No weekend getaway to the States this year
Every few months, two of my best gal pals and I grab roomy duffel bags, jump in the car at daybreak on a Saturday morning and head south for 36 hours (give or take). Destination: Buffalo.
With all due respect to the City of Buffalo, the location is kind of irrelevant, other than it’s just away. But the ritual is almost always the same. McDonald’s breakfast to go, outlets on the other side of the Queenston-Lewiston bridge, head to our hotel near the Walden Galleria, kick back in the hotel room over snacks and wine we buy along the way. Eventually we’ll make our way to dinner somewhere, and more shopping, of course, but it’s the cocktail hour (s) we value most. And with each trip we’ll fine tune our itinerary to allow for more boozing and chatting time in the hotel. We’ve been doing this for years.
So why Buffalo? Because it’s close enough to home that we don’t have to think too much about travel. But being in the United States feels different. Different enough to create an oceans-wide chasm from our daily stressors. Because sometimes catching up over a dinner sandwiched between a long workday and responsibilities at home just doesn’t cut it. Because sometimes we need to completely remove ourselves from our reality to get grounded. The goal of the weekend is simply to have real quality time together. And to hit up Target, of course.
We knew our last trip to Buffalo might be our last for a long time. We didn’t know then what the outcome of the U.S. election would be or how it would affect us, but we acknowledged we might have good reason to not travel to the U.S. for a while.
And this weekend we made the call. Our next girls’ weekend will be in Canada. And while I get that it’s pointless to try to boycott the U.S. or to punish businesses of Americans who do not support Trump policies, that government’s recent ban on immigrants and travellers from predominantly Muslim countries is abhorrent. The rolling back of women’s reproductive rights, and the wall with Mexico are unthinkable. And the Trump administration’s refusal to acknowledge the murder of six million Jews in its statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, essentially aligning itself with Holocaust deniers everywhere, is pretty much what I’ve been taught to fear my whole life.
Sixty-three million people voted for Trump. So while I’m heartened that the protests against his recent executive orders have been swift, loud and angry, I keep going back to that number: 63 million. He is doing exactly what he said he would be doing (Holocaust statement aside), and 63 million people said “okey doke” and gave him their vote. Nearly half the country voted for a xenophobic, racist, misogynist for whatever reason they’ll admit to publicly. And if I can do one tiny thing, make one small, squeaky statement, it’ll be to not give them my hard-earned vacation money. Even if it means giving up Target.
As a Jew, daughter/granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, three mantras shaped my identity: Never again, never forget and those who were silent were as complicit as the perpetrators themselves. This is the lens through which I saw the world and no matter how much I try, I can’t shake it. Even today, even after decades immersed in wonderful, genuine friendships with people from different cultures and religions, I still find myself occasionally wondering (despite myself ) if this person or that would turn me over to the Nazis.
It doesn’t go away. It gets passed down, subconsciously, from generation to generation. Every veiled and not-so-veiled anti-Semitic remark brings me back to it. And this weekend a chill went up my spine. It can happen here. It is happening again, in a time and place we fooled ourselves into believing was safe.
By not acknowledging Jews in his International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, Trump and his advisers would have us forget. If we forget, we won’t see him tearing open that already deep divide between immigrants, the Muslim community and white America. We won’t acknowledge that Muslims and immigrants are being scapegoated now the way Jews were back then.
Never forget. Not to live in the past, as I’ve been accused on several occasions. Never forget what evil lurks in the hearts of men, what pain an unchecked, power hungry narcissist can inflict.
So until something changes, I’ll do what I can, however small. Resist. Because we’re only one week in and we’ve got a long road ahead.