It’s not over but it looks over. The numbers must be wrong. I can’t keep my eyes open, I’m falling asleep in my chair. I have to be up at five for work.
I still have hope. Or I’m still in denial. I don’t know.
I close the browser on my desktop, call it up on my phone and trudge upstairs in the dark.
I set my phone on the nightstand, pull up the covers, and the tinny voices of analysts seep into my dreams. Not sleeping, not waking, at some point I reach over to check the numbers and I see he’s won.
I can’t fathom it.
At some point after one in the morning, I hear that disgusting voice I’ve come to loathe. He’s thanking the soulless supporters who’ve pounded their fist alongside him. My heart stops beating and I have a late night moment of mortality, the kind you have in the middle of the night when you wake and realize you will die, that it’s going to happen. Or in this case, that it might be your republic that just died.
I’ve never knelt for the national anthem. But I have stood by passive-aggressively, ballcap on my head, hands at my side, not happy about the militarism of the fly over, resenting the enforced nationalism and feeling surrounded yet not bold enough to call attention to myself. I’ve never felt proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, as if there were no other “free” countries on the planet, or places with better country-rock. Or developed countries with far less poverty, less for-profit health care and fewer elementary school kids killed by gunfire in a given week.
After 9/11, I said some unpopular things that alienated me. I suggested that perhaps our attackers attacked us because they felt attacked. Like we had already begun a war against them, one they couldn’t fight with policy or a military because they had no resources for such a fight. That perhaps they were suffering because of decisions we’d made as a nation that impacted their lives, their futures, their families, without our giving a good goddamn about it. Perhaps we were not innocent victims, I said.
That was not a popular opinion.
Nor was it popular when I suggested that we not take such pride in our response to a tragedy like 9/11. Not to take away from the valor of police men and women or firefighters or civilian responders, but I do wonder if their human response to save other humans necessarily made us great Americans, or America great, as we were so fond of saying at the time. Isn’t that to suggest that, say, Canadians or Mexicans wouldn’t have responded the same way, had they been attacked? Such a response is not uniquely American. It’s not even uniquely human. Ants do it, for chrissakes. When their mound is stepped on, they rebuild. No matter what country they’ve made their mound in.
I drive to work in the morning wondering how anyone can be doing something so mundane as driving to work in the morning, the morning that future history books would point to as the end of America’s bold experiment in constitutional democracy vested in checks and balances. The morning of it being twisted, corrupted, conned, and thrown away in exactly the way the wisest of our founders feared, by a duplicitous demagogue. Yet here we are, brake lights pumping in the pre-dawn, heading to work like nothing has changed or ended or been destroyed. The elitist in me wonders how many of us had a voice in choosing the CEOs of the companies we work for, and what a disaster it would be if we did.
It’s always been easy for me to cross my arms and look crossways at the process, and pretend to be above it, better than it, and pretend it doesn’t matter and that I don’t care. I’ve lived and worked overseas and seen better educated citizens there than here, talked to people who understand our electoral process better than many of us do, who understand and feel the impact of our policies more than some of us.
For a long time, I’ve pretended to have washed my hands of our process because it’s broken and corrupt, and that it runs on money and false fear and nationalism. And that may have been true at times. And at other times it might not have. But today it’s different. Today it’s real. Today the American people, or at least one out of two out of those of us who voted, have shown we are not what we thought we were, or claimed to be. Today we showed we are small and petty, fearful and hate-filled. And some of us are spinning away from that towards some notion of unity, and too few of us are acknowledging that we might have just handed a tyrant his throne, or wondering whether we can ever get it back.
I’ve always kind of prided myself on being cynical, but today, at what looks to me to be rock bottom, I’m fearful and sickened and sad. Today I can’t be cynical. I’m looking for hope. I’m hoping everything we’ve ever been taught about the power of our particular construct of government is true, and that we can survive this. And I’m wondering what I need to do to ensure that. And whether I can, and whether it will matter. I have to believe it will.
Addendum: Just did a quick google search to see if I’d coined a new term with Trumpocalypse. I really thought I had, and was definitely going to take credit for it. Turns out I didn’t, and I’m upset about that, too. Looks like we’re all spelling it the same way, so there’s that, at least.