Monday, November 14, 2016

Some thoughts on the American election

I am still in mourning about the American election. Since Friday I've woken up every morning crying. It was Leonard Cohen's death that set me off; its juxtaposition with America electing a fascist somehow being symbolic of the rise of a frightening new world, which Leonard seemed to foresee in his last album.

The election of Donald Trump is the death of the American ideal, nothing more, nothing less. Forget "bring me your frightened huddled masses longing to be free": the frightened huddled masses are now in America, praying not to be harassed, deported, or killed by Trump's newly energized white supremacist supporters. Much has been written about the Hitlerian tactics Trump used to come to power: the appeal to uber-nationalism, the demonization of "the other" (Hispanics, Muslims, illegals), the call to make the country great again because "others are laughing at us". Since Trump's election there has been a surge in the harassment or worse of minorities and women; Trump's appointment of a well-known racist and conspiracy theorist (and wife beater) to the post of chief strategist is not likely to reassure anyone. People are in the streets, and for good reasons. They are not going to go away any time soon either.

An American Trump supporter I know deeply resents my Canadian input on the American election. She sent me a link to an article that says Canada is the annoying friend who keeps lecturing you about the terrible mistake you made. It concludes, "what I'm trying to say is, let us suffer in peace, Canada, and kindly f$#@ off." But she doesn't happen to think that a terrible mistake was made and says that "we gave Obama a chance, and now the left owes it to us to give Trump a chance." As if this were a normal election. As if Hillary did not end up with about two million more votes. As if racism, ultra-white nationalism, blatant vote suppression, and FBI and Russian interference were not important concerns. As if she were not the daughter of a man who as a child barely missed being killed by the kind of people who now support Trump.

To go back to that article about Canada as the annoying friend, let me expand on the metaphor. Canada is the girl whose best friend next door just got engaged to the racist, misogynist lout with tats and guns and a pit bull, and neo-Nazi and Russian mafia buddies just down the street. Canada is not only worried that the guy will knock her friend around, as he surely will, she is also worried about what will happen to the neighbourhood. And Canada deeply wishes that her friend instead went to stay with her boring New York grandma for a few years until she could find herself a better prospect. She could have.

I don't know what's next. I wish the electoral college would look at the vote distribution and what Trump means for America, and say, for once, "not on our watch." But even that's not a solution, because then Trump supporters would take to the streets and say their election had been stolen; and they, unlike the "left", have guns. Even if Trump himself were impeached, as he well might be, that still leaves Pence and this frightening new racist, sexist, reactionary iteration of the Republican party in power. America is in trouble, one way or another, and it will take years, and hopefully not bloodshed, to sort it all out.