Guernica Magazine

My Mother’s Secret Ballot

She and I both grew up near Detroit. How could she vote for Trump? The post My Mother’s Secret Ballot appeared first on Guernica.
Illustration: Ansellia Kulikku.

It’s been just under a year since my mother voted for Donald Trump in the national election, and I am home visiting her in Michigan. Her vote is still a sore spot between us. Still, I’m happy to be here, and slip into the rhythm of my mother’s suburban lifestyle. So far we’ve had fajitas and bowl-sized margaritas at Chili’s, caught up on the news of my siblings, and bought a month’s worth of household supplies at Sam’s Club. We’ve taken a walk around the faux-downtown of the new outdoor mall, and had a serious discussion about my father’s health. Today, she surprised me with an invitation to go see Kathryn Bigelow’s movie Detroit, a controversial dramatization of the deadly Algiers Motel incident during the rebellion of 1967. My mother had never expressed much interest in the history of Detroit, a city she’s lived near for over thirty years. But she had an idea that the film was important.

After sitting through two and a half hours of harrowing violence, we drive home in a thunderstorm. Our nerves are raw from watching sneering white cops terrorize a group of young people, mostly black men; and from our view of the blood pooling in rooms throughout the Algiers, runoff from dead bodies. We sit in silence, the radio playing in the background almost drowned out by rain hitting the roof. The film replays in my mind: upbeat Motown music, sparkling gowns, and smooth choreography juxtaposed with taut scenes of crowded police precincts, burning streets, and the court room where the cops were found not guilty of murder. It is a reminder, really, of how little things have changed.

The tension across the country these days feels to me eerily similar to that of the long hot summer of 1967, when 164 US cities were in open rebellion—or similar, at least, to my sense of that history. The white supremacist rally and murder of a young woman in Charlottesville, VA, happened just three days before my trip home; the connections didn’t escape my mother.

That movie was really upsetting, my mom says as she navigates the back streets. Those cops were real assholes, treating those young men like that.

Trump’s voice interrupts us from the radio, invading the car: I think there is blame on both sides. I feel instant revulsion, but reach over and turn up the volume. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on

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