All day we’re publishing responses from interesting and informed New Zealanders to last night’s seismic elections. In this installment, American-born journalist Tracey Barnett tries to find light amongst the despair.
So, let me put it this way: today was not a particularly good day for any human endowed with a vagina in America.
You need proof? My birth country chose to turn a dyspeptic Oompa Loompa into Jeb Bartlett, anoint him with both Houses of Congress, and hand over the next generation of Supreme Court justices for good measure. This, over electing the smartest woman in the room. Any room. Anywhere.
Susan B. Anthony, I apologise, I have watched The Apprentice once or twice. I just didn’t know where it could take us.
What do our Better Angels do now that heaven is set to be a Trump Casino in Foggy Bottom?
Aaron Sorkin must be in tears. That is some solace. I was too, when the soaring violins swelled during the West Wing-ish playback and Donald Trump entered the ballroom for his acceptance speech.
“Oh God,” I prayed silently, as he appeared at the top of the stairs. “Why this man? I would have taken Martin Sheen in his alcoholic years. Make that Charlie Sheen in his druggie-gun decade. Even Sponge Bob in Russian.”
I felt cheap bargaining with the heavens about mere politics. As the Rust Belt rusted through Michigan, then Wisconsin, I kept seeing Melania riffling through Michelle’s old inauguration gowns, “Vell, if it looked good on her, it’s going to luk amazing on me.” Rest easy, I tell myself, Melania is planning on tackling all those ‘mean words’.
And I’ve got a few brewing tonight.
If there is some Bearded Guy in a toga on a throne up high, tell me, are you going to make us wait another 96 years for a woman president, you cruel bastard? For this? For THIS.
I thought ordinary people like me were the heart and pulse of American values. Inclusion, multiculturalism, a nation built by immigrants who didn’t believe in pulling up the ladder behind them. What your mother taught you. What your grandmother fled Russian pogroms for. What your own daughter carries to Standing Rock. I was wrong. We were wrong. Utterly, blithely blind to those who cannot be seen.
“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no more,” he said.
And I thought we had forgotten them because they used to wear white hoods on their heads and burn swastikas on lawns. Because I still dared to believe our future wasn’t a young black man gasping eleven times, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”
Donald Trump’s America won and my homeland is bleeding from a whitelash tonight. I was raised on the dream of American exceptionalism, the belief that we moved in a forward line, an arrow of enlightened social evolution. My America is Toni Morrison and Tony Kushner, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Edison, Leonard Bernstein and Leonard Pitts. Coltrane, Ginsburg, Satchmo, Fitzgerald, Sontag, Angelou, Malcolm X, the kid on the Wheaties box, always.
Hillary Clinton was known to be a wonderful listener. I wonder what that would have sounded like in the Oval Office.
“I, too, sing America,” Langston Hughes wrote in another dark American time. For now, we are all the Darker Brother.
Tracey Barnett is an Auckland-based American-Kiwi journalist, hell-bent on not committing seppuku before Donald J. Trump’s January inaugural.
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