It’s difficult to remember the exact moment I began to accept that Donald Trump would become the next President of the United States. All I know is that it was early in the morning and that no amount of alcohol could overcome the anxiety that seeped throughout my body until I lay frozen in place. It had finally happened: America had jumped the shark decades after joking that it eventually would.
In a lot of ways I’ve been trying to process what this means for our country, one that in eight years of Obama was never this fractured and divided—or at least it appeared that way on the surface. But all it took was one offensively arrogant man to selfishly feed the fears, biases, and ignorance of every white and religious American. People who have been duped into thinking they are somehow the victim of a mass liberal conspiracy to destroy them.
Yet who we blame matters very little at this point because there are plenty who deserve it. And I’ve definitely wagged my finger a few times in the wake of this catastrophic display of American democracy, but no matter how justified or pointed the blame may be, we must take ownership of every little and seemingly insignificant thing that led to this point.
It is painfully clear that slightly less than half of those who voted do not care for facts, particularly the kind of facts that tell them racism and sexism are still unresolved problems. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Act seem heartbreakingly symbolic and empty given what has been revealed about a sizeable chunk of the nation. Why people simultaneously condemn racism as a word yet defend or try to justify its externalization is something I cannot grasp. At this point, aligning with someone who so easily inspired and empowered every white supremacist to return to the political process is as bad as holding those views personally.
It’s clear there is a major disconnect in the thinking of those who voted Trump, and many of them are not the horrible monsters they’ve been portrayed as, but they are incredibly misinformed, misguided, confused, and scared. Both sides are, and throughout this process we all failed to see each other’s pain, to see our suffering as collective. We instead saw each other as the cause of our suffering, and in turn undermined our overall objective: to not feel this way about our country anymore. We played right into the divide and conquer politics deployed by each party, and I fear we may have severely jeopardized the futures of the younger generations who had no say in what happened November 8th.
To hear my friend take comfort in the fact that his son’s skin color is closer to his wife’s (more ‘fair-skinned’ as he put it) was the most heartbreaking takeaway from this whole mess. People are not at ease in this country, and many have a genuine fear for their lives right now, for their kids’ lives, and for our future. Not once did Obama ever make people feel like this, regardless of his own failures and shortcomings as a president. Yet somehow he was surgically demonized by a part of the nation stuck in truly abject thought, and sadly others fed into it. It’s likely buyer’s remorse sets in sooner than later, but everything about this election has defied the norm. Based on the tribal gloating of the pro Trump people, it seems clear this will continue to devolve until people come to their senses.
But is that even possible anymore? There were plenty sensible points of view expressed throughout this election, but somehow they got smothered and drowned out by the more extreme and sensationalized perspectives. Like the Romans we have come to get off on bloodsport, proverbial or literal. We seem to bask in drama and conflict like characters in a soap opera. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve tried to have civil informed discussions about serious subjects that eventually turned ugly, often due to a complete failure to agree even on the most basic of facts. Reasoned and critical thinking has somehow become an enemy to a big chunk of Americans who find it easier to go with their gut rather than put the time in fact checking what they read.
What scares me more than anything, though, is that I know unity is necessary if we wish to move forward as a nation, but we are dealing with issues that can no longer be ignored or tolerated. Issues that are inherently divisive and cannot be dismissed by saying, “agree to disagree”. To expect more than half of America to miserably comply with the worst iteration of the Republican party in history is not unity, it’s blind nationalistic obedience. History is very clear about the danger of that.
False hope and empty calls for unity will not fix this monumental error in judgement. This is going to be a long four years, and the only logical course of action is to get involved in your immediate communities. Make a difference there and improve the little bubble you inhabit. After all, this kind of majority control of government never ends well, and the Republicans have been chomping at the bit like rabid dogs to completely renovate the country in their image. Now they’ve been let off the leash.