I don’t recognize America anymore.
There is an old saying, wrongfully attributed as being a Chinese curse, that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” It’s meant to be read as ironic, the implication being that uninteresting times are peaceful and boring, while interesting times are full of turmoil and conflict. Well, no matter what you may think of the outcome of last night’s election, I think we can all agree that we’re now living in interesting times. And while I am personally horrified at the prospects that I see ahead of us here in America, there is no denying the fact that last night Donald Trump became the next president-elect of the United States of America.
I still can’t believe it.
I know a lot of you are thinking, “Get over it. Don’t be so melodramatic. The people have spoken and he’s the president, but this isn’t a dictatorship. There are checks and balances in place that will keep him from doing anything truly horrendous. And if he’s a bad president in four years we can put somebody else in office. It’s really not such a big deal.”
To you I respectfully say, “You’re wrong.”
Last night America elected into the highest office of the land the most hateful, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, and spiteful candidate ever to run for president. A man whose presidential platform centered around the alienation, vilification, and deportation of a vast swath of people who he calls rapists, drug dealers, and murderers. This is a man who belittled, bullied, and insulted his way to the top of the Republican ticket using hate speech to incite enough anger in his followers that he could point them at whatever target he wished and they would willfully, gleefully attack. Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, women, the media, his political opponents, and even his supposed political allies. No one was spared. His entire candidacy is based on inciting fear and stoking the fires of anger towards minorities in the general population. And historically, people who depend on vilification of a subset of their citizenry in order to win public approval and lead their country have had to follow through with their threats and promises or face the wrath of the masses themselves. So, I fully expect the wall to be built, and for people of color to be shipped “back to their country” regardless of how many generations they’ve lived in America.
I hope I’m wrong, I really do. But these are the things that will keep me awake at night for the next four years.
The seething anger that many Americans, myself included, have felt towards the political leaders of this country over the last 20 or more years has led to this. For years and years now, so very many years, we the people have been forced to choose between two political parties that have forgotten who their constituents are, and who, once in office, conveniently forget the promises they made to get to that office. By doing that over and over again, time after time, year after year, election after election, the ruling class in Washington has made it clear that there is no longer such a thing as a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
And so, entered Donald Trump.
He realized before anyone else that there was just enough fear, anger, and hate to be found in the electorate, that if a charismatic leader could capture it, that person had a very good chance of winning the presidency. Here was somebody who saw the people that felt forgotten by their party. He heard them when others turned a deaf ear. He said the things they wanted to hear and promised to supply all the things they thought they wanted. But unlike everyone else seeking their votes, Donald Trump didn’t speak down to them. He spoke in a way they understood without using political correctness or Washington doublespeak.
And the people ate it up.
Now he’s the president. The man who praised the leadership styles of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Saddam Hussein will now get a chance to lead. The man who personally insulted his political rivals, vilified immigrants, ridiculed vets, mocked women, and endorsed violence against his political opponents will try to unify America. The man who couldn’t be bothered to prepare for presidential debates, who has bankrupted 4 businesses, who has lied to and cheated his business partners, bankers, and employees, will oversee the most complex and most powerful economic power in the world. The man who doesn’t know what nuclear triad means, who has suggested that North Korea and Japan should have nuclear weapons, and who believes that Crimea already belongs to Russia will now be commander in chief. Since World War II, every military engagement authorized by Congress has been under the leadership of a Republican president. The Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan, and the Iraq war were all initiated by Republican presidents. That even includes the Lebanon crisis of 1958 and the multinational force in Lebanon in 1983. Donald Trump has made it clear that he is willing to start fights with anyone who he feels has insulted him, and he has shown no ability to control his emotions whenever he has been attacked. And now he, and he alone, has access to the nuclear codes.
This scares me so much I can barely breathe.
This morning I woke up with no idea how I was going to face my children for the next four years. How do I teach them that bullying is bad when a bully has won the White House? How can I expect them to study and learn, to use facts and figures to back up their arguments, when making up facts, spouting lies, and glorifying unpreparedness can win you the presidency? How can I expect them to be nice, to respect the thoughts and feelings of others, when they can just point to our new president and say, “He doesn’t so why should I?”
I honestly don’t know what I’ll say, I just hope I won’t burst out in tears.
So, to those who now live with me in Trumpland, I urge you to be prepared. Be prepared to see more hate crimes and violence against minorities on your TVs, because our next president has endorsed and encouraged such behavior. Be prepared for more earthquakes in Oklahoma, a neutered EPA, and fewer and smaller protected national parks, because our next president has made it clear that conservation of the environment doesn’t matter. Be prepared for the rights of the LGBT community, minorities, and women to be set back dozens of years, because our next president has been consistent in his degradation of them throughout his candidacy. Be prepared for our international allies to distance themselves from us, and for the countries we currently vilify to become our new best friends, because our next president has shown no understanding of the intricacies of international politics. Be prepared for economic disparity greater than we’ve seen in recent memory, because our next president believes losing money or bankrupting a business is perfectly acceptable as long as his own finances remain safe. And America, be prepared for war, because our next president has made it very clear that his idea of diplomacy is to bully, insult, and frighten his opponents.
Be prepared, America. The monster we thought we defeated has stepped back out into the light, but this time, instead of fighting it we’ve greeted it with open arms.