It’s lunchtime on the morning after the night before. Or the morning of the day after? Or… something. I don’t really know what time or day it is, to be honest. I woke up at 1am this morning and… just… couldn’t… not…watch. Even after Clinton lost Florida and the game seemed up, I couldn’t tear myself away, I couldn’t stop hoping that somehow, in some way, a miracle would arrive.
It never did.
This whole election, and this election day, constitutes perhaps the most bizarre, enraging, blackly comic, and ultimately tragic occurrence of my 32-year-old lifetime. Remember in history class when you’d hear about injustices of the past: women having to fight for the vote etc. And you’d kinda laugh at it because it’s seems so utterly ridiculous to you. This election, this society, this very day, is the laughing stock of 10-year-olds of the future. “They didn’t really elect him, did they?” Yes, Little Johnny. I’m afraid they did.
Yet this is no joke. In an election cycle marked by mockery from TV, press, social media and even the candidates themselves, the biggest joke is that there really isn’t a joke. The punchline has slipped past us, the only thing accompanying that rimshot is the threat of reduced rights for anyone who doesn’t fit within Donald Trump’s minute world view. The moment where Stephen Colbert was told live that Trump had taken Florida captures it perfectly. No jokes. No laughs. No nothing. Not even an absurdist of Colbert’s caliber could find anything in this.
In the aftermath, it’s difficult to know how to react. As a Brit, I’ve had Brexit to grapple with this year, and something so huge truly warps your view of the society you live in. How could so many people vote for something so stupid, so damaging, so downright offensive to my sensibilities? I suspect Americans can relate to that kind of disgust and confusion at the moment. How do you simply get up, go to work, and live your life when the hatred of your society has been laid bare on the world stage? How do things go forward when you’re one half of a deeply divided country?
I say all this, of course, as a person of some privilege. I’m middle class, white, male, and straight. Were I American, I’d like fit within Trump’s tiny judgement of acceptability pretty easily. I can try to empathise with how anyone sitting outside of that zone feels today – anyone who may not be able to marry the person they love, who may be targeted by bigots, who may have to stay stuck in a gender they don’t feel comfortable with, who may fear a resurgence in sexual assault. But I’ll never truly know, and my heart goes out to those people who have no choice but to know.
I’ve tweeted a lot today, putting out my own thoughts and retweeting those of others. It’s quite rare for me to get so political. Twitter can be an echo chamber sometimes, and when it’s not it can be a source of immense pointless strife. I don’t do conflict so I tend to stick mostly to my Disney, Spielberg, comic book, and film tweets. But it’s difficult to ignore Trump’s election today and probably for a long time to come. There are people who I’ve come to count as friends who are not just upset but genuinely scared, and that’s a horrifying thing.
I’ve seen people get angry, I’ve seem people get down, I’ve seen people seem utterly anxious. Gladly, I’ve not seen too many trying to police the reaction, as tends to happen on Twitter when big news hits. Maybe it’s because people are in too much shock, maybe it’s because there simply isn’t a right way to respond. You can’t pop an Alka Seltzer and head back to bed for this hangover. There simply isn’t a good remedy.
My solution is to try for positivity. It’s a purely personal choice born of the fact I’m relatively unaffected by it (beyond suffering through what’s going to be a turbulent four years for the world). I don’t think it’s how everyone should react because for those fearing for the lives they’ve built or are trying to built, positivity may not be an option. The terror is real. It’s pretty futile to say ‘oh everything will be fine’ and try to carry on when it feels like the enemy’s at the gate.
But maybe we need to retain some level of positivity. The concept of equal and opposite reactions keeps going around my head. Trump’s election was a reaction against the increasing social justice in the States, and I hope there’s a similar equal and opposite reaction from the other side. I’m sure there will be. There has to be. The opposition to Trump and his equally odious VP (who thinks you can electroshock the gay out of people) needs to be strong and effective. The election was just the beginning.
Anger has to play a part in that, but it can’t be the only part or the most significant part. Trump’s campaign was built on hate and division; the response cannot be. Equal and opposite reactions. If they give hate, you give love. If they give division, you give unity. Just as a Clinton win wouldn’t have sucked the Trump poison out of America’s veins, nor should a Trump win invalidate the Love Trumps Hate mantra Clinton espoused. In fact, it’s more necessary now than ever. It is the opposition. Positivity is the opposition.
Perhaps that’s naive on my part, perhaps it’s coming from a place of privilege, the lack of which I can’t possibly understand. I can’t disagree with any of that. But for the time being, it’s how I’m dealing with things and maybe it’ll help others deal with things too. Mourn for what’s been lost and prepare to oppose those who’ve taken it. But for the moment, maybe the best thing we can do is hug someone, love someone, say hi to someone, help someone. It might not mean anything in the long run, but maybe, to some one, in some way, it’ll mean everything.