This is a blog about fiction writing. I know. And I’m sorry if you’re here to read about fiction. For the first time since I started this blog six years ago, I feel compelled to talk about real life.
I am grieving. There’s no other way to describe it. On the evening of the election, as it became clear that the unthinkable was going to happen, I cried. I took two sleeping pills to get through the night. The next day, I woke up feeling like I’d run a marathon hours before. I was in a daze. “It feels like the morning after 9/11,” I told my husband. There was that fear and uncertainty and shock, that loss of faith in humanity. I was out the door, heading to work, when I realized I was wearing two different shoes.
I keep cycling through the stages of grief–well, all of them except for acceptance. I’m not at acceptance yet. Maybe I’ll be closer by the end of this post.
There are moments I forget that Donald Trump will be the President. I go through the motions of my daily life. I write ad copy. I work on ideas for my novels. I walk the dogs. But, then, it hits me. The water is boiling for pasta and I say, out of nowhere, “I just can’t believe this.” It’s worst in the morning. It takes a few seconds, upon waking up, to realize this isn’t a dream. This is reality.
But the country couldn’t have voted for a reality TV star with a shady business past and absolutely no government experience, right? The country couldn’t have elected a man who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy, right? The country couldn’t have overlooked how he made fun of a disabled reporter, right? The country couldn’t have forgotten that his wife blatantly plagiarized Michelle Obama, right? The country must have seen the absurdity of his Twitter rants, the ridiculousness of his claim that he has “a winning temperament,” right? The country couldn’t possibly think that endorsements from Putin and the KKK are a good thing, right?
Wrong. That one word shatters the denial. All these assumptions I’ve made are dead wrong. We can say #NotMyPresident, but he is our President. What’s done is done. The question is: What now?
Anger is, by far, my favorite stage of grief. It feels active. It motivates me, lights the proverbial fire under my ass.
At first, I was angry at the Trump supporters. I was angry at them for not seeing what they’d done. I was angry at them for believing the lies and the sound bites. I was angry at them for cherry-picking one or two Trump issues and voting for him based on those, while turning a blind eye to the rest of the shit show that Trump is. “Nobody is taking my guns.” “We have to protect our borders.” “We need to keep jobs in the U.S.” “Hillary is crooked.” “We need to shake up Washington.” They clung to these things, fiercely.
What’s ironic is that Hillary wasn’t going to take all of your damn guns. And she was going to protect your borders (just not by rounding up 2 million immigrants and taking them back to Mexico, then building a ludicrous wall funded, somehow, by the aforementioned country). She was all for keeping jobs here (by the way, many of Trump’s construction projects used materials from China, so that’s a nice f**k you to the rust belt; and he’s also known to hire foreign workers. While I’m at it, can we take a moment to appreciate that they’re saying Melania Trump was an illegal immigrant?). I’m not convinced that Hillary is “crooked”; I am convinced that Trump is crooked. Have we forgotten that he is set to go on trial for fraud?
I was angry at those who voted for him because they wanted to toe the Republican party line. It does not take a lot of digging to see that Trump has aligned himself with the Democrats in the past. He is all over the place with his allegiances. He is not a loyal Republican; he ran as one for strategic reasons.
I was angry at his supporters who dismissed every one of his grievances, saying, “Oh, he’s just riling people up. He doesn’t mean everything he says.” Yes, he does. He’s not just riling people up. That’s who he is. On what’s probably his best behavior, mind you. Maya Angelou said it best: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the first time.”
I was angry at his supporters who said, “He’s not actually going to grab women by the pussy as President” or “They’ll never actually drive around buses, Nazi-style, to round up immigrants.” In my mind, his future behavior and the legislation that gets passed remain unknown. What’s known–and what the real point is–is that ideologies of hate have already spread. The damage has already been done. Even if Trump isn’t a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic asshole in his heart of hearts, he has followed a script in his campaign that incited people who are. There are a bunch of nut jobs who feel validated by Trump’s victory, empowered to yell at Muslims to “go back to where they came from,” entitled to harass women and gays. People used to come to America to escape oppression; now we are a country of oppression. That’s the real tragedy here. How can Trump supporters not see this?
But, then, I got angry at Trump. I’ve said all along that I think he ran for President to garner publicity. Then he realized people were actually supporting him and his power-hungry narcissism took on a life of its own. It’s so out of control now that even if he has a passing moment of doubt as he starts to get briefings about Syria and other things he knows nothing about, he won’t say anything. He won’t admit ignorance. He won’t ask for help. Which is, in a word, terrifying.
Kudos to his campaign team for tapping into the undercurrent of racism and sexism in this country. They had their finger on the pulse of dissatisfaction–dissatisfaction with Obama (which must be largely racist considering he has made our country objectively better by most people’s standards), dissatisfaction with “outsiders,” and dissatisfaction with the very idea of a woman leading the country. Trump kept his finger–the middle one, I imagine–right on that pulse, taking it off only to stick it up at the blind crowds listening to him.
Let me be clear–not all Trump supporters are stupid idiots. It does a disservice to democracy to imply they are. They’re not even all white rednecks, as some assume. They are people tired of “politics.” They are people who were looking for someone to “shake things up.” Trump exploited their concerns for his own gain. He scammed them, just like he scammed others in his business dealings. He said himself, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” He was so impressed with his own scamming that he couldn’t resist bragging about it. And his followers didn’t realize he was making fun of them. By wearing his “Make America Great Again” ball cap with camouflage print, he convinced his base that he was one of them, that he was on their side. The truth: he has no history of giving a shit about them. This is the man who considered the millions his dad gave him “a small loan.” He lives in a Penthouse in New York. He has a history of giving a shit only about himself.
“Can we get a re-do? I promise I’ll get out there and campaign more. I’ll speak up. I’ll be an activist.” I have so many personal regrets. I stayed quiet during the campaigns because I don’t like to offend people. I prefer to play nice. Let bygones be bygones and all that jazz. And, honestly, I thought Hillary would win. I thought Trump supporters were like cute novelty items. I did not take them–or him–seriously. Big mistake.
Now, I see no choice but to be open and honest about my beliefs. Now, I think we all have to initiate more conversations. There’s an obvious divide, and nothing will change if we just stay complacent and silent on our separate sides of the chasm. I’ll do better from here on out. I promise.
I’m sad, more than anything else. I’m sad for the end of an era. The role of American President has a long-standing history of being the most prestigious role in the world. Now, that’s ruined. I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic. It’s ruined. Trump made a mockery of the system by running, and now that he’s won, I imagine the founding fathers are rolling over in their graves. People say, “Oh, it’s just like when we elected Reagan. He was an actor!” No, guys, it’s not the same. Reagan was politically active. He was Governor of California for 8 years. He had, you know, qualifications. I understand people wanting to “change things up,” but voting for someone who has no qualifications is just…weird. Would you want someone to operate on you if they hadn’t been to medical school? I don’t think so.
Obama must be beside himself. Everything he’s worked at for 8 years–protecting the environment, advancing women’s rights, improving foreign relations, extending healthcare to more people–is at risk of being undone (Trump says he plans to “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama”). I’m in awe of the graciousness Obama displayed as he handed over the keys to the White House to a complete bigot who repeatedly called into question where Obama was born. I, myself, had tears in my eyes.
I can’t even imagine how Hillary feels. I can’t imagine her disillusionment. Her loss is a loss for many of us women. We wanted her to prove that it’s not just a man’s world. I felt for her during the campaign. She couldn’t attack Trump because they’d call her a bitch. She couldn’t show emotion because they’d call her weak. So, she was rehearsed and sometimes robotic. And it bit her in the ass. The fact that lots of women voted for Trump confused me at first, but now I wonder if this reveals another sad reality: Some women don’t like other women in power. Women are catty and competitive and judgmental. Our solidarity needs work.
But what’s saddest of all is that Hillary spent decades as a public servant to become arguably the most qualified candidate we’ve ever had. And she lost. Well, actually, they’re saying she won the popular vote by 2 million votes. The electoral college makes no sense, but that’s a topic for another post. What is ironic is that Trump lambasted the electoral college (on Twitter, of course) when Obama won in 2012. Now he’s taking to Twitter to complain about the protesters in the streets, saying they are “very unfair.”
No, Donald, what’s unfair is everything we, as a country, may suffer with you as our President. Judging by your promises and the idiots you are choosing for your administration (Sarah Palin? Really? Is this because she can see Russia from her house?), the following atrocities are likely: Women will lose reproductive rights, millions will lose access to health care, minorities will be subjected to hate crimes, the environment will be subjected to hate crimes, global warming will escalate (he wants to appoint a climate change naysayer to head the EPA), gays will have to fight against beliefs resurrected from 1950 (Mike Pence thinks they should undergo conversion therapy), the economy will collapse (for one, I don’t know how Trump plans to replace the 2 million laborers he wants to send back to Mexico; two, independent analysts have said that his tax plan would balloon the national debt), and we may be in World War 3 (considering all the countries we will piss off by leaving NATO and NAFTA and becoming BFFs with Putin. Let’s also not forget that we are giving the nuclear codes to someone who can’t control his temper on social media).
I can’t accept Trump as my President. His supporters tell us to stop fighting it and I say to them, “Like you stopped fighting Obama for 8 years?”
What I can accept is that I need to “go high” (Hillary’s words) and be the bigger person. What I can accept is that being angry at Trump supporters is wrong. They are Americans just like me. What I can accept is that I’ve been in a bubble in California, where weed is now legal and electric cars are everywhere and lots of people speak Spanish (I was fluent for years) and the company I work for helps people pay for gender reassignment surgery. What I can accept is that I don’t know everything.
I refuse to buy into the hateful rhetoric that Trump promoted in his campaign. If I hate a Trump supporter, I am no better than a Trump supporter hating Hillary or Obama or Muslims or Mexicans or gays or women. I won’t do it.
And I won’t move to Canada. My husband and I looked into it. We were one of the many people who caused the Canadian immigration website to crash on election night. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of those “red states.” But, now, I realize that a big percentage of the population in those states voted for Hillary. Just because a slightly bigger percentage voted for Trump doesn’t mean those states are lesser in my mind. It just means there is a lot of work to do.
So, I’m staying. I want to volunteer for causes I believe in. I want to make my voice heard. I want to exercise my First Amendment rights. I want to assure those founding fathers that they can roll on back over and rest easy for all eternity because there are so many of us who want to fight the good fight.