This is the first in a series of five posts. I resolutely avoid politics here on the blog, but the Trump win isn't political. It's more than that.
I saw the brightest lights of my city in mourning. There was a stone in my chest, and everyone else's. Could I really say "good evening," with a clean conscience?
In stark contrast to 2008, when you couldn't go anywhere on the Hill because of how many people were dancing in the streets, last night was a city emptied out, devastated. There were people about, but they stood off by themselves, pulling on a cigarette gazing nowhere, wiping their eyes as they crossed the street. Here was a man and a woman standing facing each other on the sidewalk, their foreheads touching, the woman heaving with grief, the man with nothing to say, sharing her desolation in crushed silence. We were all alone, together.
I was reminded of 9/11. The streets felt shattered then, too, but today is different. Today's disillusionment is a sobering realization, the disillusionment not of learning about others but of ourselves: there are monsters afoot, and they are near, in our backyards and in our blood. I speak not of other voters, you understand, but rather of attitudes.
The world will remember when the United States of America elected a man who condones the rape of women.
Can you believe that sentence is not an exaggeration? A man who speaks of it casually, who boasts about sexual assault, who sneers with hate and ignorance at blacks, latinos, all minorities, the impoverished, and more. There was a time when Americans got worked up over Reagan having a second wife, or Clinton having affairs with interns. How quaint. At least those presidents regularly made comments that were consistent with the values this country was formed on. Up til now US presidents were career politicians who started out with ideals, who at least had a desire to better their country. They didn't host Wrestlemanias or spend their energies building casinos and golf courses, and they definitely didn't keep a collection of Hitler speeches by their bed.
Now, the lead American figure in the "art of compromise" is someone who sues comedians when they make fun of him, urges his supporters to beat up protestors at rallies, defended the Japanese internment camps, doesn't know how many articles there are in the Constitution, praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and said of women:*
"You have to treat 'em like shit."
Jimmy Carter this is not.
What will we tell our children?
The fact of Trump's presidency normalizes and legitimizes abuse. We used to be able to tell young people that rape and assault allegations would ruin their careers. That lying, cheating and stealing won't get you anywhere in the long run. We can no longer teach children they shouldn't harass others, sexually assault others, brand folks who don't look like us as criminals.... You can now do all those things, loudly, and become President of the United States. Will victims of harm and hate feel comfortable coming forward now? Will men who think women's sole purpose is to serve and please them feel that much more empowered?
Maybe they'll grow up knowing better, despite our grave error. They'll wonder how their parents and grandparents got so backward all over again, after decades of real progress. How did they let this monster in, they'll ask. How will the children of future generations regard us? What will we look like? Will we look like Germany in 1932? I don't think so.
I believe we will look worse. The difference is we, today, knew everything going in.
People will speak of the day when America elected a reality-TV host with no political experience, who bragged his ignorance, who made Napoleon look humble. Do you imagine this man sitting down for peace talks with dignitaries from other countries? Do you see a man who's had his way for his whole life– whose catchphrase for decades was "you're fired"– listening to advisors on foreign policy? Caring about foreign policy? Let's not pretend there's a shrewd businessmen under that spray tan, either. His key assets are inherited, his current wealth comes from celebrity, and despite his business education he's still filed for bankruptcy multiple times. If business isn't his area of expertise, well, what is?
He was the punchline of the world, and now the globe looks on with disappointment, and confusion. Surely America must have known he's a joke. His election is a message to the world: "we think this man a capable and viable representative." Trump isn't the punchline of the world anymore. America is. He is a mirror for certain prevalent tendencies now, of ignorance, chauvinism, and insular, apathetic narcissism. We wish to elect not ourselves, but someone better than ourselves. Mr. Trump is not that.
Play me no music today, no false consolation, no empty words of how this is all fine. Let me sit here, and watch the rain. I'm not ready for the bright side yet.
To be continued. Stay tuned.
*Slate: 230 Things Trump Has Said That Make Him Unfit to be President.