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When Your President Can Do No Wrong

The dry cleaners my grandparent owned smelled like hot cloth and headache-inducing sizing and musty Town Creek. I could kneel on the floor, squint an eye over a hole, and watch the creek flow beneath downtown Jackson, Mississippi. When I rose, I dusted my dirty palms as the iron sewing machine whirred, stabbing and hemming, mending and sewing. Late on Fridays, Mother would drop us three girls off at the cleaners where we stayed until the end of the day when it was time to leave for the farm, my patience as wilted as the spiky snake plants leaning in the window that announced the name of the cleaners in cursive.

When Mamo finally said it was time to go, we piled into her old Dodge with the gear shift on the steering wheel and a sloping back window where I could lay myself out, my skinny body fitting perfectly beneath the glass. There, where sun had collected all day, it smelled of burning cardboard, a comforting, dusty smell. As Mamo drove us through west Jackson—down Robinson Road, past Provine High School where my cousin had been Miss Provine, into the curving country roads banked by kudzu-shrouded trees—she told us what she thought, often irrationally, of current events.

She told us of her dislike and distrust of hippies. These were the 1967, ’68 and ’69 years of the riots at the Democratic convention, Vietnam protests, and Woodstock. She and her friends couldn’t stand the hippies, even as my mother and her friends were gathering to listen to the haunting lyrics of Eleanor Rigby. Every year for three years for Halloween, I went door-to-door joyfully Trick-or-Treating as a hippie.

Later, when we had moved away from Jackson but were back visiting after the Watergate scandal erupted, Mamo told us about the missing tapes.

“There are tapes,” Mamo said, yanking the gear shift to jerk the car to the next speed. “The powers-that-be won’t let them come to light because the tapes prove Nixon is innocent. But the tapes will come out, and when they do, they’ll prove the President did nothing wrong.”

I can’t help but think of Mamo when Trump supporters tell reporters they believe—despite 60 lawsuits, an FBI report, and the testimony of every Republican election official denying fraud—the election was stolen. When Mamo was assuring us that secret exonerating tapes existed, even I understood everyone knew Nixon was guilty—he might’ve already resigned. Her belief in the deus ex machina of exonerating tapes was clearly a fantasy. Yet, she would not give up her belief that her president—who hated hippies as much as she did—could do no wrong.

Similarly, we shouldn’t waste time trying to “convince” Trump supporters to give up their belief the election was stolen. They are too invested in their support of the president and, perversely, have been too-resoundingly proven wrong. That is exactly when a belief refuses to budge. Nor should we spend energy berating them for that belief. Or take up space analyzing that belief. It is what it is what it has always been.

Mamo was an independent woman who worked her entire life. In a state where racism pushed its way to the front, she aggressively refused to join in. She spent untold hours caring for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She invented creative, delicious food dishes. And, while she believed her president innocent, she moved on. So should we all.

Mother said I got my love of plants from Mamo, for which I am grateful

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