Last night, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America.
Like the rest of the world, I’m still unable to process this news. I thought 24 hours would be sufficient time for me to be able to overcome the disbelief and fear of having a man so incompetent, divisive, predatory, and unstable be the leader of anything, let alone one of the most powerful nations in the world.
Yet here we are.
Sorry ladies, not this time
I confess that I didn’t actually want to watch the election coverage yesterday. Months ago, when Trump was announced the Republican candidate, I started deliberately tuning out whenever the election was mentioned. It was all too much, like a joke that had gone too far. How is it that the USA’s first female presidential candidate could be up against such a inexperienced buffoon? For many, Hillary Clinton was far from an ideal candidate, but she was, at least, a strong one. And while we disagreed on critical moral issues like religious liberty and abortion, I respected her as a candidate for presidency. Which is more than I could ever say for Trump. To have Clinton campaigning against Trump was insulting. And most of the time, it was too painful to watch.
I know Clinton is not the saint that mainstream media portrayed her to be (anyone who believes otherwise is kidding themselves and has fallen for her well-oiled campaign machine). But she’s an intelligent woman with years of political experience and to watch her overcome so many challenges and work her way closer and closer to the presidency made me genuinely proud and excited for her. Regardless of whether or not you agreed with her, there’s no doubt her journey towards the White House was a symbol of how far women have come. Her loss was a blow to the millions of women who work their asses off only to have (white) male privilege waltz in and shit all over everything. I know men like Trump. I’ve worked for and with men like Trump. I’ve been abused by, insulted by, and hurt by men like Trump. I’ve watched as men like Trump have preyed on, used, bullied and pulled down other people, have created division and inflicted trauma – all with no guilt because they are narcissists, and no consequences because… well… in this world, having a penis gives you special privileges.
A win for Clinton would have given all of us hope that things have changed or at least can change. A win for Clinton would have confirmed the idea that you have to work hard for what you want, and that merit counts for something. I’d like to think I could tell my sons that you can’t become something as important as the President of the United States without any political experience whatsoever. But it turns out you can, if you are a white man with lots of money. I’d like to tell my sons that character matters, and those with good character are the real winners. But that is a hard message to preach when a man so vulgar he may as well be a caricature has just been elected to lead a country into “greatness”.
I can’t deny that my heart broke bit by bit every time a state on the map turned red.
I’ve read a few articles that predicted Trump’s win and it makes me sad that they were right (this one by Michael Moore made a compelling case and is probably exactly what happened). Yes, there were millions of middle-class Americans who were sick of the status quo, felt overlooked by Clinton and were therefore seduced by Trump’s movement. But I also think millions of Americans probably voted for Trump because they couldn’t stand the idea of the White House being run by a woman, let alone one so liberal.
Choices, choices, choices
To be honest, I’m relieved I didn’t have to place a vote. As a Catholic who believes passionately about the dignity and sanctity of human life, I don’t think I could have voted for either candidate in good conscience. I am Christian and am also against abortion, things Clinton privately tears down and passionately advocates for, respectively. But my skin would crawl every time I heard or read a comment that referred to Trump as the “pro-life” choice because there is nothing about what Trump says or does that genuinely respects the dignity of human life. There is nothing “pro-life” in the way he treats and speaks about women, people in the LBGT community, Muslims, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans – the list of people who he disrespected almost daily during his campaign is so long it really is just ridiculous. And so to think of even writing his name on a ballot paper makes my skin crawl too.
Yet millions of American did. Those who were sitting on the fence considered him the lesser of two evils. That a person like Donald Trump is considered the “better choice” for so many people is absolutely frightening.
It is confronting that so many around the world are unified in our despair. The only other moments this happens is after an act of terrorism. Now that’s saying something.
I’ve listened to and read more political commentary in the past 24 hours than I have for any election, even Australian ones. The more I reflect on the election, the more I think about what we could possibly take from what seems to be a very dire situation. Someone quite unstable is going to enter a position of incredible power, and there is a palpable uncertainty that anything could happen in the next four years. Economic collapse? War? I hope not, but it’s not implausible. The division has already begun – first violent protests, and then, just before I started writing this post, the announcement that Californians are calling for a secession from the US. Tonight I heard about my nephew in the US who didn’t want to go to school after the results were announced because kids were bullying him about deportation because he has a Mexican-Filipino heritage. No doubt the abuse towards any group that is different to who and what Trump is will only get worse. This makes me so sad.
But I won’t lose hope.
By the end of Trump’s term, Mr 4 will be 8 years old and Mr Z will be a year away from starting school. When they’re old enough to read about this historic election, I’m hoping we’re able to look back and be proud of that fact humanity rose to the challenge and came out on top.
To my boys, I want you to know that when things like this happen, division and violence are never the answer. I want you to know that in every situation there is always space for hope, even ones like this when it feels like your world has turned upside down. Keep your chin up and look for opportunities to be better and make the world better. Even as a distant observer, I have learnt a lot from the candidates of this election. I am writing these down so both you and I can work towards making sure the same thing doesn’t ever go down again:
- Treat everyone with respect, even people who don’t agree with or are not like you. If you ignore or disregard people who don’t agree with you, you’re the one who misses out in the end. And people who don’t respect others just because they’re different are most likely really insecure. This is all the more reason for you to show them what respect looks like, because they desperately need to see it in action and know what it feels like. No matter how vulgar someone’s behaviour is, don’t use this as an excuse to disrespect them. Don’t lower yourself to that level – you are better than that, and they are better than that. Model what “better” looks like. Set the benchmark.
- Have candour without being callous. I think one of the reasons people found Trump more appealing than Clinton was because with Trump, what you saw was what you got. Yes, what what we saw/got was horrendous, but it was all out on the table. I don’t know if it’s because Clinton has spent so long in politics or because she seemed constantly under investigation, but despite “winning the popularity contest,” she was unable to win people’s trust. Something about her seemed disingenuous and deceiving and it turns out some people would rather vote for Trump’s certain poison than the risk of something potentially worse with Clinton. Authenticity and openness builds trust. But for the love of God, use candour to shine the light on truth and build people up, not tear people down.
- Your voice counts. And when you’re old enough, your vote will count. A lot of people took to the streets to protest when they heard the election results, but it made me wonder how many of those protestors took to the streets to line up and vote when it actually mattered. Democracy is a great thing, and you’re a fool to waste that opportunity to make a difference. It is your duty to participate in political life.
- Be discerning about what you see and read. Just because everyone around you is saying something, that doesn’t make it true.
- Don’t ever sit idly by when you see something wrong – get up and fix it. Evil triumphs when good people do nothing. This starts with little things. It starts at home and at school. Call it out when you hear someone insulting another person. Break up that fight (or better yet, step in before the fight begins). Don’t just walk past or hope someone else will do the good. YOU do the good. DO NOT ignore bad shit and hope it will go away. DO NOT be passive when it comes to cultivating goodness. All evil needs to thrive is a whole bunch of people with good thoughts and no actions.
To my boys, know that even when it looks like the world is going to shit, the good guys yell “No!” and we fight back with everything that makes the world good. Not division, not hate, not violence; but unity, love and compassion. If we don’t or won’t do that, then people like Trump really do win. And that would suck.
To America, have hope. We are with you. This is not the end.