A Lament for America

It may seem like I'm preaching to the choir since the demographics of those who read this blog skew towards mine and I'm pretty sure most voted for the same Democratic platform. I'm writing today about things you may already know and fear but this election has had a profound effect on me. I'm numbed by disgust and paralyzed by despair and hopelessness. Everything I had ever espoused about governmental regulations and the environment, about growing political dissonance and world disorder seems to have come to fruition; it's terrifying because at the back of my mind I always had a small flicker of hope that America would come through, that we as a nation would sober up and realize the cost of our political and life choices. This election has extinguished that last remaining spark.

Hillary Clinton, in her concession speech, said we owed Trump an open mind and a chance to lead. The world gave him a chance to display a fraction of sensibility when the Republicans nominated him to represent them on the national stage. He has so far failed to prove that he would be in any way an effective leader. He has neither the skills nor the temperament; this nation is hinging its bets on his unpredictability, that perhaps his ghastly behavior thus far was merely pandering to his base. It's terrifying that the most powerful man in America, and quite possibly the world, is prone to fits of fancy. This is a man who has no qualms about dropping bombs all over the world, treating women and minorities with disrespect and literally lying his way to the White House. How did we go from disseminating democratic ideals around the world to electing someone who has said that he admires Vladimir Putin and quotes Mussolini?

I came to this country ten years ago after working hard to gain admittance to graduate school. It was my only way of leaving a country ravaged by years of cronyism and corruption, a country that was slowly pushing aside secularism for Islamic fundamentalism and where affirmative action existed only for the majority. In America I thought I would have a secure future, that people were more tolerant, that I wouldn't feel uneasy for being different. If I worked hard and pulled up my bootstraps I could achieve the American dream; I would be able to find a skilled job and contribute to society. I would be able to have my children grow up in a democracy where their rights as human beings in a civilized nation would be recognized. It feels like I have left one nightmare only to wake up at the beginning of another.

In ten years, I have seen the rise of the first African-American president who may go down in history as one of the greatest American leaders. But I have also seen the bigotry and racism that thwarted President Obama every step of the way. I have seen how an increasingly hostile and xenophobic Congress blame, lie and manipulate their way to ensure that they would stay in power and that their will, not the will of the people, be done. I have seen the denial of sound science, the bastardization of the Supreme Court, and the humanizing of corporations. I have seen basic voting rights and women's rights and minority rights that patriotic citizens have fought so hard for be squashed by people intolerant of cultural shifts. I have seen the uptick of mass-shootings and the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the collapse of public education. I have seen immigrants and welfare recipients be scapegoated over and over again. I have seen how fear-mongering has reduced people to anger, narcissism and short-sightedness. The last ten years has crushed my hope in this country and its government that once stood for justice and liberty for all. Most of all, the last ten years has crushed my hope in humanity.

Some may say that I'm prematurely pessimistic and that we must trudge on with kindness and rise above the occasion. Those words are meaningless. Hope is a fool's errand. Hope is why liberals have buried their heads in the sand and kept muttering over and over again that there is no way Trump would win. Hope is why people voted for Trump; they're hoping that he will be able to lift them out of the quagmire. Hope depends on the premise that things will get better, that an end goal is better than nothing. I guess if you wait long enough, everything that you hope for will come true even if the reality is that the tides of nature is cyclical. Hope causes inaction and encourages complacency.

The world as we know it is pretty much over. Four years is a long time and in the process, many things will be set into motion that cannot be undone. The effects on the economy and on social welfare will be disastrous almost at once. The effects on the environment and the climate are irreversible and its repercussions will reverberate long into the distant future. When the social safety nets have been ripped from under their feet and their education sold to the rich, how do we look our innocent children in the eye and apologize? When their family members lie sick in the streets, crippled by healthcare costs and their friends go hungry, how do we look our innocent children in the eye and apologize? When our daughters are deprived of their equal gender rights and our sons deprived of their sexual orientation rights, how do we look our innocent children in the eye and apologize?  When the oceans have risen and the human population suffer through drought and famine and flooding, when we wake up one day and the birds are silent and the flora and fauna of our youth have disappear, how do we look our innocent children in the eye and apologize?

When we tell our children that the 45th President of the United States of America and the 115th Congress of the United States of America failed to protect to their fragile future and led them down a path of new world disorder, how do we look our innocent children - those who must live with the consequences we are bequeathing to them - how will we ever look at all our innocent children in the eye and apologize?

I have no good advice on how to cope with this all except that I will hold my daughter closer tonight and begin tomorrow with a resolution to muddle through this unfortunate time and do everything I can in my limited power and influence to make sure that there will never be another embarrassingly tragic election like this again. I owe it to my daughter, to generations before us and to the generations after us.

5 comments :

  1. We're feeling the repercussions over here too. My friends, coworkers, family - everyone is numb. Dumbfounded. And the worst part is, it is happening here too. I watched politicians stand on the lawn of Parliament House and pop champagne in front of a media throng to celebrate Trump's victory. These people and their followers who would drag us back into the age of the White Australia Policy because they are afraid and alienated by the rich white men who hold power in this country. So disenfranchised they can't punch up against the people who hold them down, so they lash out at the most vulnerable members of our society - refugees, LGBTI youth, and religious minorities - to reclaim some semblance of power over their own destiny. Sadly what has happened in the US is going to drag the rest of the West into a quagmire I can't see a way out of. You're right - this is not a time for hope and complacency. We have to act or be lost forever.

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  2. Thank you for your honest and heartfelt post. I'm from the UK and yesterday my heart sank when I heard the news and I felt as though a door had closed. Before Brexit I would never have believed that this could happen but after Brexit it felt inevitable for some reason that Trump would win. You're right though that this is a time for action to protect the values that are now under threat.

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  3. Hi Amanda, I am fellow immigrant who worked really hard and moved to this country for the exact reasons you mentioned. As I read your post, it almost feels like I am reading what I wrote on my blog about how I felt about the election outcome again!. 'Hope is a fool's errand.' You nailed it with that sentence. I want to laugh out of sadness each time I hear someone saying 'He is not that bad! Now that he is elected, he will sober down.'

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  4. Amanda:

    My only hope from this nightmare election is this: that decent, thinking, reasonable and compassionate Americans can look at each other and realize that our skin color, our sexual orientation, our gender, all those supposed differences - are meaningless in comparison to the dangers we face. Those of us who share your sentiments and beliefs - and there are a lot of us! - need to come together as a people to show Trump and the world that there are many, many Americans who despise his attitude and beliefs. There are so many of us who have passed from disbelief and dismay to a new desire to stand up for the real America. This is still the country whose president, in 1987, urged another world leader to tear down a hated wall. This is NOT the country whose people will build a wall to symbolize hatred and xenophobia. When hope is married to action and determination, it is not a fool's errand but rather a statement that the true America, the America so many of us still deeply believe in and love, will not perish from the earth. We owe it to those who came before us to stay this course. Yes, fasten your seatbelts. It is going to be a bumpy ride - but I'll wager that you and I and many, many other good people will still be here when the ride comes to an end. We'll have our work cut out for us, but, to quote Rosie the Riveter, "We can do it!" We will do it.

    Sophie W.

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  5. I think what has happened since the election shows us you were not wrong to be pessimistic in this post. It's been a horror show and he hasn't even taken office yet.

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