Unlike many invested chaps I had gotten a solid eight hours of sleep before my sister had told me, through her Snapchat filter malarkey, that Donald Trump needed 6 more seats to win whereas Hillary Clinton needed 55. I rolled my eyes, not really emotionally invested in what was inevitably going to turn out to be an ugly and sad election, and went on with getting ready for the day. Just as I was about to leave the house for school a friend messaged: Trump won.
I was mildly surprised. The morning consisted of my political indifference: the lazy person’s getaway ticket for dealing with capital letter Bull Crap. And so on the commute I didn’t give much thought to Trump winning, perhaps sometimes reverting to the whole “oh, how do you look at me now? In a Trumperian era? I am Muslim, no? In hijab, no?” And then I paused those thoughts and kept the lid on my emotional investment with this goddamn farce – the whole world is a farce! – as best as I could.
My History teacher was emotional, “we can say pussy-grabbing now, it seems(!)”, and told us that we need to combat hatred and bigotry with love and compassion and that what we must all do is work damn hard, become the amazing people we will inevitably become, and fight hard for a better world.
Maybe for some (cough, the majority, cough) this is the best world yet.
For many people Brexit and Brexit.2 in the form of President Trump mirrors a potential for a new world. A new world that won’t suck as much as a world full of mass unemployment, redundant jobs, and simple political indifference doesn’t exist. A world we, the unheard of, the “racist bigots” who only really have ideas you disagree with, can finally belong and invest in. Many reasons can explain 2016’s peak of worldsuck: with mass immigration coupled with the transition from a working class society to a service society two influential factors in creating a stinking pile of resentment within many (read: the majority of) people. Don’t deny it. Like not so long ago, during the mass poverty days and social, political, economic resentment of the German people under the Wiemar Republic the public were forced to go to the extremes in the hope that maybe things will change. In the hopes that maybe things will get better. Undeniably leaving Europe was an extreme because remaining wouldn’t a change a damn thing (and changes needed to happen! And this was the only way, bloody democracy, to get it!). Choosing Trump was extreme because the Clinton dynasty could go and fuck off.
And yes it’s scary, and the KK-fucking-K endorse Trump, and everything seems so goddamn unreal and apocalyptic and bloody hell the Canadian immigration website crashed – but there are concrete and dare I say it “sensible” reasons for this catastrophe. Sadly we, with our informed ideas, and our education, do not have as much hold over the world as we thought we did. We may shout the loudest, or we may have people who shout pretty loud themselves, but you can’t beat a traditional election or referendum when it comes to hearing from the people. The people have spoken, and like Brexit, and possibly like any world-turning incidence, you kind of have to stop and goddamn listen.
My other History teacher said that we should get involved with politics. Become politically active. I agreed, despite despairing. I mean, how can I do that? News outlets give me headaches – headlines tug me this way and that way and I know that reading the news will just clog my brain with useless bullshit and I will get all caught up with it and god forbid I use Twitter to express anything and I will just cry, and cry, and cry, and possibly end up choosing Trump myself. I fear getting involved with politics. But it’s been a while since this morning. And I know there’s something I can do, something that I can swallow, something that won’t be so hard but will be ever so effective.
I believe in the power of words. I believe that reading a book can shape the very essence of your being. And I know for sure that I like bookish journalism a helluva lot more than reading or listening to the news.
Many have said to make good art (Gaiman was the first, a billion years ago) but today. Today my English teacher put W.H. Auden’s poem September 1 1939 up (a classic favourite) and she read it out. We must go to art as floozy as it may be because I feel as though it is the most tangible form of this weird combination of love and anger that can combat hatred. Or turn hatred into an act of love without bloodshed and deep psychological acts. Art can make us think. “We must love one another or die” said Auden. Everything is a lie, he said. There are a few points of light of “the Just” that flicker, and we must, “beleaguered by the same negation and despair, show an affirming flame” he said.
And someone else said that we must write, drop all the niceties and the discussions about grammar and character building and write with intention. Write to fucking say something. Read voraciously.
Read what? Bookish journalism is something I admire. It gives me more scope to deal with than a two-minute article could ever hope to do, and the first book in the face of this nonsensical news that I can offer is this:
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People’s History of the United States is the only volume to tell America’s story from the point of view of—and in the words of—America’s women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. As historian Howard Zinn shows, many of our country’s greatest battles—the fights for a fair wage, an eight-hour workday, child-labor laws, health and safety standards, universal suffrage, women’s rights, racial equality—were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance.
Sadly, there’s not a lot we can do. But if 2016 has taught me one thing it’s that being politically indifferent or just flailing even gets you nowhere. And like most of politics this isn’t really about feeling or emotion or principles. It is about money, and power, and being heard. It is about paving the way for a content society – and we have the privilege of recognising that and caring for each other. Caring especially – and most attentively – for the people consumed by all the hatred, and their own sense of a right world.