I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts for almost two days now. They’re still a bit muddled, so bear with me.The earliest exit polls from Tuesday’s American election had me in shock immediately.
Shock that such an overtly racist, sexist, misogynist, anti-LGTBQ, ableist, and disturbing specimen of a man could be elected? No. Not at all. I know how the United States is. I always knew there was a chance. If you didn’t think it could happen, then you’ve been burying your head in the sand for far too long.
My shock came from the fact that this nightmare scenario was about to become reality. That what we witnessed in the 2011 Canadian election was happening again – the apparent outrage over Stephen Harper was not quite enough to make ordinary Canadians dust off the complacency and get out to vote against him.
As the night progressed, it was evident that the American populace had elected not only Donald Trump, but a Republican House and Senate as well. That Nebraska reinstated the death penalty, and Oklahoma just made it more difficult to abolish capital punishment. A Colorado amendment to its constitution proposed removing outdated language revolving around slavery and the results were still too close to call as of the morning of November 9.
The results clearly showed that the disenchanted part of the US stepped up in a big way. So why does this Canadian care, you ask? What’s in it for me?
Technically, there aren’t many things that will directly affect me. But I’m still heartbroken over the results. So why is that?
I’m a human being. I have empathy. I understand the pain that so many are coming to terms with as I type this in the north, far from the Canada-US border.
I am a woman, and as such, have dealt with my share of sexism and institutionalized misogyny.
I am not part of the LGBTQ community, but it doesn’t matter. I know those who are, but they were human beings worthy of equality before I personally knew anyone in the community.
I am not a person of colour, but it doesn’t matter. I have friends and family who are, but they were human beings worthy of equality before they became my friends or part of my family.
I am not religious, but it doesn’t matter. I have friends who are Muslim, Sikh and Hindi, but they were human beings worthy of equality before I met them.
Are you starting to see a pattern? We don’t have to know someone in a marginalised group to feel empathy. We don’t have to know someone who is being oppressed to understand that they are worthy of the same rights and freedoms as we are afforded. We can give respect to anyone and everyone.
The United States does not exist in a bubble. Being one of the two nations with whom it shares a border – the snow Mexicans, remember? – we have ringside seats to potentially watch the biggest fall from grace since the Roman Empire. There will be worldwide repercussions for many issues. Pulling out of NAFTA, NATO, and climate change agreements are a few that strike me first. This new government seems to be interested in becoming increasingly isolationist, yet the effects of such a taken direction will be far reaching.
I’m terrified and dismayed that the legacy of one of the most effective and progressive Presidents we have ever seen is about to have its slate wiped. For eight long, gruelling years, Barack Obama and his government fought. They fought tooth and nail for every little advance. Don’t let that be forgotten. And if it’s all taken away, keep fighting. No one should have to fight and fight for the same thing over and over again, but if it has to be that way, so be it. We will fight and fight hard. And we will win.
And I’m angry. I’m angry that the uphill battle against systemic racism and sexism and everything else has had its incline increased. Abhorrent behaviour has been normalised. The reports of attacks, aggressions – micro and macro, threats; I grit my teeth with each heartbroken messenger. Each mother whose son has been bullied for Mexican heritage. Each girl and woman who no longer feels safe wearing their hijab in public. Each person of colour who continues to bang their head against a wall because their white friends just don’t get it. I’m angry because you may say Trump is #notmypresident, but guess what. He is. Somewhere along the line, your efforts, and the efforts of other Americans fell short. (Admittedly, there was voter suppression happening too.) Own it. And let’s figure out what we can do about it.
I have a list of demands (written on the palm of my hands). The list is short:
- Stop saying ‘let that sink in’. If it hasn’t already sunk in, you have a problem. You shouldn’t be shocked. You shouldn’t be surprised. You should understand that Trump is a dangerous man. Not for what he can and will do, but for what everyone thinks he will do. Don’t be afraid. Take him on. Millions have your back.
- Don’t let these election results get to you in a way that sends you to defeat. Let them energise you. Let them spur you to action. Fight racism. Fight sexism. Fight homophobia. Fight xenophobia. Don’t let the ‘locker room’ jokes squeak through in everyday conversation. Don’t stand for microaggressions and please stop contributing to them yourself. If you are white, educate yourself. If you are cisgendered or heterosexual, educate yourself. If you are male, educate yourself. Understand that no one is coming for your rights; they merely want to be elevated to your level.
- If you are not an American, do not abandon the United States. But don’t abandon your own place of residence either. Every ‘ism’ exists outside of the United States too. Remember that this behaviour is not limited to Trump’s America. That this movement is worldwide. And if we are not a part of the movement, it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to stop it. Expose racism, sexism, homophobia, queerphobia, transphobia, xenophobia and everything else when you see it. Make it known that it is not acceptable.
- Use humour to react and deal if you must, but remember this isn’t a joke. Don’t tell people to relax, calm down, stop whining, stop protesting. Join them. Understand that while you might be able to live with the next four years, the target is on their back simply for existing as someone not of the ‘chosen’ interest groups this government will not go after. Stand beside them. Stand in front of them if they need protecting.
I am not as afraid of Donald Trump as I am of the climate he has ushered in. It was always there. It was just waiting in the shadows for us white people to notice. People of colour always knew. The LGBTQ community always knew. Immigrants always knew. Women always knew. Now it’s bubbled to the surface, and the bigots are not afraid to show their true colours.
People are posting that we need to unite. We need to be kind. We need to live and let live. If Hillary Clinton was sitting as the President-Elect, do you think the other side would be doing so? Make your anger productive. You do not have to coexist with bigots. Fight for the right to exist and thrive as a person of colour. Fight for universal health care. Fight for maintaining the hard won LGBTQ rights that have been achieved. Fight for climate targets. Fight for humanity.
Let’s change the fucking world.