I WOKE UP, the day after the election, feeling sick. It was a sickness that had nothing to do with a virus (or maybe everything). The disease was existential. On a normal day, I sometimes spend time trying to prove to myself that people are essentially decent, essentially reasonable, and essentially capable of intelligence. Days like today make me feel alone.
When I was around twelve or thirteen, I was in a mall with my grandparents. We used to go five-pin bowling there. A woman with dark, wrinkled skin and piercings all over was selling t-shirts. They were mostly band shirts, and shirts with text slogans. The kind of shirt that makes jokes about beer. In amongst these beer shirts there was one graphic of President George W. Bush and the words, NOT MY PRESIDENT. The shirt had probably been meant for Americans, but as a Canadian the meaning still worked. Bush was both literally not my president and not the president who represented me, as a person. I bought the shirt and took it home but, even then, didn’t want confrontation, and so never wore the shirt in public. Besides, as far as political statements go, the shirt was a bit tacky.
I loved the symbol of the glass ceiling where Hillary’s victory speech was supposed to be. Imagine winning, and being contained no more. That would be a symbol that would last for a long part of American history. But as the night went on, and the numbers started coming in, the symbolism was distorted. Suddenly, the room became a metaphor for something else. Now it was a symbol for how the glass ceiling was still intact, rather than about to be broken, standing high above the women in the crowd who’d gathered to support Hillary. The pundits on CBC were wondering why she wouldn’t give her concession speech that night, but it seemed fairly obvious. She could not appear under that ceiling, having lost. That’s the problem with symbols: they stick, good or bad. Think of Trump in front of that wall of garbage. Hillary did not want to leave people with that kind of symbol.
Numb was the word my friends and I used, this morning. Not angry, not sad, just numb. The world is not as we hoped. In a best-case scenario, Trump will still ignore the climate change that will stand this world on its head and, as much as I want to be around to say I told you so, the revenge might not be so sweet.
The world is full of ignorance, and there’s no way around that. I see it in myself, I see it in my acquaintances, I see it in the American voter. Who died and gave them this much power? What is right about that?
My favourite moment of the election results was earlier today, from Obama. I clicked on a video to watch his speech. The first part of the video showed an empty podium, so I fast forwarded through seven minutes of empty podium before the president showed up. That was another potent symbol—part of me wished the empty podium was the speech. That would be the kind of speech I would want to make, but not Obama, and that’s why he is who he is.
But the empty podium wasn’t my favourite part. My favourite part was when the president talked about ensuring a peaceful transition of power, and he said (hard to hear) that there would be a “sexist transition.” His eye flickered after realizing the mistake, and he corrected himself: “A successful transition.” I could tell he was annoyed he had slipped up. But I loved that slip up. He wasn’t wrong (Lordy knows he wasn’t wrong), but Obama is such a calming presence, and untouchable force, that he wasn’t annoyed that he had quietly insulted the little orange guy (who wouldn’t care anyway) but because his calm had, for half a second, slipped. The man, giving his job away to a lunatic, wanted to remain the president he often had been: taking the high road.
The day after the election is still routine: watch YouTube, go on Facebook—collect the human data. This election is very bad news for the world, but what do I have planned? Observation, mostly. That’s all that can be done (for me), and all I ever want to do, no matter who’s running things. I want to observe and record, and watch and be mindful. The only thing that’s left is to not let Fuckface von Clownstick get away with this one. And not for America—for the rest of us. America is a pretty messed-up place, no matter what. They can have their Trump and eat him too, but it’s the rest of the world that concerns me—so much so that, this time, I might even wear the shirt.