On the day that I voted, I wore my grandfather’s ring to the polls. My grandfather was a first-generation American in a time when Italian immigrants were not considered to be white. His family came from unsustainable poverty in Southern Italy, kept alive by the charity of a nearby monastery, and arrived in America to Oklahoma only to be met with the Great Depression, racism, and more of the same poverty — hardly the wealth of opportunity that we like to believe our country offers. My grandfather’s father took a job in coal mines to support the family, and he himself later took a job in the burgeoning oil industry, though it was hardly the booming field then that we know it as today. My grandfather never lived a wealthy, comfortable life. He was at Okinawa in WWII and until the day he died, he never spoke a word of the horrors he experienced there. When he came home from the war, he attended Catholic mass nearly every day for the rest of his life. He volunteered for St. Vincent de Paul supporting his community’s poor, never with judgement or condescension, but with empathy. He was one of the rare few of strict pre-Vatican II upbringing who fully grasped the spirituality amidst the formality and the community in the rites. My grandfather had all sons. His whole family only ever had sons. In over 100 years, I’m the second girl to be born into my family, and my grandfather cherished this. He never valued me less than the many men in my family or imposed any limitations on my aspirations; if anything, quite the opposite.
Originally published on Huffington Post.
Since the debate on Sunday, the Internet has far and wide lauded the final question, asked by Karl Becker, for attempting to bring more positivity and friendliness into the debate. To the audience’s surprise, he asked the candidates, “regardless of the current rhetoric,” to “name one positive thing that [they] respect in one another.”
I can understand the American public’s enthusiastic response. This election season has seen an unprecedented level of toxic hate speech, accompanied by a shocking rise in hate violence nationwide. In its report on hate groups and domestic terrorism, the Southern Poverty Law Center went so far as to call 2016 a year of “extraordinary violence.” For many of us, the memory of President Obama’s exhilarating Hope campaign now seems impossibly far away.
And yet this debate question, while it represents a healthy intent, leads America in an unhealthy direction. Rather than attempting to target the roots of inequality and negativity in this election season, Becker’s prompt sought to smooth it over with a temporary veneer. While Becker called for more respect between the candidates, women were left wondering: When will we receive the respect that we deserve?