What Happened Last Night

My sense of foreboding was heightened by the sound of copter after copter flying overhead of my apartment in Oakland, California’s Temescal neighborhood. Just news copters, probably, I told myself as CNN slowly unveiled count after count.

My sister called me, frantic.

“It’s over!” she cried, “I’m moving!”

“It will be okay,” I naively reassured her. “There are still plenty of votes uncounted. They haven’t even reached the West Coast yet, and there’s still time for Michigan or New Hampshire to flip.” At that point, Hillary Clinton still had a lead, albeit a miniscule one, in Pennsylvania.

We agreed, as scores of Americans all over the country surely did, that the media had to make it seem like a tight race to keep us riveted to our seats, and to encourage any stragglers who may have not yet voted to dash to the polls while they still could.

I had the first of what would be many bowel movements almost immediately after hearing Mike Pence, barely audible over the encroaching air traffic, introduce “The next President of the United States, Donald Trump.” I would rise several times in the next few hours, from a fitful attempt at sleep, to take painful, foul-smelling shits that reflected the attributes of America’s choice and the prospects of its immediate future as much as my own anxiety.

Last night, America held its breath as it awaited a new leader. This morning, the country is at once subdued and raucous. The mood was somber at my local coffee spot, Sub Rosa, where typically gregarious staff and customers alike exchanged dispirited quips between sighs, their eyes downcast.

“Maybe California will finally secede,” I offered.

I was only half kidding.

Meanwhile, not too far away, I heard chanting; but, try as I did, I was unable to find the implied protesters. I hope they return soon, so that I might join them.

Everyone looks uglier than usual this morning, myself included. I haven’t fixed my hair. I’m wearing sweatpants I typically only wear when I know I am going to be home all day, although I suspect at some point I will discover a local demonstration happening today and rush to join it. I am also wearing an old, oversized t-shirt bearing an image and quote from one of my favorite books, A Confederacy of Dunces: “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all of the dunces are in a confederacy against him.”

Hillary Clinton is no genius, but she is certainly more qualified and less socially abhorrent than our new president-elect, and I confess to having felt sorry for her last night. I can relate, as can anyone reared in society as a “woman,” to watching a man less qualified and less deserving than you are nevertheless get something you want— and worked extremely hard to get. Whether you believe she should have been president or not, that being defeated by Trump of all people was embarrassing and unfair to her is undeniable.

This ugly, gloomy Oakland is so unlike the city I have come to know and love it’s eerie. By contrast, the weather today— November 9, 2016— is violently beautiful. The sun is shining full force, piercing the exposed flesh of myriad arms, cheeks and noses. Just shy of 10:30am, it is already 65 degrees. Today’s high will be 73.

True to form, the Oakland sun gives zero fucks about the state of the world right now. I have often joked about our lazy sun: how it sometimes will not come out until 11am or even 12 noon, tempting Oakland residents— particularly those of the freelance or work-from-home variety— to sleep in. How it often teases in the afternoon, ducking behind clouds and poking out from the sides, so that within a single afternoon one can experience two or even three distinct temperatures.

Today, on one of the darkest days in the history of Oakland or any other US city, the indifferent Oakland sun blazes on, reminding us mere mortals that our petty problems are ours to contend with; that no celestial body will intervene on our behalf; that we will not be saved.

Indeed, why should we be? This is a choice we made. Unlike in other countries, where one is often told rather than asked who will be the next President, last night was an election, not an appointment. Trump won the electoral count, reaching the “magic number” of 270; ergo, by and large, Trump is the president our country deserves. To say that his ascent to the Presidency is an injustice isn’t quite right because he adhered to the process. He ran in the primaries, and he won his party’s nomination. He then ran against the Democratic pick, and he beat her. There is no injustice there; the injustice lies in his platform and his plans.
 

Last night, America voted for injustice.

 

I understand that many believe voting for Trump was a vote for justice— on their behalf. They felt disenfranchised and ignored by the establishment, and voting for Trump was their way of giving the long finger to Team Clinton/Obama. Still, their desire for their own justice— for economic security, for political consideration— quite literally Trumped any consideration for justice on behalf of their fellow Americans: African-Americans, women, Muslims, and so forth.

Trump’s America put itself first, just as he told it to; in so doing, it entirely divorced itself from “anti-Trump America”:

in which Hispanic women are not called “Ms. Housekeeping;”

in which sexual assault is a prosecutable offense and not the subject of locker-room talk;

in which women are to be respected for their talents and not shamed for their bodies;

in which standing accused of raping a 13-year-old girl immediately disqualifies one from the Presidency;

in which a judge’s ethnicity does not hinder that judge’s ability to render fair and unbiased rulings;

in which no one is banned from entry based on their religion;

in which, when at least thirteen women accuse someone of sexual misconduct, they aren’t all dismissed as liars; and

in which employers are expected to pay what they agreed to pay to laborers they employ, whether they are waiters, dishwashers, painters, plumbers, construction workers, or campaign staff.

This last point is what I find most heartbreaking— or tied for most, I suppose— about what happened last night. So many of the people who cast their votes for Trump are, among other things, waiters, dishwashers, painters, plumbers and construction workers. This man has made his fortune in part by ripping these people off; by lying to them, devaluing their work and putting their lives and the lives of their children and spouses at risk. Still, they have unmistakably knighted him as their champion. Why?

My heart is equally broken by what this means for our country socially. Van Jones hit the nail on the head last night when he announced on CNN that Trump’s victory was “whitelash” against an increasingly diverse and inclusive country, in which adopting an intersectional approach to social problem-solving has become increasingly expected and demanded. Most of us knew that, contrary to what a handful of naïve white folks said at the time, racism in America did not end with Obama’s inauguration; but few among us, I think, knew exactly to what heights the flames of white hatred had been fanned.

As state after state turned pink, then red, on last night’s live-feed map, I saw desperation. I saw dissatisfaction with the status quo. I saw deep-seated economic insecurity and a desire to protect one and one’s own from the liberal agenda— addressing climate change by any means necessary, including shutting down specific industries, like coal; all but guaranteed involvement in overseas conflict, and the maintenance of existing trade deals— at all costs.

I also saw hate. Pure, inviolate, enduring hate.

Hate for the black man who made it to the White House and then raised taxes and tried to help brown people get health insurance.

Hate for the woman who honestly believes she can and should outrank all men in this country.

Hate for the elitists who insist that no one in the Midwest has an education or a moral compass.

Hate for the liberals who prioritize equality over liberty by forcing “Christians” to sell products to gay people and public schools in “Christian” communities to let trans students piss wherever they want.

Hate for the immigrant who may or may not be competing for one’s own job.

Hate for the vaguely-Middle-Eastern-looking person who Trump says is probably a terrorist.

Hate for every woman by whom one has been sexually rejected.

Now, we are tasked with healing these wounds and dissipating this hatred under the reign of the very man who has fanned the flames of hatred throughout the nation for at least the past year.

Under his leadership, we are expected to clean up the mess he has unearthed.

To whatever extent he will allow it; any form of resistance reliant on permission from the oppressor is doomed to failure, as the moment the oppressor realizes that form of resistance is effective, the game is over.

What will become of Black Lives Matter?

What will become of Animal Liberation?

What will become of LGBTQ+ rights under the Vice Presidency of Mike Pence, a robot demon from the bowels of Hell?

Will non-straight and/or non-cis children be forced to attend Straight Camp now?

Will the use of electroshock therapy on them be federally authorized, requiring only parental consent?

Will human and nonhuman animal advocates be thrown into prison cells by the dozen?

What happens when the prisons are full?

I don’t have any answers, for now. I’m probably still in shock.

All I have left for you are the prayers of an atheist, for whatever they are worth.

All content ©Saryta Rodriguez, 2016.

Comments
  1. Alex says:

    A very touching essay that certainly captures my despondent spirits. Thank you for writing this

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s