It’s now been a week since I felt the San Andreas shake beneath my feet, throwing my heart to the ground and my hope into a hellish vision for the future. No, it wasn’t a real earthquake, because if it had been, I would have enjoyed it. As most everyone is aware, one week ago, Donald Trump was elected to be the next President of the United States. Even just typing those words, the reality pains me. I watched my iPhone obsessively that night, witnessing a monster take more and more of the electoral votes, while the popular votes hovered closely.
I sobbed. I sobbed harder than I did when my grandfathers and grandmothers passed, and possibly harder than I did when my aunts and cousins passed. Death and sorrow are nothing new to me. I’ve been losing people and witnessing disease and distress- in the form of cancer, diabetes, drug addiction, dementia and amputation- since elementary school. And I’ve been fighting a battle with depression for most my life.
But I’ve been in a good, hopeful place. I have so much going for me and have been working so hard to break my own barriers, crash through this fucking glass ceiling imposed upon all of us women. I’ve been making strides. I’ve been ready to take on the world and finally write my masterpiece. Shit, even my man, Bob Dylan, won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
That night, however, I wept like it was the deepest grievance of my life. No cucumbers could assuage the puffiness of my eyes the next day. I am currently residing in California, so the need to flee was urgent. I was so close to booking the next, cheapest flight out of the U.S. With just a click of the button, I’d be off and flying toward freedom. I mean, fuck it, right? I don’t need this country, and it sure as hell doesn’t need me, right?!
I took a few deep breaths and convinced myself to sleep through the misery. Somehow, someway, things would get better. After a few vodka tonics and bingeing alternately on comedy shows and guided meditations, curled in a fetal position, I managed to get a couple hours of sleep.
The next day, the weight of my body ached; I felt like I was dragging my spirit behind me. Its sadness, disbelief, horror, and anxiety were heavier than a dead elephant. There’s no doubt that I am a liberal, and I thought that Mitt Romney was the devil four years ago, but this is nothing in comparison. How could such a vile, narcissistic, hypocritical, pathologically lying, psychopathic manipulator come in to lead the United States? He is imperialism personified. He has no respect for women- as proven by his counts of sexual assault and ill-chosen (not to mention completely made-up) language. He wants war; he wants to “bomb the shit out of them.” And by “them,” he means everyone who is not like him- an entitled, arrogant white (supremacist) male.
He has already turned this country upside down, dividing the people of the United States based not only on their political party, but also on the color of their skin, their genitalia, their bodies’ abilities, whom they love, whom they worship, what they wear. As riots- both peaceful and violent- have ensued, I’m not sure if it is that people are showing their true colors, or just that now the feel that it’s perfectly acceptable to demonstrate hatred against others. Hatred for lack of understanding, or for seeing something in themselves they fear or whatever other “reason” they subconsciously process.
I get it; people want change. And Hillary Clinton wasn’t proposing that. People are fed up with barely getting by. They want to be rich like Trump; to be able to be an asshole like Trump, because this is ‘Merica, home of the free, of the racist, of the homophobe, of the Islamophobe, of the misogynist gun-toting, hyper-masculine, my-way-or-the-highway character who will shoot you if you try to explain climate change with solid scientific facts. People want to be free to remain ignorant and believe what they want to because this is a land made of narrow, industrial, exploitative, fuck-‘em-all kind of dreams. And to these proletariats, Trump promised them the world. He said what they wanted to hear, even if it made no sense, no clarity, no practicality, and even if he denied it the following day.
So, all Mexicans are rapists. He will build a wall because there are some “bad hombres out there.” (Um, look in the mirror lately, dude?) Immigrants don’t belong here, even though this country was founded on illegal immigration; he personally hires immigrants to work on building his empires (and refuses to pay them), and his wife is also Slovenian. (Side note- if you don’t know any Slovenian people, or haven’t been to the country, please don’t base your opinion of Slovenia on her character. It’s such a beautiful culture.) He wants women to be punished if they’ve had an abortion in the past, not to mention get rid of agencies like Planned Parenthood and reverse Roe vs. Wade. He wants to take Obamacare away from those- like myself- who finally have medical coverage because they couldn’t afford it beforehand. And, of course, Muslims in general are the reason why ISIS exists, and are the sole cause of “mass Islamic terrorism,” yet, if they feel unsafe in this country, all they have to do is reach out to somebody for help? Like, a note in the suggestion box you’ll never read, or what?
I’m ranting here, but I’ll stop myself because this could go on for weeks- or for the next four years. I am frightened that this sorry excuse for a man is going to have access to very sensitive information- not to mention stuff like nuclear power- and I believe he will start World War III. I hope to a god I don’t believe in that I’m wrong. But I have this nasty, pit-of-my-stomach terror that you get only when you fear for your life.
Due to having a vagina and breasts, I feel for my safety more than ever in this country, since Trump has given sexual assault the thumbs-up. And as a victim of said crime, as many women are, this paralyzes me. I am scared that my rights as a woman will be taken away. I fear that I won’t be let back into the country next time, since my passport stamps reveal not only that I travel often (why would a single woman do such a thing? Is she a spy?), but also that I’ve been to several Muslim countries.
Nonetheless, my concern is more for my family and friends of color, those whose parents are immigrants or immigrated themselves as children. It’s for my blood that walk around in brown skin and can’t pass for a white person like I can. (I am half-Caucasian, half-Mexican American, and my extended family has European, Asian, American, and African roots.) I fear for my family and friends in the LGBTQ community, who are or want to get married, have children. I am frightened for my friends and previous students who are Muslim and walk around in hijabs. I worry that my black friends- and the black community as a whole- will further be pushed into a marginalized life and further subjected to police brutality. I’m concerned that my disabled friends will be mocked and attacked. I worry that people with mental illnesses- such as myself- will no longer have access to the services they need in order to lead productive, healthy lives.
Correction: My anxiety is not limited to just my friends and family; I worry for everyone. I cry for everyone, as my compassion does not discriminate between those in my intimate circle and those I have yet to meet. No one deserves to be treated like shit. We’re all human beings, all of us connected, and that is why this is not just a problem for the U.S. This election’s outcome is a global fucking menace. It’s no longer just an embarrassing joke on this country; it’s a real threat to every single human being on this planet, as well as the planet itself.
So, stepping back, while the reality TV spectacle that was the debates refused to end, I decided that it was time to move on. I set my target for the beginning of the year, because, regardless of the election’s outcome, I needed to look for a new home. I’ve been in the country since mid-June and have been ready to hit the road again. Nonetheless, this outlandish outcome has sped up my process, and ready or not, I shall leave in January.
Now, many people promised to leave the country if Trump won. Canada’s tourism site crashed the night of the elections. I wonder if so many people promised to do so as a threat, or because they couldn’t believe that something so horrid could actually come true. Kind of like Brexit. But it did. And we’re now living in a nightmarish reality in which we have to organize and decide what to do from now on. People must decide what to tell their kids daily while this manipulative man-child seizes the country. I can’t imagine how frightened parents must be of how the future will unfold during their children’s formative years.
So many people have such deep roots in this country, or have fought so hard to assimilate in hopes that the American Dream (which, I admit, I believe is dead) will give their family more opportunities for a brighter future. Most people can’t realistically just pack up and leave. They have mortgages, cars, location-dependent careers, spouses, and children who they can’t uproot. They have places of community, like clubs, churches, and schools, that need them. They have elderly parents they have to take care of.
What I’m saying is, for most people, picking up and leaving the country isn’t ideal or practical. I have read a few articles saying that we need to stay and stick together to endure the next four years and fight whatever hell we’re put through. Friends have told me not to leave, that I’m needed here more than ever. My parents want me to stay close by, of course, and my dad told me that I may never see them again after I leave. (They’re in their 70s, but my father acts like he’s 95.) All I could say is that I’d happily take them with me wherever I settle, just as long as we don’t have to be roommates.
I’ve thought this through. I contemplated the idea of staying. After all, if I am so unpatriotic, and if I didn’t give a damn about this country, then it wouldn’t have hit me so hard, would it? The truth is, I do care, much more than I’d like to. While at times I feel that the only connection I have to the U.S. is my family and friends, just the unintentional act of being born here has given me many undeniable privileges. Like having English be my first language, or being able to earn a decent income while people around the world, much older than me, did incomparably arduous work and got paid pennies. It’s allowed me to fund my own education, both in academia and the world at large. And, most importantly, it has given me the freedom of speech, the opportunity to express myself in words, for which others are imprisoned or murdered. For this, I am indescribably, forever grateful.
While I may be wanted here, at this time, I am not needed here. I feel that I will be able to help fight against this pending regime of dictatorship better from afar. And, after all, my strongest platform is through TRAVEL. I may hold a United Statesean passport, but I am a global citizen. Like I have been doing on the road since 2003- during the Bush administration- I must continue to show others what people from the United States of America are really like. I have never taken the cop-out of pretending to be Canadian, and that won’t change. Even more so than before, I feel that it is now my responsibility to exemplify the best of the U.S. as an expat.
If you need someone to listen to you, there will always be Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, and a million other outlets for connection. And once I get settled, if you are weary, or broke, or need refuge, my hope is to be that person who can give you shelter from the storm. The future will be tempestuous, but we will remain strong, in solidarity, no matter the distance.
What is your reaction to the outcome of this presidential election?