Tonight I stayed up until 3:00 am to hear the results of the American election.
What I feel more than anything is stunned. Incredulous.
It still seems incomprehensible to me that Americans would actually want this.
As a culture, we are used to politicians who equivocate. There's a certain surface level of disingenuousness that we expect. Even if we strongly suspect that we are being lied to, we find it comforting that there is at least the pretence of sensitivity and appropriate behaviour.
It can make us falsely optimistic about the future. Sometimes the tiniest step towards change is basic social awareness.
In a certain way, all of the candidates were outliers. Sanders with his openly socialist leanings, Clinton with her unapologetic, patient ambition, and Trump with his transparent thoughtlessness and greed.
The most common and frustrating response I've been observing over social media for weeks is people proudly saying that Trump "tells it like it is."
If telling it like it is means perpetuating a status quo that encourages misogyny, racism and classism, I fail to comprehend the positivity.
Sixteen years ago, The Simpsons predicted that Trump would be the president of the United States. Trump has always seemed like a rambling, incoherent parody, so ridiculous as to not be believed. But therein lies his power. Americans failed to take him seriously enough, and failed to treat his contradictory, deeply disturbing statements with the appropriate fear and gravity.
As a fiction writer, what comes to mind in this Orwellian mess is a line from author Roald Dahl, in his children's classic Matilda. "Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable..."
It's somewhat heartening to think that the Canada immigration site was down for hours tonight.
But before we get too happy with ourselves, we should remember that we're a country that elected Harper for two terms and that few people in Toronto believed that Rob Ford would be elected. Once he was, it was easier to satirize him, to act bemused or distance ourselves with irony. It was much harder to watch the way his decisions and statements affected our lives.
When I think of my friends and family in the US, I genuinely fear for them. I fear for women, for minorities and people of colour. I fear for their professional and personal interactions, their reproductive rights and their right to basic safety and security. I fear for the legitimization of identity politics. I fear for climate change and the EPA.
Tonight, hate and fear won. Sexism and racism won. Homophobia won. But they don't have to prevail. It's up to us, at the very least, to be more invested in all of it.
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