Mack Memo #3: Love Trumps Hate

During the televised Democratic National Convention, I cried during the poignant speech of Muslim American Khizr Khan, an immigrant from Pakistan, about the loss of his son—fallen U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan—and about Mr. Khan’s own love for and commitment to America. As I listened and watched, I saw an American family who sacrificed their son for our country, and I saw and understood all too well the deep sorrow in Mrs. Kahn’s eyes. As a grieving mother myself, it was for her specifically that I wept. My own broken heart shared her pain, and I admired her ability to bravely stand there on that big national stage while her husband shared their family story. When Donald Trump attacked the Khan family, dismissed their sacrifice, and suggested that Ghazala Kahn was not allowed to speak, he offended every immigrant who has ever believed in the American dream, every soldier who has ever given his life for our country, and every mother who has ever lost a child.

For months, I have watched in horror as Trump’s statements have become more outrageous and have further illustrated his ignorance and his vitriol. His attack on the Khan family is one more example in a long progression of ever escalating examples of his lack of character and grace, his appalling misanthropy, and his all-encompassing unfitness for the Presidency. Trump’s utter failure to see the grief in Mrs. Kahn’s face is another vivid instance of Trump’s inhumanity. In the past few days, as I have thought about Mr. Kahn’s speech and about Trump’s response to it, Mack has been ever present in my mind. Mack’s character and humanity are what I use these days to measure my own actions and life and to assess the world around me. Inherent in the high bar that Mack has set in that regard is some disappointment, I admit. For few of us will leave this earth with as perfect a record of happy human relationships as our dear Mack. But Trump fails my Mack test on all counts, and I have come to believe that his absolute inability to feel empathy and to show compassion for his fellow Americans is, perhaps, his gravest deficiency for suitability for the American Presidency.

If my Mack, a feminist and liberal-minded young woman, were here today, she would be a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton. One of her favorite mottos, “uteruses before duderuses,” would no doubt have found new meaning in this historic 2016 presidential campaign, In fact, it’s entirely possible she may have been actively engaged; and she certainly would have been proud of her dear friend Meagan, who is a Clinton field organizer in Nebraska. But more to the point, my loving, just-minded, big-hearted, and nonjudgmental daughter would be aghast by Trump’s tactics of hatred and bigotry. Trump’s campaign would offend everything she believed about human decency, civility, and leadership. Mack would have spoken out against Trump’s hateful campaign, and she would have wanted me to do so as well. It is for her and in honor of her true heart that I now raise my own voice.

Over the years, I have followed a general rule to keep my politics off of Facebook and out of polite discourse with people in my life who hold opposing political views to my own. I have always reserved my unabashed support for the Democratic Party and my liberal snark for family, for a close circle of politically like-minded friends, and for the shallow and more fleeting arena of Twitter. But I cannot remain silent on Trump any longer, because he is a danger to the human decency and ideals I instilled in my daughters. He offends my family’s deeply held convictions of tolerance and equality. He mocks and demeans women, which is a direct affront to the brilliant and promising girls I raised. Mack is not here to offer her own objections to Trump’s candidacy, but I knew my daughter’s heart. The boisterous hatred Trump and his supporters spew would have outraged her open mind, the negativity and cynicism of his campaign would have offended her happy heart, and his racism would have stirred her strong sense of equality and justice.

Simply put, Trump is not a legitimate candidate. He is not a legitimate Republican. I respect my Republican friends; and I admire their commitment to principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism, even though I do not share them. I whole heartedly honor their rights to voice their own opinions, to engage in civil political debate with their opponents, and to vote their own consciences. This is America, and our democracy depends upon intelligent debate. But the 2016 Presidential Campaign is not a real campaign, because the Republican candidate is an affront to our ideals of tolerance, compassion, and liberty. Every single time that Trump opens his mouth, he reveals his bigotry, his sexism, his ignorance, his vanity, and his complete lack of empathy for his fellow Americans. He mocks people with disabilities, attacks the service of members of our military, incites violence against those who challenge him, and breathes hatred and intolerance. Not to mention the fact that he offers no coherent domestic or foreign policies to move America further toward a more perfect union, Trump’s message of hate should scare the hell out of every American.

Trump is not a true Republican. Trump represents no Republican ideals that I can recognize. More and more real Republicans and conservatives agree with my assessment. Trump does not represent the party of Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln is rolling over in his tomb at the possibility of a Trump presidency. So far from the character of Lincoln, Trump is a hate-mongering, egomaniacal narcissist who has devoted his entire life to himself and to his own business interests. He has no moral compass, he has no interest in public service, and he has no understanding of American history and the political foundations of our great government. His ignorance of world affairs is terrifying, he is not committed to preserving the principles of our founding fathers, and he lacks humility, honor, and empathy for the American people. He is the most dangerous presidential candidate of a major political party in the history of the United States, and the American electorate—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all—must defeat him in November. Bigotry and hatred have no place in American politics, and we all need to show Trump that they have no place in America. Not anymore. And never again.

I know that many of my Republican friends have serious reservations about Hillary Clinton. Although it is my opinion as both an informed reader and as a professional historian that no person has ever been more qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton, I appreciate the hesitancy of some, more conservative Republicans to eagerly support her candidacy. In opposition to a real Republican candidate, I would be explaining why Mack would have supported Hillary Clinton and why I support her, too. But this campaign, sadly, is not about electing a qualified life-long public servant to be the first woman President of the United States. Sadly, it is about keeping an ignorant, hateful sociopath out of the White House. The American presidency is a job for true leaders—leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Barack Obama—who have character and grace, honor and humility, and empathy and compassion for their fellow Americans.

So, please. Please. Please. I appeal to your humanity in this election. Do not vote for Trump, a man so devoid of qualifications for the Presidency that it should be laughable, a man who would shed no tears for your children. Do not vote for one of the long-shot independent candidates simply because you hate Hillary. Significant voting for independents could skew the election in favor of Trump, which would validate his candidacy of hate. Vote for Clinton-Kaine because it is a reasonable, legitimate Democratic ticket that is running a campaign against racism, against sexism, against religious intolerance, and against anti-immigrant hostility and scapegoating. Be a part of this historic election to put the first woman President in the White House, but, most importantly, cast your vote for the Democrats, who are running a real campaign against hate.

Mack Memo #3: Love Trumps Hate. Always. Did you ever go on hatin’ after a Big-Mack hug? Nope. Never. No matter what you think about my girl Hillary, her election in November will send a message to the haters that we are all in this America together.

The Game of Life

With raised eyebrows and typical Stacy-the-cynic incredulity, I have been quietly observing groups of teens and millennials running around public places with their cellphones, chasing virtual Pokémon characters. Initially, I believed that Pokémon Go could be nothing more than just one more digital distraction. One more excuse to stare at a smart phone like a zombie. One more reason to avoid conversation with human beings. And watching a young man in plaid shorts and a tan fedora nearly step into a busy intersection, because his phone covered his face as he caught a Pokémon, certainly corroborated my initial impressions of the game. So much life is spent staring at tiny screens these days, says the fuddy-duddy within me; and I can hear Mack clucking her tongue at me as I judge that hipster who almost lost his life for the sake of a game.

But after reading a couple of articles about Pokémon Go and having a lengthy conversation about it with my daughter Savannah (who is an enthusiastic player), I wondered if I might have been too quick to throw shade at the game and too quick to lump it in with other cell-phone games—like Temple Run or Angry Birds—that steal our time, endanger our eyesight, and cripple our thumbs. In order to collect Pokémon characters, players must get off of their couches and go forth into the world. That is a good thing…right? Most of the people I see playing the game are with friends, so that is good, too…I think. The game encourages players to visit historical markers and memorials. How in the world can the historian Stacy be dismissive of that?! Yet no sooner am I convincing myself that Pokémon Go will raise a new generation of historians, Mack chortles in my ear and says, “Momma Bear, do ya really think they gonna stop and read the markers after they catch the Pokémons?”

And so back I am now to my original position of stern judgment against Pokémon Go and scorn for that hipster who almost got himself run over playing it. Also, here I am now wondering (as I have done with so many other new things that Mack has missed) if Mack herself would be running around town catching Pokémons if she was here. But, of course, if she would be playing the game, you can probably bet your ass she would not stop to read the historical markers along the way.

All of this mental energy devoted to my analysis of Pokémon Go over the past couple of weeks reminded me of a column that Mack wrote for her college newspaper. Recognizing the limitations of our screens—cellphones, TVs and computers—to satisfy our human need for social relationships, Mack paid tribute to the humble board game. I leave you here with Mack’s homage to The Game of Life, her most favorite board game of them all; and I am content for Mack, who knew so well how to play the real game of life, to have the final word upon this subject.

Board games are more social than staring at a screen, By Mackenzie McDermott
Truman State Index, 20 March 2014

A knock at the door, and the 8-year-old me runs down the stairs, The Game of Life firmly in hand. A handful of my parents’ friends stand on the porch, their children at their sides. The adults shuffle into the living area and the other kids and I run into the adjacent room. We are easily satisfied by what probably are last year’s Halloween candies and a good, old-fashioned board game. Circled on the carpet, we play that game again and again, the only noise our own laughter and that of our parents in the other room. The game doesn’t end until they come in to scoop us up and haul us off to bed. As we get older, we move into the adult room and loudly play charades, equally as satisfied.

This is the strongest memory of my childhood. It became such a commonplace ritual that my Life game—which I never have been able to part with—resembles one rescued from a war zone. The box is ripped apart, there are only a few of the little peg people left and the wheel doesn’t quite resemble a wheel anymore, but it still is there to remind me of just how easily entertained I used to be. Keeping kids today happy for hours with a little box of semi-movable parts or a hat full of ripped up bits of paper would be little short of a miracle.

With video games becoming more realistic and interactive, Netflix picking up more popular shows and movies, and new board games incorporating DVD elements, our culture has all but forgotten games you don’t have to plug in. Remember when Mouse Trap literally was the most high-tech thing you could think of and putting it together made you feel like a physicist? Or the way Monopoly had you convinced you would be fine if you ran away from home? I can think of so many board games that were integral to my interactions with my friends as a kid. It’s a different kind of experience than one in which people are looking at a screen. During our technological age, a friendly gathering often feels more like a night out at the movies.

Classic board games make you interact on a very human level. You circle around, face each other and are forced to fill silence with conversation. Even when new board games are made, they tend to have a literal board on which to move pieces around, but the game play itself happens on a computer or TV, such as all versions of Scene It. We love to be pointed in one direction, facing a screen rather than each other.

This isn’t just a generational trend and it’s not a shifting idea of what is fun—it simply is a change of comfort zone. Now that we’ve gotten used to the comfort of our screens, we don’t think we’ll like life without them, but we’re wrong. I know this because I recently played Cranium with friends after exhausting all of Parks and Recreation on Netflix. I can unequivocally confirm that board games do, indeed, still rule.

A group of 20-year-olds huddled on the floor of my dim, cold living room might have been a funny sight, but we didn’t let that concern us. We just chatted, laughed, trash-talked and became far more upset than anyone older than 12 should be about a board game. Once the game was finished, my teammate declared we would not stop playing until he won. I hope we don’t.


Mack playing cards with cousins

game of life

Mack’s battered, well-loved Game of Life

Mack Memo #2: Clothes Do Not Make the Woman

Mack was not a fashionista. Most of her life, she lived in basketball shorts, sports t-shirts, and sweats. She preferred flip-flops, Chucks, and athletic shoes; and mismatched socks were always good enough for her feet. By the time she was old enough to dress herself, she rejected dress codes and event-appropriate attire, she rebelled against dresses and skirts, and except for Nikes and American Eagle blue jeans, brand names did not impress her much. Dressing up to Mack meant stretchy skinny jeans and a plain t-shirt or tank; and a golf club never collapsed when she walked in wearing sweats or flip flops. She was happy and cozy in her casual skin and with her personal anti-style style. I am at a complete loss now to understand why I worked so damn hard to impose a sense a fashion on that child, because back-to-school shopping with Mack was always frustrating for the both of us. I wanted to dress her up cool; and she just wanted to wear the faded tees she already owned. She hated everything a junior department had to offer, and she had no interest in keeping up with the fashions of her peers. Even when I successfully cajoled Mack into the selection of a flattering blouse or a stylish pair of flats, she just humored me at the store and then stuck those purchases (with the tags still intact) in the back of her closet so neither of us would ever see them again.

Mack’s relationship with clothes annoyed me when she was a teenager, but now it is my inspiration for a little change I am making in my life. Recently, I have grown tired of chasing fashion and maintaining an up-to-date closet of shoes and apparel that I now rarely wear. Working from home has dampened my enthusiasm for clothing trends. As well, since losing my Mack, I simply care a whole lot less about what my clothes look like and much more about what they feel like. With Mack very much in mind, I am also a new convert to the idea of a capsule wardrobe—a system in which you choose simple, season-specific groupings of garments that easily mix and match, wear well, and simplify your life. Garanimals for adults, I guess you could say. Mack is my cheerful and sensible spirit guide in my project to rid myself of unnecessary, uncomfortable, and unwanted clothing, especially from the stuffy, professional side of my overflowing closet. All special-event items are piling up for removal, and stiff dresses and fancy shoes will all soon be goners, as well. A brocade dress, a tight wool skirt, and a glittery pair of heeled Mary Janes went home last weekend with my fashion-loving, twenty-year-old niece; and more purging will continue over the course of the coming weeks. Mack will be ever present to cheer me on as I remove from my closet and drawers every item that pinches, squeezes, scratches, and keeps me from lifting up my arms. Mack did not tolerate crisp, button-down shirts that kept her from lifting up her arms!

The Great Stacy Closet Purge of 2016 is underway, and Mack assures me I am now on a happy clothing path many miles removed from the frenzied fashion highway I have traveled for the past thirty-five years. Although I am not trading my tailored dress pants for over-sized basketball shorts, as Mack would have me do, I am, basically, adopting my daughter’s comfort-first, style-not-really-even-second clothing philosophy. Most importantly, though, I want to reduce my dependence on clothes to boost my confidence in the world. My sweet girl never believed that clothes make the woman. She was always comfortable and confident in what she wanted to wear. She was always content to let her personality and her character, not her clothes, represent her in the world. And right now in my life, this seems a very appealing philosophy, indeed.

Mack Memo #2: Clothes do not make the woman. Dress for yourself. Be casual and comfortable, and you’ll have confidence to face the world. Keep it simple, because fewer choices in the morning means extra sleep. Don’t ever buy a stupid shirt that keeps you from lifting up your arms! And always be yourself and not your clothes.

Senior Picture 2-Mack copy

Mack’s version of “dressing up” for senior pictures

Casual, comfortable, confident Mack…