I had trouble going to sleep, and at 8:30 this morning, I didn’t want to get up. I came close to calling sick. The news that Donald Trump is now the President-elect of the United States hit me extremely hard, perhaps even harder than Stephen Harper’s majority victory in 2011. In 2004, after George W. Bush was re-elected, La Presse political columnist Vincent Marissal wrote that “people always thought Americans were too brash, too boisterous, too everything. But never before has the world trusted them so little.” I think the world has moved on from distrust to fear, for Americans and for itself. I certainly feel that way.
Empires fall. Egypt fell. Rome fell. European colonial powers relinquished dominion over previously-conquered countries. Nowadays, the decline of the United States is obvious and well under way. In the eyes of many, however, the election of Barack Obama was an attempt at reversing that decline, or at the very least, at pressing pause on it. After eight years of that, very few people expected the U.S. to press “fast forward.”
Of course, Trump supporters won’t see it that way, quite the opposite. But then, they don’t have the slightest clue as to what their new hero will do to “Make America Great Again.” It’s not (necessarily) because they’re stupid. It’s because Trump himself has given us no indication that he knows, either.
I’m well aware of all the epithets thrown at Trump; the global press has been hurling them at him again since his victory became official: fascism, sexism, Islamophobia, xenophobia are now standing on America’s proverbial doorway. If he meant any of the insanity about the wall Mexico will pay for, or the bracelets Muslims will have to wear, or the mass deportation of illegal immigrants, then dark times await.
But what if he didn’t mean it? What if it was plain calculation? What if he shot off the racist, xenophobic rhetoric because he knew it would galvanize the tea baggers whose support he’d need to win this election? Well, that’s what kills me about his victory. Even if he meant next to none of that stuff (although there is no calculation that could possibly justify his misogynistic “locker room talk”), in the absolute best-case scenario, he remains woefully unqualified for the post that was just entrusted to him.
Here is a man who has repeatedly displayed an eight-year-old’s level of language and emotional maturity. Here is a man hailed as a successful businessman, as if governments were to be run like businesses in the first place, despite the fact that it’s unlikely he’s remotely as rich as he says he is, that he’s currently involved in no less than 75 lawsuits, and that he’s filed for bankruptcy six times. Here is a man whose vice-presidential candidate has worked against gay rights and argued that cigarettes are not a danger to people’s health. Here is a man whose campaign trail discourse (which included sexism, racism, anti-muslim bigotry, and a mind-warping amount of bold-faced lies) should alarm us, whether he uttered it out of sincerity or out of opportunistic cynicism, for it makes him either a nutjob or a supremely irresponsible demagogue (or both). Here is a man who has managed to get elected despite not presenting a single clear and feasible proposition to better the situation of the Americans of whom he pretends to be the only champion (a feat in itself, I’ll grant you, but not one that makes him presidential).
We’re all to blame
So who should bear the brunt of the blame?, we ask ourselves today. The exercise isn’t as futile as you might think, because it’s only by accepting responsibility that we come to recognize our mistakes as such and learn from them. So…
If you took Trump lightly, his election is on you, especially if you didn’t bother to vote because you thought Hillary Clinton’s victory was in the bag already. This is especially true of those who relied on pollsters, whose ineptitude this result clearly exposes, for reasons to stay home.
If you let yourself be convinced that America’s problems can be solved by taking out your frustrations on journalists, or Mexicans, or immigrants in general, Trump’s election is on you.
If you think the war on islamic terrorism can be won by stigmatizing American Muslims, Trump’s election is on you.
Although, since we’re on that topic…
If you’ve been claiming, as a regressive portion of the left has, that islamic terrorism has absolutely nothing to do with Islam, Trump’s election is on you, too. That’s right. Your so-called inclusiveness is partly responsible for enabling this buffoon of a President-elect we so despise. No, Islamism and Jihadism don’t have everything to do with Western foreign policy. Yes, they do have something to do with the belief system that lies at their core; many of these people’s grievances are indeed religious. Your refusal to recognize the link between beliefs and actions, because it is both nonsensical and hypocritical, has left people who are trying to understand this threat looking elsewhere for proper answers. And since they couldn’t get them from you, try as they might have, many of them turned to the crazies of the far right who, despite the obvious flaws of their overall take on the subject, at least have the merit of stating outright that Islamic terrorism does have something to do with the doctrine of Islam.
If you were a Bernie Sanders supporter and decided to vote Trump out of spite for Hillary, Trump’s election is on you. He told you to vote for Clinton, you imb…….
If you allowed yourself to believe that Trump would, if nothing else, “shake up the establishment,” his election is on you, although you’re probably happy about it, then. What kind of dipshit reasoning is that, anyway? When did “shaking up the establishment” become intrinsically beneficial? If Trump is going to shake the establishment, but that it’s going to be for the worst, how is that a good thing? It’ll lead people to revolt, you say? First of all, you don’t know that. Secondly, even if that’s the case, at what cost and in what form will this pseudo-revolution of yours come? And if your response goes along the lines of “can’t make an omelet without cracking some eggs,” please volunteer to be one of the eggs that get cracked.
If you’ve been claiming that Hillary Clinton was the right appointment for the Democratic nomination, Trump’s election is on you. How could you, in such an obviously anti-establishment era, pick the biggest symbol of the establishment one could possibly find? I want a woman to be President too, but she was the wrong choice. Then again…
If you’re one of those people who let the idiotic American media convince you that Hillary’s rather run-of-the-mill ambition and cunning were on par with, or worse than, Trump’s blatant sexism, shameless bullying, and apparent racism and xenophobia, his election is on you. Hillary Clinton is a politician’s politician. If that’s a character flaw, fine, but then Trump has humanity flaws. No points for figuring out Trump is worse in a year-and-a-half.
The only group left for me to blame are those who voted for Trump enthusiastically. What is there left to say about them? Many did so out of sheer tribalism, but the others, well… Clinton was wrong to call them “deplorables,” at the very least from a PR standpoint, but the fact remains that Trump, kudos to him, I guess, managed to lure out people so politically illiterate that they could be reached only by vacuous vagaries such as his. All he had to do then was make said vagaries about the right thing. I don’t know whether we underestimated Trump, but we certainly did the people who worked for him.
One last thing: while Trump’s election is painful, perhaps even traumatic, what scares me more than Trump himself is the fearful atmosphere that enabled him. As long as that doesn’t go away, Trump will be just the beginning. And that’s not really on Trump himself. He didn’t create this climate of fear; he merely exploited it, rather successfully at that.
And so, of course, the illustrious Edward R. Murrow was right to point us back to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and to the character of Cassius, who so wisely said that “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”