincere hope that she’s unaware of rape as well.
But this is what a little girl can hear. And what she hears, she learns.
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