Do you remember where you were one year ago? When you heard the news. Maybe you were watching the election all night and knew already what many hoped was impossible. Or maybe you were just waking up, like I was. When I went to bed the night before, I heard rumblings that things were going downhill. As the night went on, the results from each state rolled in, at first equally blue and red, but blue soon became outnumbered. I went to bed hoping that we could pull out of this political nosedive, having some shred of faith left in humanity. Or maybe just wanting to put off the inevitable a little bit longer.
No one had thought it could really happen. Late night television hosts mocked and even invited Trump’s presidential run, goading him to try it, assuming he would fail miserably. Liberally minded folks scoffed at the thought of this pompous reality star even coming close to achieving the presidency. We were stupid, complacent that decency and logic would win out. People felt that Hillary Clinton had the presidency in the bag, and didn’t bother to vote, counting on those who went to the polls to make the right decision. We were all wrong, and few realized until it was too late.
Some people remember where they were when they heard that JFK had been shot that day in Dallas, or when the first plane hit the Twin Towers. Those were events that rocked not only America but the world for years to come. Each generation seems to have that defining moment that shocks the nation, that marks a cultural and historic turning point. In these moments, our lives enter a new period: post-JFK, post-9/11, and now, another. We are living post-Trump.
I woke up early the morning of November 8th, as I did every morning those days. I was working in Toronto as an ESL teacher not long after graduating from Carleton, and living in a leased apartment near Yonge and Eglinton. As soon as I woke up, I felt a sinking sensation, like there was a stone in my gut. I swiped into my phone and checked my news feed. There it was: President Donald Trump. I felt cold.
Even though I’m Canadian, I am still concerned about U.S. politics. As scary as Trump may be, with his ability to incite nuclear war, what is just as scary is what his rise to power has brought out in America’s people. We have seen terrible things happen this past year, from domestic terrorism to natural disasters to an increase in hate crimes to the rise of the alt-right. And it’s not isolated to the States, either. As Canadians, our fates are intrinsically tied to those of the Americans. With the exception of a few major differences, Canada and America are linked by our shared values and way of life. Even though Trump is America’s president, he is not only America’s problem. This is something that affects us all.
I was reminded a few days ago, almost out of the blue, that November 8th marks the one year anniversary of the election of Donald Trump. I just heard it on the radio— the DJ announced it and I just thought, “oh god, how has it come to this.” I knew the moment would arrive, but it was hard to believe that it had already been a year. I honestly thought he would be impeached long before now. (Robert Mueller, if you’re reading this, great job, keep it up.)
Of course, he wasn’t sworn in until January, but November 8th was significant because it felt like the beginning of the end. One year ago— give or take a few days— I lay in my rented apartment in Toronto, feeling despair creep over me. My bed stood beside a bank of tall, wide windows that were always full of sunlight. I twitched aside the curtain and looked out. The sun had risen behind a block of apartment buildings, and the sky was still a pale pinky-orange. Everything looked the same as it always had, but it felt strange, unfamiliar. “The world is different today,” I said quietly to myself. I felt sunken slightly, heavy and sad. I let the curtain fall back into place and buried my face in my pillow, trying to get another half hour of rest before having to face the world, but my brain wouldn’t let me.
What can I say about Donald Trump that hasn’t already been said? I’m just one person, and thanks to the 24 hour news cycle and Trump’s egotistical bungling of every media appearance, phone call and press conference, his antics have been covered by every news station the world over. People much smarter, more educated and more eloquent than I have ranted, debated, blogged, and lectured about the topic. All I can tell you at this point is how I feel.
Ever since November 8th, 2016, I feel like I am living in the twilight zone, some alternate reality where everything is upside down and backwards. I ran out of words with which to condemn him before polling day even arrived. Now, a year later, each new news story feels like some awful, elaborate joke. I don’t think I need to spell out why I dislike Trump. Listing his many flaws and pitfalls would take too long, and if you’re reading this article, I suspect that you can already relate to how I’m feeling on some level or another. I could mention his racist, discriminatory and downright dangerous policies, his repulsive behaviour towards everyone from journalists to veterans, his notorious pussy comments, and his unprecedented Twitter account. But this has all been well-documented and hardly needs reiteration. What I can say now is that Trump’s election and subsequent presidency has been, and is still a threat to the people I love. He and his following, that is, those who enthusiastically espouse his hateful rhetoric, are endangering the well-being of Muslims, Jews, Mexicans, immigrants, women, people of colour, people with disabilities, victims of sexual assault, and my LGBTQIA brothers and sisters.
Ever since I woke up that day one year ago and opened the curtain to a new world, something has been growing in me. Although I felt despair, it was also mingled with a sense of grim determination. I wanted— no, needed to do something. Obviously, a lot of people felt the same: his election sparked immediate backlash and prompted countless protests, marches and vigils across North America and the world. Notable among these was the U.S. Women’s March in January, which is now recognized as the “largest single-day protest in U.S. history.” But ‘doing something’ doesn’t have to be wearing a pussy hat and carrying a banner through the streets. ‘Doing something’ can be as simple as talking to your friends and family, standing up for others— even when it’s inconvenient, and taking stock of yourself as a person. Who are you? What are your values? What do you stand for?
In this time of grim determination, when so many awful things happen, we need small acts of goodness and decency more than ever. Even though the election may have brought out the worst in some people, in others it brought out the best. It brought out grit and renewed resolve and unity against a cause. It brought out masses of likeminded folks in unheard of numbers. It brought sadness and anger and uncertainty. It brought hope for a better future.
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