November 10, 2016

Messy Thoughts About A Messy Election

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“Why do you care? It’s not even your country.”

A casual tweet I received seconds after tweeting about the collective human ongoing heartbreak that is the 2016 presidential election. I saw people say similar things on my British friends’ Instagram posts, but how sad would it be if we only cared about ourselves? I feel so disappointed for my American friends. For the women and men I know personally who have campaigned tirelessly for Hillary.

It was the most devoted and persistent Democratic campaign I’ve ever seen unfold. .

Of course it’s good to care. I care as much as if the U.S.A. was my country. You should never feel ashamed of how deeply you care. I feel the same as I felt when Brexit happened, if not more intensely, because now it’s a double whammy and it feels like the nightmare has been well and truly confirmed. Countries have always been divided, but this feels different.

We are one planet. Whoever thinks that this doesn’t affect the rest of the world is clearly an idiot.

*

 

Every woman knows someone from their past, or present, like Donald Trump. He is the boy at the party who pokes fun at people’s cellulite while in offensive fancy dress and does everything in his power to feel better about himself. He is fragile masculinity at its worst and it’s too threateningly familiar that it still feels to soon to be laughing at the orange-faced memes or at his creepy cameo in Sex and The City.

*

I’ve been in America for 12 days now and I’ve still got 3 more days here. One thing I have noticed (apart from the obvious fact that California is a beautiful place) is how friendly and welcoming the people are here. A woman stopped us in the street to ask if we needed any help because she saw we were holding a map and I nearly jumped out of my skin. No one would offer a tourist in London some handy advice because everyone is too self-absorbed. On Venice Beach, we were trying to take a picture of us jumping in the air and two girls lying on the beach sunbathing chatted to us while we took photos and gave us a massive smile and a thumbs up as we strolled off. A guy working at Virgin America at the airport made an effort to make people laugh the morning after the election even though he whispered “I might come back to London with you.” I have heaps more examples that seem small but collectively felt important. Everyone was welcoming.  It was the opposite of the opposite of elbowing people out of the way. I love this part of America.

*

The other night with my best friend, sister and parents in San Francisco, we went for a tapas dinner, walking distance from her apartment. The air was warm, the streets were lit and there were people taking their dogs for an evening stroll. As we finished our paella we began to talk about the election, because the news had just broken that Hillary’s emails were getting looked into. My best friend was starting to get realistic, and I didn’t like it. She is intelligent, logical and unsurprisingly knows a lot about the law (she’s a lawyer)— and explained just how bad it was that Hillary was being investigated by the FBI even though she was innocent until proven guilty.

“I’m certain American voters will take this very seriously. I hope this doesn’t sway the vote to Trump.”

I gasped audibly and felt momentarily betrayed that she wasn’t being blindingly optimistic (like me — I was the person shouting “it’s not over till it’s over!” when Trump only needed 4 more points to win). Optimism can often look silly. After hearing her say the worst (read: the truth) and suggest that Hillary might not win, my emotions took over.

“But he can’t win. He can’t win.” My voice was shaking.

“I know. I’m just saying. It does look bad, to have the FBI investigate you.”

“Do you even want Hillary to win??”

“Yes!!! Babe— of course I do,” she looked shocked and I felt bad because it came out wrong and I was genuinely interested to know if, in her mind, the FBI thing meant it was all too fucked up to be salvaged.

“Of course I want Hillary to win. I’m just stating the facts.”

She was. She was right. She was stating facts about the election and the media hype and how perhaps people might see this as confirming the “Crooked Hillary” illusion, and I didn’t like it. A warning sign perhaps, that optimism is often not a realistic approach.

It made me wonder — because we moved on and ended up having a heart to heart on the balcony having another drink, because we’re best friends — that some families and friends might have had some serious fall-outs. That a friendly debate could turn really nasty. You could have a parent voting for someone you despised, for example. I went to bed feeling bad for the people who were struggling with divided relationships during election time.

*

On the evening of the 8th, we went to a Cirque De Soleil show at around 7pm Pacific Time, just as the very first election results started to come in. I was watching one of the most incredible acrobats in the world lift another man in the air, using only his calf muscles, and all I could think about was Hillary.

I sat with my Dad in a bar in Las Vegas as the final result came in. My sister and mum had gone to bed, probably because I was unbearable and it was all I could talk about and I was glued to my phone. A drunk British guy next to me saw me looking at the results on Google and started talking about how neither of them were great and I knew I didn’t want to talk to him. In the hotel bar adjacent to ours a group of lively people were dancing to Uptown Funk and next to that people were playing on ‘Game Of Thrones’ branded slot machines. In Las Vegas it was business as usual, and none of the TV channels were showing the election. It would have been very easy to remain oblivious in there.

No-one I saw on election night (albeit I was in a very touristy place) seemed to care. It was an odd experience. The flashing Hershey’s sign and bad repetitive music was an assault on my eyes and ears, and the idea of Donald Trump as president an assault on my mind.

*

One thing this has highlighted to me is something I already knew. We live and move in bubbles. My life and social media life is surrounded by like-minded people. Clearly, because why would I want to follow any bigoted, racist, sexist people? It’s good to keep the people on your Facebook feed who disagree, but it’s hard not to block anyone who makes you feel uneasy. I actually never saw one person say anything positive about Brexit or Trump on my social media or algorithms or anywhere really unless I searched for it in the dark and murky corners of Twitter. Facebook was probably serving me pro-Hillary news stories too because they know who I follow and what I write. It’s encouraged me to be even more mindful of that, but also to maintain my own sanity and mental health too. The truth is not always what you see. You’re in a bubble.

*

All of this is a feminist issue, too. What are the chances that people just didn’t want a woman to be president? It makes me feel sick but I also fear there’s truth in it. Hillary was beyond ready. She represents all women who have bossed it in their careers and deserve the role but are cast aside by under-qualified mediocre white men with shit hair.

Oh god I loved the idea of celebrating the First Female President more than anything.

*

I was feeling awful until I watched Hillary’s concession speech. I sat on the hotel bed in my towel with wet hair, my eyes glued on a woman who has done so much for others. She managed to hold her head up high and by doing so, I lifted mine. This is history. We wanted it to be herstory. Her speech was dignified, empowering and represented everything she is as a woman and it was the last bit of hope — that we could do it one day. Not this time around, but one day. The glass ceiling shall be broken, but our hearts break instead this time round that Hillary wasn’t the one who rightfully could. I just wish her ideas could live and breathe inside the White House. Instead her ideas will have to live on in Instagram quotes.

“We have still have not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling. But some day, someone will.” —Hillary

“To all the women…who put their faith in this campaign and in me…nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.” —Hillary

*

Millennials voted for Hillary with 54% of the youth vote. The thing is, many young people still aren’t voting. In fact, I read less millennials voted this year compared to 2012. I get it, that looks bad. My question is: WHEN CAN IT BE MADE POSSIBLE TO VOTE ONLINE? I don’t buy the bullshit about it being a safety issue. We do everything online now. We store billions of pounds online. We need make it possible to be digitally heard.

On my flight back to San Francisco today, two reports on Fox News were calling Millennials “Special Snowflakes” because some college students had been asked for time off because they were so angry and upset about Trump winning. Students at Berkeley walked out of class yesterday in silent protest. If “Special Snowflake” means caring about the world and being upset at the thought of an unqualified walking ego is now the most powerful man in America then OK then.

*

Shit-storms remind you who you want to be. A moment to reflect on your own identity, personality, relationships, life. Who do I want to surround myself with?

Who do I want to be in all of this? I want to be a person who doesn’t respond to hype or hate. I want to be a person who really weighs up the other side of the story before carrying on with my own opinions. I want to be a person who lifts others up. I want to help generate community spirit. I want to inspire young girls. I want to refrain from being intimidated by hate-rhetoric. I want to be a raging feminist and not feel bad for it. I want to have compassion for others less fortunate. This is the person I want to be. This is the person I’m trying each day to be.

Liz Gilbert wrote something amazing about this moment of reflection, and it helped clear my mind.

*

It’s OK not to see “a silver lining” in all of this. At least, not yet. You’re allowed to care. To cry. To cut yourself off for a while. To mourn. To re-watch Hillary’s speech. To post on Instagram. To make endless cups of tea. To be negative. But as Hillary said herself, it’s not about her. And it’s not even about him. This is not just a media circus about Hillary vs Donald but this is a bigger broader battle. The merchandise and t-shirts to one side, for me it’s about trying to move towards global love, compassion and equality in some way or another. Together.

This is something millions of people do want. And when the time is right, when we have healed, we can get to work. Again.

As Eva Chen posted earlier: “our President Elect might not be a role model. But let’s each be our own role models. For ourselves, our community, and our children.”

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