WHAT AM I doing here, exactly? I had planned for this column to be a light, funny travelogue, in which I mostly gave short, shallow history lessons of American cities as I ate my way through them. Last week I was sampling Filipino coffee and thin crust pizza in Brooklyn. This week I’m savoring slow-cooked BBQ in Nashville. But no matter where I’ve traveled in the past three weeks, all I’ve really been eating is crow, i.e. admitting I was wrong about the American people. I thought we wouldn’t let Trump become president, and we did.
I do not enjoy eating crow and admitting I was wrong, even if I do enjoy drinking Old Crow and admitting absolutely anything once the bottle has been drained.
I’m in Nashville for my cousin’s bar mitzvah. If Tennessee sounds like an unlikely place for a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony, well... it is. Jews don’t usually drive pickup trucks, and I’ve never seen a country singer wearing a yarmulke. But one of the great things about this country is that in every state you can find folks of many different faiths and ethnic backgrounds living in harmony with one another. One of the sad truths about this country is you can also find many people who have a deep, ingrained hatred of anyone who has a different skin color or who worships a different god.
With every bite of crow I take, I taste the reality of every seemingly good American who professed to love all of their neighbors, and then snuck off to the voting booth to choose a candidate who wishes to force some of their neighbors out of the country.
Jews are watching Trump and his transition team closely. While he was campaigning, Trump spoke of making Muslims register, for the safety of the country and to aid in the never-ending war against terror. The only group more frightened by this idea than Muslims are Jews. Jews know what happens when you are forced by the government to register. First they take down your name, and then they take you away. Horrifyingly, this is what a lot of Trump’s supporters want. Muslims, Jews, Mexicans—take them all away. Many people who voted for Trump claim they are not racist, yet they voted for a man who spent the last year riling up large crowds with his scary, xenophobic rhetoric. I say if you voted for a bigot, you are a bigot.
I have been trying to enjoy myself in Nashville. Today my mom and I walked to the beautiful Centennial Park, where there is a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. It made me think of the strong connection our United States of America have to Europe, and to the rest of the world. Our country was designed to be, and has been, a refuge for humans from all corners of the earth. A place where a family fleeing persecution or execution in their homeland could start a new life. A place to feel safe. But for many families who came here, there was no safety to be found, only new dangers. I thought we, as a country, were working to destroy these dangers, but now I fear we are just creating new ones.
That’s why I’m eating crow, and why, when it comes to red states, I’m just visiting.