Several times over the last few days, I’ve started jotting some thoughts about the Trumpocalypse, only to stop again abruptly, unsure quite what I’m trying to say. I’m not American – let alone, say, a Hispanic American – and so not directly in the firing line. And any analysis I could cobble together would just be a rehashed version of the pieces we’ve all already read.
But you don’t have to be American to be worried, and you don’t have to have anything original up your sleeve in order to benefit from letting loose. In the interests of capturing my personal mood right now (whatever that’s worth as a Brit), here’s some of what’s been swilling round my frazzled head.
The catastrophist part of my brain, of course, has leaped straight to World War III. Yep, it’s sidestepped all the lesser (and far more likely) tragedies in favour of FULL BLOWN DESTRUCTION OF THE PLANET, with the lone survivor becoming the de facto first woman president of America.
There is a Medium article doing the rounds on social media, which explains how the fracturing of the EU, plus a Trump presidency, could tailspin ineluctably towards nuclear war. I first read that article after Brexit and can’t bring myself to look at it again. And it almost certainly overstates its case.
But let’s just say, I’m currently in Berlin, the city where Hitler rose to power. A city that was razed to the ground during World War II, where you can accurately date a building by the presence or absence of bullet holes. A city whose former leaders thought building a massive wall might be a plan.
It’s impossible to go to Berlin and NOT see peace as hard-won and hopelessly fragile; a historically recent anomaly in a world where conflict has been the norm. It’s there in the architecture, in the street names. It’s there in the dilapidated square that sits above the site of Hitler’s bunker. Godwin’s law and all that, but in a world where this has happened before, we clearly shouldn’t be complacent about assuming it can’t happen again.
Let’s say by some happy accident Trump doesn’t inadvertently blow up Canada, what about the damage he’ll wreak in terms of climate change? Being purely selfish here: I want to go back to Amsterdam, but will lose enthusiasm rapidly when it’s under the sea. The problem with messing up the climate is that, more so than removing healthcare provisions or building a wall or entrenching divisions between people, it’s not really possible to reverse.
I think part of the reason I, and many others, were quite so shaken by Brexit was that it pointed towards something more than Brexit. We’ve had five months to get used to it now. Same old story both sides of the pond – disenfranchised, anti-establishment voter base not accurately captured by the polls. Skewed reporting. Echo chamber effect. Blondly-bouffanted buffoons. Post-truth ‘some scenes may be constructed for your entertainment’ reality.
As a result, I am not shocked by Trump’s win, exactly, but up until the very night it was happening, I was coasting by on hope. That night, I kept waking up to check the news, only to fall asleep into a conciliatory ‘Hillary wins’ dream sequence as my subconscious rejected the information. Optimism is a survival mechanism I guess, and even now it’s probably necessary. Because much as complacency is dangerous, how can we even function as humans if we’re losing sleep over an imaginary apocalypse?
The people I’m spoken to seem to be adopting several strategies to cope. One is to push the whole thing out your mind; to say, “if it lies beyond my control, why worry?”. This is healthy, probably, but a part of me feels like taking the blue pill is never the optimal response.
Another is to try to do something, anything, to channel your anxious energy constructively. I’m sure if I were in New York or California right now I’d be protesting, whether or not that did any good. And there’s something to be said for donating to an organisation whose goals are the opposite of Trump’s (Jezebel has a list here: http://jezebel.com/a-list-of-pro-women-pro-immigrant-pro-earth-anti-big-1788752078) or devoting yourself to a single concrete cause.
Another is to be hopeful. To suggest that all the darkness and resentment needs to bubble to the surface if a new kind of politics is to arise.
But the reason this feels hard is that the rallying cry, “fight it,” doesn’t seem to take us very far. It feels like running full tilt into a wall of your own powerlessness. It’s that filter bubble effect again – if you live in the Bible belt, how are you even going to hear, let alone be persuaded by, all the intersectional feminist do-goodery on Twitter? And if you’re part of the so-called ‘liberal elite’, how can you even pretend to understand the legitimate concerns of rural voters?
So I guess I’m still trying to puzzle this one out. As I always try to remind myself when my anxiety gets the better of me, this is just how things are: shit can, and does, erupt at any time on this planet, in ways we can’t control. To get all Buddhism-lite about it, it ain’t inner peace if it’s predicated on outcomes.
Mostly though, I am clinging to the hope that those checks and balances really are what they’re cracked up to be. I guess we’re all doing that. There are sane voices out there that suggest we don’t have too much to be worried about in reality and I hope to God they’re right.
Still, that isn’t much consolation for all the people who now stand to be personally affected. For anyone who crosses the path of a racist with newly vindicated views. For anyone who may lose access to reproductive health services. For every sexual assault victim who’s now received the message – a man can be accused of raping a 13-year-old girl and still become President of the United States.
Seriously people, where on earth do we go from here?
British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands