“I didn’t think those people actually exist. I thought they were just a cautionary tale CNN made up to get more people to go out and vote.”
That’s what a co-worker of mine jokingly said about the lone Trump fan during our watch party at a political bar in Toronto last night around 9:00 p.m. At that point, the votes were just starting to trickle in. A small lead by Trump followed by a small lead by Clinton, but nothing that gave our pro-Hillary minds something to worry about. A minor detour on the path to 270.
But as the night unfolded, there was a palpable shift in that Toronto pub. Our table of 10ish outspoken Democratic party supporters and all the other friendly faces waiting to hear ‘Madam President’ for the first time in history started retreating into our shells; only then really allowing ourselves to consider the possibility that - holy crap - Trump might actually win. Despite the New York Times suggesting that Hillary had 693 ways to win compared to Trump’s 315, and a general understanding from a majority of Canada that there’s no way a well-educated, progressive country would vote in a professional bully, the electoral votes were starting to reveal a level of dissatisfaction and profound sadness that a lot of us didn’t allow ourselves to consider plausible.
Slowly the lighthearted warden-like monitoring of the election night drinking games and the under-the-table bets on how tall Wolf Blitzer is in real life wore down while we all sat gawking, stunned and a little scared at what was happening. Our thoughts on that sole Trump fan went from, “That’s going to be a hard pill for him to swallow when he’s the only one leaving here unhappy,” to, “How is he the one that’s going to win the gift card?” (I guess I should explain that there was a contest in the bar where the person with the closest estimate for electoral votes gets a gift card. And it’s safe to assume that the lone wolf was the only one that had Trump in the lead on his ballot. The game really became a $1 Price is Right bid situation, but I digress.)
It wasn’t until around 10:30 p.m. when I really started losing hope. Since the 1960s, the candidate that took Ohio has taken the electoral nomination. By that point it had already been confirmed a red state, and other key swing states like Florida and Nevada were looking to go that way, too. This is when the conversation not only in the bar, but across my social media feeds, turned from hopeful to defensive.
“At least he’s not our President.”
“It’s not going to effect us all that much.”
“Whatever man, they voted for him. You get what you ask for.”
And I wanted to feed into those mentalities. I really did. But voting in a person like Trump over a person like Clinton really doesn’t just effect the voting population of America, it effects everyone from racial minorities to the LGBT community to, maybe most importantly, the next generation as a whole.
On one hand, we had a woman who was extraordinarily qualified for the position. Someone who has first-hand experience not only as the spouse of a two-term president, but as the Secretary of State (and that’s not to mention her approximately 18 additional years of political experience outside of those 12). Someone who has paved the way for the rights of minorities and homosexuals and those in situations where Roe V Wade may be needed. Someone who fights for the equality of women in the workplace and who could have closed the pay gap for women in, preferably, less than the predicted 118 years.
On the other hand, we have a self-admitted sexual assaulting, xenophobic, unqualified bully who has done everything from calling Mexican immigrants rapists to having business ties with leaders of organized crime rings to, for whatever reason, calling out Samuel L. Jackson for his unathletic golf swing.
And those are scary thoughts for two reasons: First, because America voted against the kinds of change that we as the human race have been working towards for years. They voted against equality and kindness and the promise of a more hopeful rapport with all races and genders. But the second thought might be worse than the first. It’s not only a matter of what was voted against, it was what was voted for.
American as a whole decided that the idea of a wall to segregate an entire nation is a worthy idea. That stopping and frisking individuals based solely on their racial profile may actually keep them safer because, hey, people who look like terrorists are the ones most likely to be terrorists, right? They voted for the idea that the Supreme Court needs representatives who believe that abortion is a sin and should be illegal, despite the fact that the result may mean sentencing a young victim of sexual abuse to motherhood, or making a woman to permanently scar her body with the reminder of a child she was forced to bear for nine months before giving up.
And those are the things that adult, voting Americans have decided on. By the time we were leaving that bar last night, there was a tone of well, they did this to themselves in the air. But we can’t ignore the bigger thing at risk here: an entire generation of Americans, who weren’t able to help decide this election’s outcome, and who will now be looking up to a person that embodies nearly everything a parent tries to refrain their child from being.
A few weeks ago my friends and I were looking towards the future with one of the most inspiring thoughts any of us have had: Let’s say a child doesn’t build memories that shape their character until they’re four. By the time that Hillary had finished her run as president, all young Americans under 20 would have grown up in a country where they only knew a black male president and a female president. Two things that many of us thought we wouldn’t see in our lifetime would be the only thing an entire generation would be familiar with. They would have grown up knowing diversity and equality and been shown what it actually means to go high when someone goes low.
Instead, parents now have the four year long task (possibly eight-year long task) of trying to get their kids to understand the do as I say, not as I do ideology for anything pertaining to the President of the United States of America; a position that, historically, children are taught to look up to and admire and emulate.
There was a period in 2010 where I lived in New York City and worked at the Viacom headquarters in Times Square. One of my supervisors there was an absolutely inspiring young woman who was equal parts nice, helpful, and motivational. A woman in charge of a department at one of the biggest entertainment corporations in the world, and someone to look up to professionally. She’s an LGBTQ supporter, a Hillary campaigner, and is currently expecting her first child.
Around the same time Trump took Ohio and the election results started to look irreversibly grim, I saw a Facebook status from her that got me to thinking about the position that she, and many parents-to-be like her, are now in, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
Yesterday someone like her would have been looking towards a world where they could teach their child the value of hard work. That despite your gender or your race, there really aren’t limitations to what you can do. That if you’re a kind person and you hold strong values and you work towards a purpose and a goal, that you can make a change in this world.
Instead, my friends and my colleagues and the millions of strangers in this world who are expecting children are going to be faced with teaching their child one thing while having them watch another. They’re going to try to teach their children not to judge someone based on their appearance, while the President of their country insults a reporter for his physical disability. They’re going to teach their children that all races are equal, while the President encourages the American police force to stop and frisk people who might look like terrorists based on the colour of their skin or while the President suggests that someone can’t successfully do their job because of their heritage. They’re going to teach their daughters and sons that women and men are equal, while the President insists that pregnant women are an inconvenience to employers and that women should be punished for having abortions and that a woman’s judgment is clouded by emotion when she has “blood coming out of her wherever.” They’ll try to tell their kids that their bodies are their own bodies and that other people don’t have the right to touch them or look at them inappropriately, while the President brags about sexually assaulting women by grabbing them by the p***y, says that some women aren’t pretty enough for him to sexually assault, and sums up a woman’s worth as a reporter or entertainer by saying that, “It doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
As educated, socially functioning adults, we should already know the difference between right and wrong. We know that when Trump says these things, we have to look past it and be bigger. When he goes low, we go high. But for that future generation, the vulnerably impressionable ones that are taught to look up to the President with respect and admiration, how can we expect them to maintain that progress we’ve made for change and equality when one of the most outspoken bullies of all time was just given one of the highest honours available to all of human kind?
Just this morning a co-worker came to my desk and said, “Well, this isn’t going to make you happy,” while showing me a half-naked and nearly pornographic meme of Melania Trump that had the words THIS is the First Lady of America scrolled across it. I assume she was trying to say that as a feminist, I’m probably not happy that Hillary isn’t in the White House while this woman is. But that’s not what made me unhappy. What made me unhappy was that this smart, funny, well-educated colleague of mine was perpetuating the same kind of bullying that we look down on Trump for. Melania wasn’t nominated for President; we shouldn’t be casting judgement on her. But even if she was the nominee, talking about her looks or her photo shoots or her somewhat scandalous modeling past is just as bad as Trump objectifying women every day on Twitter. I’d like to think that, at the very least, he won’t have the same kind of social influence on adults as he will on kids, but if this co-worker is already stooping to the same level of insults as he has during his campaign, then should I really expect anything more from the adult population of North America as we become more and more exposed to his casual hatred?
A Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have.” Yes, all but one of us who were gathered in that bar last night have lost that serenely hopeful future we thought we’d have today. But as we look towards the new future, the Trump future, we can’t lose sight of the intentions and goals that Hillary and all of her supporters, both in American and internationally, were working towards.
While America may have a new President and Vice President that are against gay marriage, we as a whole can stand up and show support for our same-sex friends and family members. While they may have a President who shows blatant disrespect for women in nearly everything he says about their gender, we can continue to fight for equality and women’s rights. And while the progress may not be as instant or as easy as it could have been with Clinton, that change is still there for us to make. Hillary or no Hillary, Trump or no Trump.