by Len Lear
November 8, 2016, was undoubtedly one of the worst days in American history. I did not agree with the politics of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, but they did not make vicious personal attacks on their critics or call the press the enemy of the American people. (I would not be surprised in the least if the psycho murderer of five people in the Washington, D.C., area newspaper office recently was inspired in part by the dictator wannabe-in-chief. The killer had written in a tweet that he greatly admired Trump.)
What scares me the most are the people at his ugly, demagogue Mussolini-style rallies. I never thought I would see this incipient fascism in the U.S. in my lifetime. Instead of learning from history, tens of millions of Americans seem anxious to repeat it: hatred of racial and religious minorities, of journalists and academics, of sensitivity and compassion, of everything different from their own mirror image. It is terrifying!
Want an antidote to the hatred spewing from the White House? We have just seen two documentaries in the movies, “RBG” and “Won’t You be My Neighbor?” about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Fred Rogers, respectively, which will lift the spirits of anyone who still believes in the core values of the U.S. before Trump hijacked and trashed them — freedom, democracy, equality of opportunity, decency, humanity and integrity (with some glaring, tragic exceptions in our history, of course).
And a beautiful children’s book which superbly captures the values of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Fred Rogers is “Triangle and Circle: How Embracing Each Other’s Differences Can Lead to Beautiful Friendship,” the first book for author/illustrator, Sarah Adler Claxton, who will be present for a reading and book signing this Saturday, July 14, 10:30 a.m., at Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane in West Mt. Airy. It will be a great event to which to bring children.
Claxton, 39, originally from Washington, D.C., went to Marymount College in New York City but left after one year. She moved to Israel for a year and then to California, where she graduated from the Brooks Institute of Photography in 2003 with a degree in Commercial Photography.
“I have always written and illustrated and been an artist,” Claxton told us last week, “but I never really had the combination of resources, time and motivation to do it seriously before.”
The concept of “Triangle and Circle,” of different shapes respecting each other, is profound in its seeming simplicity. “When I had my son,” Claxton said, explaining her motivation for the book, “I had a burst of creative energy, and current events pulled it into focus. It is so painful to see people being bullied and ridiculed. The lack of empathy in American politics right now is mind-boggling. I don’t want our children to be de-sensitized; being different is hard enough.
“It’s hard as a kid and as an adult; we should all be so much kinder to each other. The story actually started out much more complex, but I whittled it down. I wanted to approach it from a young child’s perspective and keep it simple without diluting the message. Ultimately, it took about a year to complete, in little bursts.” (Sarah and her husband, Eric, West Mt. Airy residents, have one son, Fritz, one-and-a-half years old.)
Needless to say, Claxton has strong feelings about the current crisis over immigration in the U.S.
“It is so heart-breaking. My mother is an immigrant from Ecuador, and her father was a Holocaust refugee, so I am very lucky to be here. My step-mother is an immigration attorney, so I get to hear what some people are going through, and it’s not good. We are in a very serious crisis, but immigration is not the problem. It seems like there’s nothing we can do, but every voice matters, and even the littlest act can make a difference, whether that’s a small kindness in your daily life, a phone call to a politician or attending a protest. We need to protect each other and educate people.”
Claxton is currently working on several other books. Her next, “Square,” is almost completed. The “shape” books will eventually be a series.
What is the hardest thing Sarah has ever done? “Every time I think I’ve done the hardest thing, something else comes up. I’d say the hardest thing is finding the right balance between exhaustion and elation, and forgiving everyone. Just forgive everyone. Love is freedom.”
The individuals, past or present, Claxton would like most to meet and spend time with are Bill Murray, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo and Kurt Vonnegut. “All were artists with unique perspectives, and I think this would be an awesome dinner party. These are people who are doing (or did) life in a way that I find remarkable.”
More information at @sarah.adler.claxton or www.bigbluemarblebooks.com