Back in 2010, I was one of the organizers of the Mahopac High School Class of 1990 20-year reunion.
And it was fabulous.
Truly, I loved seeing people I hadn’t laid eyes upon in two decades. I loved fading into the past. I loved old stories and funny anecdotes and the random bonds of time and geography.
I will not be attending the 30th.
This does not make me happy. First, because I’m longtime friends with one of the organizers, and this person’s heart is gold. And second, because (despite what some of my past etchings might suggest) I’m glad about where I was raised. Mahopac, N.Y. is a fabulous place to grow up. Some of my closest pals hail from my hometown. Whenever I return to New York, I make certain to drive up Emerald Lane and take a long look at my boyhood home.
That said, I can’t pretend. I happen to come from a place that—with some exceptions—loves Donald Trump. The people don’t merely respect him, or begrudgingly approve of him. They seem to worship him. Salute him. Follow him. Obey him.
I’m not gonna smile and shake hands and slap backs with people who think it’s fine and dandy to lock children in cages. I’m unwilling to chuckle about the ol’ Mahopac-Carmel rivalry when so many of my peers openly, vocally, strongly back a misogynistic, racist aspiring dictator; one who speaks of doing violent things to journalists; one who inspires members of the KKK and alt-right to keep plugging, keep bringing it; one who has branded Muslims as the enemies; one who spent five years insisting America’s first African-American president was a Kenyan-born foreign agent who hated America; one who suggests we treat illegals as we would rabid animals.
I’m sorry, but I can’t pretend everything is kosher and dandy. I can’t set aside this level of difference for a night of memories.
And I won’t.
My grandparents escaped Nazi Germany to come to the United States. My Great Uncle arrived—then immediately enlisted in the Army to fight in World War II. My nephews are bi-racial. My friends and colleagues form a rainbow coalition of black, white, yellow, gay, straight, bi. Truth be told, I have friends who work illegally here; who came to find a better life for their children. They’re neither thugs nor criminals. They’re here to make money and live safely. Period. I refuse to turn my back on my history or my people; to set them aside and say, “For one night, I’ll hang with many of those who spit on all we believe in.”
The reunion will go on with out me. People will have a good time—as they should. But as the country melts away, and our democracy becomes an ideal of the past, and as a strongman woos the pliable masses with lies and phony tough talk, I’ll be back home in California, sad that this has happened but contented in my stance.
I’m a proud graduate of Mahopac High School.
But I’m not particularly proud.
PS: And if you’re one of my former classmates thinking, “Good! We didn’t fucking want you there anyway!”—well, this works out quite well, doesn’t it?