Letter to America, The Morning After An Election

I haven’t slept and I don’t think this is going to be very articulate.

But, first thoughts.

For most of the night I’ve been watching the coverage of the presidential election. This morning, I am scared. I’m scared for women, and for people of colour, and for disabled people, and for poor people, and for people who need hospitals, and for LGBT people, and for the literal planet. I’m scared because of issues of social justice and self determination and the economy and the environment and foreign policy. It’s not just about the presidency; it’s about the vice presidency and the House and the Senate and eventually it’s about the Supreme Court. It’s not just about America; as America goes, so often so goes the world. It’s not even just about last night, it’s about the last two years and the turning political tide that has led us to this point where never in my lifetime have so many people across the Western world held such a fragile grasp on their civil liberties.

I suppose there are people who are not frightened — people who wanted this, or who think they did, and they apparently represent half of the United States. BBC News interviewed a man this morning who represented an organisation called American Muslims for Trump, a first generation immigrant born in Pakistan who loves America and was prepared to swear blind that when Trump talked about Muslims he didn’t mean people like him. He is thrilled; I am terrified for him. I am prepared to believe that some of the people who voted for Donald Trump are not bad people, but are people who have been disenfranchised and lied to and I think maybe he is one of them. I do, though, think some of the people who voted for Donald Trump are bad people. And what’s more important is I think the person they have voted for is a bad person. I don’t believe that he is someone whose ideas are worthy of consideration or whose opinion I happen to disagree with; he’s just wrong.

Today, I live in a world where a xenophobic misogynist with no knowledge or experience, multiple active accusations of sexual assault, a history of multiple bankruptcies, and by all accounts the attention span of a fruit fly is president-elect of the United States. In a world where that man can be pitted against a smart, articulate, qualified woman with a work ethic that I can only gape at, and she still loses that fight. This, in a country that thinks of itself as the most advanced democracy in the world.

I know that there are also people who are not frightened enough. They are the ones who keep saying things about checks and balances, and about him not being able to do that much harm. I think those people are drastically underestimating the power of the executive.

I’ve been thinking about that night, eight years ago, watching that speech in Grant Park, that night when I really believed that the world had changed for the better, and I’m wondering what the hell happened.

It isn’t just about America, and it certainly isn’t just about last night. This election has been a defining moment, for sure, but it comes at the end of two years when right here at home and on a global scale we have seen the rise of the radical right and it is going to get worse before it gets better.

It’s tempting to curl up and lick our wounds, but we can’t do that.

Well, for today we can.

But the sun will rise on tomorrow, and, my friends, tomorrow we’ve got work to do, right across the world. It is time to protect the vulnerable, to speak out for the marginalised, to listen to the disenfranchised, and to fight back against oppression in whatever mask it happens to be wearing on any given day. It’s going to be harder now. It’s going to be more important than it ever has been before.

Every so often this year when I’ve looked at the state of the world and despaired, I’ve come back to something that was posted on social media by Lin Manuel-Miranda on no particular day in July.

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Okay. Let’s go.

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