I woke up at 4am the morning after election day, an empty bottle of gin in my hand. I was the spitting image of King Tut’s mummified corpse, Boromir’s funeral canoe, James Bond tied to the table in Goldfinger. My senses blurred as I took stock of my surroundings, and as I began to remember why I was not in my bed, my ears began to monopolize my brain. They told me, “HEY DANIEL THE TELEVISION’S STILL ON LOOK AT IT.” So I looked at the tv, and there it was: CNN’s projection that Donald Trump was President Elect of the United States of America.
I turned the TV off and promptly proceeded to pass back out on the futon.
Three hours later my alarm went off. It was a grey, rainy day. I took the trash out. I took the recycling out. I thought that I should change my clothes. I should definitely brush my teeth. I should do that. Yup, don’t forget that. I began to walk to work. I did not eat, I did not brush my teeth, and I did not change my clothes.
I pass an elementary school, parents are visibly trying to hold it together. Kids look up at them, confused and concerned. Teachers try, but they cannot alter the mood. The children are not fools and they know the cause, but they do not understand. They whisper among themselves worriedly. Only in hindsight and reflection do I recognize this, for at the time I am numb. I saw, but I did not register until much later. I walked by like a somnolent zombie.
I don’t know how I did it. I worked a small office shift that morning, walked home, microwaved some ramen, laid motionless in bed for 5 hours, then returned to work for an eight hour managerial shift at the coop where I work in West Philly. That entire day was miserable. Those that walked into the coop to buy food were the same way. Some were visibly crying, others looked as if they had been for hours and could weep no longer. Heads hung low, eye contact was rare, and the sick air of defeat suffocated everything.
In that first week I did not process much of anything. For the first time in my life there were days in which I could not bring myself to get out of bed. After that first week, however, I began to find solace in the company of those around me. Collectively we were all suffering the same trauma and being depressed together was strangely comforting in a kind of awful bittersweet way.
I understand that the neighborhood I live in is a liberal bubble. It is easier to go to work and know that 99 percent of the people I interact with did not vote for a volatile racist and sexual assaulter. As time went on and I allowed myself to process what had happened, I looked back to the three Trump voters I had meaningful interactions with.
The first person was in a bar. I had been watching soccer with a buddy and now that the game was over, the channel shifted to CNN and therefore campaign news. Two Black men to my left started getting into an argument over who was going to win the presidency and after half eavesdropping on their conversation I was horrified to hear that one of them was going to vote for Trump simply because his opponent was a woman.
The second person I know voted for him simply because he is conservative. She was raised in a conservative household and believes that immigration rates should be decreased, that tax cuts should be given to those who have “succeeded in achieving the American dream,” and that healthcare should not be mandated. I tried dropping the Socratic method on this person and asked her various questions. Do you understand the meaning of irony? Do you realize that you’re forcing women to have a child, and yet you do not want the mother to be able to care for the baby, get maternal leave with pay–heaven forbid that child be born Muslim! This same person said rap music is Black people music. Yup.
Finally, the third person was a Black mother of three. I encountered her on my walk home from work. I was wearing a Bernie button on my jacket and we were stopped at a corner, waiting for the light to change. The baby in her stroller was staring at me and holy crap were they cute. I flashed the kid a smile and I told the mother that her children were incredibly adorable. She thanked me, and then she nonchalantly called me out on my button. “This neighborhood needs to stop getting freaky,” she told me. “Too many freaky people and I don’t like this change and that’s why I am voting for Trump.” Gentrification aside–and I could very well be wrong–I suspect she was referring to the high percentage of gender non-conforming folx who live here. The conversation left me feeling like I needed to vomit.
The last time I visited my parents, they had more than one Hillary sign in the front lawn, but they were genuinely scared that Trump would win. No way, I reassured them. America is not that stupid, ignorant, or backwards.
I think back to the three Trump voters I came across in my personal experience. Here was a Black man, a white woman, and a Black woman voting for Trump because of (in order) sexism, racism, and fear of gender nonconformity. I assumed that the vast majority of all three demographics would be Trump opposers because he’s a known racist, sexual assaulter, and xenophobe. A high percentage of African Americans and women are definitely going to vote against Trump, I told myself.
I studied history in college with a focus on American history, and one of the last classes I took was called Violence in Early America. We looked at religious acts of violence (the New England witch trials), xenophobic acts of violence (all atrocities on Native Americans), and domestic assault, just to name a few. After several three hour seminar discussions, the class of seven people cautiously came to the conclusion that violence on a global scale was trending downward, and that very slowly humanity as a whole was becoming more tolerant.
In that same class we debated the old adage “history repeats itself.” I myself have always been very skeptical about the saying. As Trump began to take over the election, however, I thought about King Richard III, who’s rise to power was oddly similar to Trump’s. I thought about Hitler and how he seized the opportunity to mold and magnify fear. The Holocaust is fresh history though, and there is no way a similar sociopath will be elected, I told myself.
A recount or radical change to the electoral college will occur and we shall avoid this disaster.
His cabinet appointments will not be that bad.
Facts still mean something.
My Chilean Mami wants to move back to Chile, and I understand why. The events of the past month have been nauseating and have increased my anxiety exponentially. At least I am a United States citizen, so my emotions pale in comparison with hers. But this is what Black folx, immigrants, and women must feel like all the time.
Friends and family know me to a pretty positive person, but it has been difficult to stay positive lately. I do know that I have learned to appreciate the little things more since election day, and I find comfort in the statistics that Hillary won the popular vote and that people are using this defeat to become more active. I just hope we do not become complacent, because rebellions are built on hope. Keep protesting, fight for what is right, and keep the world from descending too far into fascist chaos. Clichés keep coming up because they continue to ring true, so remind yourself that at least clichés are normal. This debacle is not. Our racist xenophobe of a President-Elect is not normal. Never forget that.
Do not let antics get in the way of real policy. Sift through the bullshit and we will all get through this. Together.
Let us hope not.