I haven’t made any notable public rumblings in regards to the results of our presidential election. This is for a good, simple reason: No amount of rumblings can accurately capture the depth of my feelings on the climax of this awful campaign cycle, though I will offer that to describe Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, as an ending is rather misguided. We’re not at the end. We’re at the beginning, and as beginnings go, this particular beginning is a real hand-wringer.
The truth is that there’s nothing I can say at this point. There wasn’t anything I could say last week, either. I’m not sure that saying anything at all is worth my time, a finite resource, or my effort, a sustainable resource that nonetheless is temporarily exhausted by cumulative excesses of frustration, despondence, anxiety, and straight up outrage. So here I am, seven days later, staring at my blog screen trying to figure out what, if anything, I can write to address what happened on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, and what has happened in the intervening days between Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 and today.
Maybe that waiting period is a necessity. No sooner did Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States of America than the Internet exploded in an emotional flurry across all corners, from social media to the media media, with each reaction encapsulating, from one thinkpiece to the next, wrath, sorrow, shock, horror, glee, snark, depression, fear, und so weiter und so fort. Whatever your feeling on Trump’s victory may be, there’s an article out there to validate it, though if you chained a cadre of monkeys to keyboards and forced them to bang away on Internet search engines I suspect you’d find that more people wrote more pieces against Trump’s ascension than for. (Then again, we all suspected that Americans would collectively rise up and halt Trump, the barbarian at the gates, from getting the key to the White House. How’d that go?)
There is, in point of fact, so much content out there written to analyze the election’s outcome that writing anything further feels like a fool’s errand, because the truth is that tying all of that content together is the best path to the clearest perspective on how Trump won, how Hillary Clinton lost, what is going to happen in our country over the next four years, what is going to happen in our country over the next two months, and how Trump’s success will define America as a nation. But you can’t blame Trump voters alone for putting Trump in office; you can’t blame Hillary alone for putting Trump in office; you can’t blame the Democratic establishment, or voter suppression, or voter apathy, or voter over-confidence, for putting Trump in office. You can’t even blame the pollsters or the pundits, though if you look on their prognostications and analyses less charitably going forward, no one will blame you. It’s not that there isn’t blame to go around, but if you blame one party, you must blame the others, and frankly a Möbius strip of blame serves no one and nothing.
(Aside: You can point fingers all you like, but that will not and has not stopped Trump from picking Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist and hiring Reince Priebus as his chief of staff; it will not stop the uptick of hate crimes that’s occurred since the election results were finalized. If you think Bernie Sanders would have beaten Trump because the polls said so; if you think Hillary only lost because of misogyny and patriarchy, and not also because she and her team made utterly foolish strategic decisions in their campaign against an idiot with no political experience; if you think that the smug and angry derision liberals poured upon Trump and his supporters just means that we saw them for what they were, and not also that we underestimated what they were capable of; if you cannot at all fathom how so many white voters who are not overtly racist could possibly tolerate having a guy who spouts xenophobic rhetoric as easily as breathing as their president; then you’re guilty, too. Yes, misogyny is real. Yes, racism is real. Yes, patriarchy is a thing. No, these are not the sole reasons the Democratic party failed to best Trump. Remember: Many of the people who voted for Trump have voted before.)
Here’s my one big revelation: The great lie of today is that what has happened in America can be easily broken down and understood in the short term. We won’t quite “get it” until perhaps a year from now, or two, or more than that, because the mechanics of how Trump beat one of our most veteran career politicians are mindbogglingly complex. (Hell, we might not fully understand those mechanics until history textbooks are updated to include the 2016 election in their pages, and by the time that happens those of us who voted might all be dust.) If someone claims that the root cause of her defeat is X, they’re mistaken at best and outright fibbing at worst, and besides: Trump is going to be our next President. Maybe pouring over data to get to the bottom of “why” is irrelevant.
My thought: Be excellent to people. Be excellent to your friends and family, and also to strangers. Inject a little more kindness and compassion into the world around you. If you wish to take an active stand against the hateful rhetoric and actions of both Trump’s campaign and his supporters, get involved in politics on a local level. Make yourself into an ally for marginalized people. Listen to them when they talk to you about their concerns in a post-Trump America. Be a safe space for them. (Wear a safety pin or don’t. I am. You don’t need the symbol to designate yourself as safe, but it helps.) Engage with social media judiciously. Take action in the physical world more than online. If you know people who voted for Trump, talk to them, too. You don’t have to like them, and you don’t have to respect them, but you can’t act like they don’t exist, either; the fact that Trump will be inaugurated in just shy of two months proves as much. Ignoring them now is foolish.
…I’m sorry. I wish I didn’t have to say all of this. You’re probably tired of hearing it in the first place, and most of you (you very, very few) who come here do so to hear about the movies. (Also: The television.) I have plenty of both to talk about, but today I had to give real talk. Maybe it isn’t what you came here for, but I hope it’s something you’re glad to absorb all the same. Just make sure to absorb it well.