Wednesday, November 9, 2016
The Day After the Election
My mom died when I was twelve, and one of the things I remember about that day was how strange it felt that the world continued to go on going to work, eating, shopping, laughing, chatting about the weather, and watching TV, as if the world had not catastrophically, irrevocably changed.
I had that same feeling this morning as we walked our dog, amazed that our neighbors had put out their trash, that the students on campus were still blithely talking about term papers and being late to class. “How can you be worried about that?” I wanted to scream at them. “Don’t you understand what’s just happened?”
America, the country I love, has elected a man who supports torture, “even if it doesn’t work,” and who’s promised to deport millions of immigrants, put Muslims under surveillance, require a religious test for citizenship, pull out of NATO and leave Europe at the mercy of Russia, leave Japan and South Korea at the mercy of North Korea, put his political opponent in jail, dismantle freedom of the press, and require everyone to say, “Merry Christmas.”
It’s elected a man who mocks people and calls them names, talks publicly about his own sexual prowess in the most crass way, insults war heroes and Gold Star families, cruelly imitates the disabled, and, by his own admission, sexually assaults women. And then threatens to sue them when they confirm his crimes.
In one fell stroke, Americans have changed forever the way we’ll be seen by the rest of the world, and worse, the way we see ourselves. Nations can survive almost anything (look at England in World War II.) The one thing they can’t survive is their citizens losing faith in what they stand for. And yesterday our nation said it stands for racism, misogyny, homophobia, bullying, the breaking of treaties, and the use of brute force and/or blackmail to get its way, things I could never stand for, never believe in.
It handed the One Ring to Sauron, and now all hell is about to break loose.
So how can the sky still be blue? How can the sun still be shining?
To quote W.H. Auden:
The stars are not wanted now, put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.”
Two days after the election.
Feeling a little better, not because my assessment of things is any less grim than it was yesterday. but I’ve been remembering World War II and the Blitz and how the Brits held up in the face of certain disaster, and it’s made me a bit more cheerful. I knew all that research for “Fire Watch” and Blackout/All Clear would come in handy someday.
Some insights that might be helpful in our current situation:
–Just because things look bleak, it doesn’t mean you should give up.
Things looked worse than bleak for Britain.. Not only had France been totally occupied, the British Army’s equipment abandoned on the beaches of Dunkirk, the RAF badly decimated, London–and Liverpool and Manchester and Coventry–pounded into dust, but for four and a half years Great Britain lost battle after battle, convoy after convoy, and there was scarcely any good news. But they didn’t give up. And they eventually won the war.
–It’s entirely appropriate to feel kicked in the gut, scared, and despairing right now.
When all this first happened, the British weren’t the “Keep Calm and Carry On” heroes we all know about and admire. After the soldiers were rescued off Dunkirk, they came home exhausted, battle-shocked, and completely demoralized, and at the beginning of the Blitz, Londoners were terrified and close to panic. It took them a few days to pull themselves together, and during that time they were really scared. But then they rallied. And decided to not give up without a fight.
–Don’t think there’s nothing you can do.
The British never took the attitude of “I’m only one person. What can I possibly do?” Instead, they each did their bit, volunteering to spot fires and drive ambulances, signing up for the Home Guard and the ARP, manning anti-aircraft guns and putting on ENSA revues and passing out tea and sandwiches at canteens.
And they performed miracles. A flotilla of retired sailors and weekend mariners and young kids rescued the entire British Army from Dunkirk right from under Hitler’s nose. A ragtag bunch of choir directors, vergers, and church staff saved St. Paul’s Cathedral. A bevy of naked girls kept the Windmill Theater open. And an eccentric band of mathematicians and college professors and crossword puzzle enthusiasts broke the Enigma code and won the war.
So do your bit. Demonstrate. Protest injustices. Write your senators and congressmen. Donate to the organizations who can fight for the causes which are in danger. Write blogs. Speak out.
–Don’t let this ruin everything in your life.
The British didn’t let Hitler ruin their daily lives or their morale. He may have been raining bombs down on them, but they continued to have Christmas parties in the Underground shelters, continued to go dancing and shopping and to concerts and the movies and church, continued to laugh and fall in love and have children. They continued to read and wrote books, put on plays, work to keep all the things they cared about alive. And in the process, they kept civilization going.
–Follow Virginia Woolf’s example described below.
Virginia was working in the garden, and her husband Leonard called out for her to come inside, that Hitler was just about to speak on the radio.
Virginia refused. “I am planting irises,” she said, “and they will be here long after Hitler is gone.”
And they are. You can go see the irises at their house, still blooming.
Oh, and one other thing.
To all you people who voted for Trump:
I’m already hearing a lot of talk about how liberals brought this on by living in a bubble or not understanding Trump’s supporters’ point of view or not realizing how much white men have been hurting, etc. So let me get this straight. Because we foolishly thought this was a country that was kinder and more enlightened than it actually is, because we foolishly thought all Americans believed in the same principles of freedom and fairness we did, you were forced to elect a bullying, arrogant, lying, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-immigrant, cruel, authoritarian narcissist to the position of the most powerful person in the world.
I’m not buying it. This is the kind of thing abusers say to justify their crimes–“You forced me to hit you. If you hadn’t made me mad, it would never have happened.”
But that’s a lie. And an excuse. The truth is: I didn’t do this, and neither did the left or the Democrats or anybody who voted for Hillary. You did this, and we have no intention of taking the blame for it.
I’ve spent the last two years obsessively following Trump’s campaign, becoming more and more alarmed, and telling anyone who would listen how dangerous he is. I worked Hillary’s campaign, donated money, helped get the vote out, and voted for her. *I* wasn’t the one who voted for someone racist who abused women and mocked the disabled and advocated torture “even if it doesn’t work,” and neither were the Democrats or the left. You were.
You set us on a course that will lead us relentlessly not just into the past, but into the dark, ugly past we’ve fought so hard to come out of. It’s a course which is likely to spin out of control and take us places we can’t even imagine. And whatever happens, whatever damage he does, whatever whirlwind we end up reaping, it will be your fault and nobody else’s.
We’re all going to suffer for what you’ve done, but we’re jolly well not going to take the fall for this, too. The blame is squarely on you and only you.
*Please note, Connie sends her updates to be posted here, but she is not personally on this blog and I (the webmaster) usually have comments turned off.