As I’m writing this, I’ve had about twelve hours to absorb the indescribable events of the US election night. I’ve gone from an incredulous but sleepy ‘noooo’ to actually crying in a lecture on hearing other students’ thoughts on the practical implications of this. When following this from outside of the US, it sometimes feels surreal and even abstract, but in reality it will most likely have very concrete consequences for all those people Trump has directed all his energy into hating. And those of us not living in the US will also be affected. This is why it feels so disgusting to have to be writing these lines.
It’s hard to try and formulate coherent sentences, or to get a message across at all. Quite frankly, I don’t even know how to express what I’m feeling right now. Even at a distance, I have a feeling of a world slowly crumbling under my feet. There’s a part of me that wants to yell and scream, and I’m constantly struggling to repress thoughts about how utterly stupid and ignorant his voters were and about how anyone could possible think of voting for him. But there I have to catch myself. It’s a trap that Trump and all the other populists out there have set, a trap that is so easy to fall into, especially when you’re sleep-deprived and can’t bring yourself to take an analytical approach to this. I must try and not direct the same hate towards him and his supporters as they have directed against minorities, women, foreigners, and people with disabilities. I want to be better than that.
Right now, it feels like the beginning of the end. An end to what? To tolerance, respect, equality, basic human decency… There are many aspects of today’s global world that escape the aforementioned list, and many more people who can only dream of attaining those things. The economic structures we’ve created are unfair and ruthless. No doubt there are people in the US suffering as a result of the global economy and no doubt some of these people have used their voice to support Trump precisely because of this. I know I should be able to understand this. But it’s too soon and it feels too awful.
In a way, no matter what had happened in this election, this battle would already have been lost. The atmosphere that Trump’s race to the White House has created would not have disappeared overnight even if Clinton had been declared winner. The bigotry, hatred, misogyny, islamophobia and general dislike of all things not white and/or male will live on long after these heated first days. They are present in all societies and need very little incitement to be summoned up from their dark caves. This has already happened. There are people who think that by winning this race Trump has given them a license to unfounded hatred towards people they’ve never even met. We saw this happen in post-Brexit Britain.
Trump and his fans, as well as many commentators from across the globe, have called this a victory for democracy. This is a man, however, who stands against the most basic assumptions of democracy, and who might even undermine the entire institution of democracy. Critical times are ahead of us all.