I woke up this morning to a stream of news notifications flashing on my phone, each bringing me closer to the reality that has come to pass: Donald Trump is president.
The running joke that has been the US Presidential elections has come to a close and they saved the worst bit for last. Like a Jack in the box tightly wound, when the grinning clown finally sprung everyone was taken by surprise, even those pushing the handle.
I’m not going to lie, the teeniest tiniest bit of me wanted Trump to win just to see what happened. Not because I actually wanted Trump to win but out of morbid curiosity, like a child sticking their hand in the fire.
My all-female friend Whatsapp group was buzzing this fateful morning. Needless to say everyone was terrified. Friends based in New York reported multiple instances of people crying. They had friends so petrified by the result they couldn’t eat.
From my position in Ireland I have seen most of the election through the lens of parody, reality TV gone wrong. Oh crazy ‘ol America, there she goes again. She’ll get it together in the end. They’ll vote Clinton and we’ll tell our kids about the time a tangerine tycoon was nearly president.
This Can’t be Real
It was easy to pretend things weren’t really so bad when you get all your information through the media. America has always possessed a surreal quality, an extremity so cartoonish and at odds with Ireland it didn’t seem real.
The election and its build up fed this perception even further. To think that this hated-filled, licentious character, wholly unprepared for the role of President was ever a viable candidate was shocking in itself.
Trump’s escalation to power as he usurped his numerous challengers with ease elicited the correct responses: disbelief and dismay. But the sorry affair was treated with the levity of a TV show. With facetious SNL caricatures, sensationalist articles and comic debates dominating the media, the line between parody and reality became blurred.
Conversations became dominated by superlatives and words soon lost their meaning. Revelations of sexual assault and rape charges were almost expected. The ‘October surprise’ became a daily affair. ‘Unprecedented’ was the buzz-word of the campaign.Amid the complacency of the political elite Trump lay his insidious seed and paved his way to the White House.
6,500 km away with no voting power I could only watch on the sidelines as the nastiness unfolded.
America’s Saving Grace
Although Hilary Clinton was easily the better candidate there was an indelible question mark hanging over her. Amid smear campaigns and a continuous barrage of corruption allegations, it became hard to decipher the truth. By virtue of her womanhood she faced unjust scrutiny and her character was tarnished. But where prejudice ended and her character began became a difficult line to decipher.
This is the saving grace for Americans. You were lied to, toyed with, your fears and emotions played upon. This is the source of my compassion for Trump voters.
While the election evidenced the sorry state of American politics, I was always sure that Hillary would win. The frustration of Americans may have unleashed itself in a torrent misogynistic, bigoted and racist abuse far worse than previously imagined, but the circus act had to end somewhere. ‘President Trump’ seemed such a fictitious character he simply didn’t hold in our minds as a person of truth.
When I read the victory announcement on my phone it was like watching the final episode of sordid drama. When I gossiped on Whatsapp it was entertaining. It wasn’t until I spoke to my grandmother that I felt something real.
She uttered the words ‘We don’t know what is going to happen’, and my stomach dropped. I felt fear. Real gut-wrenching, bodily fear. Any thoughts of entertainment withered. For the first time during the whole election my brain and my heart connected and I had a visceral understanding of the trouble we are all in. Trump’s victory marks the first irreversible notch on the course of world history since this whole mess began. There is no more pretending.
I am scared.
I am scared, not for myself, but for the minority groups in America who are waking up this morning wondering if they should flee the country and in fear of their own safety.I am scared for the women of America, whose hopes of a female President are dashed and in its place a misogynistic pig accused of child rape.
I am scared for Muslims, abhorrently singled out by Trump and used as a scapegoat for terrorism.
I am scared for the Clinton supporters, who feel alienated from their fellow countrymen and even members of their own family. Their nation is now divided.
I was so sure Hillary was going to win and in that certainty I felt comfort. With Trump elected the future holds uncertainty, and in the unknown there is fear.
Will the saga continue next election? Trump v Kanye?
At this stage, anything is possible.