Yesterday morning, at 8am, I was helping out at an elementary school bake sale. Brownies, pumpkin bread, choc-chip cookies. It was half price for poll workers.
Last night, at 11pm (when the New York Times predictions had taken a decided shift), someone out on my street played The Star Spangled Banner. On trombone.
This morning, at 8am, the normally aggressive traffic was subdued. Cars filed quietly past the roadworks. When a pedestrian dashed across the street, no-one honked.
This morning, I saw tears in people’s eyes.
I am upset too.
In such cases as these, my instinct is to pull back and mumble something about the issues being complicated. And sure, they are. A lot of people here in the US felt very strongly that they wanted Donald Trump as President, and they voted for him. They’ll be feeling very happy about this outcome. They’ll feel that it’s good, and just, and right.
I feel I have to honour that.
But you know what? I’m done with mumbling that I’m not sure, that I don’t know. So here, as an Australian living in Cambridge, Massachusetts (a liberal town in a heavily Democratic state), the day after this election, are a few things I do know:
It’s irresponsible for those outside the US to roll their eyes and joke about ‘dumb’ Americans, as I’ve seen on social media this morning. Please stop. It’s not just unhelpful, it’s wrong.
There is genuine fear and anxiety out there about what this will mean for the country and the rest of the world.
Kids are worried, too.
Life in America is not the stereotype that people sometimes like to entertain. The people I know here work hard, have high standards, and they’re smart.
The ideas, attitudes, and policies Donald Trump campaigned on are unreasonable and dangerous. I don’t like to take sides in anything, as a rule (I can’t even stand to watch team sports) but this, I think, is self-evident.
Anger is a natural reaction when something threatens our sense of ourselves, and our safety in the world. But if we abhor bullying and intolerance, then we have a duty not to indulge that. If there’s an argument to be made, we must make it. If there’s understanding to be done, we should work for it.
Like the rest of the world, I’ve only just woken up in this new reality where Trump has won the Presidency. I’m heartened to hear Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama call for unity, and a successful transition. I don’t know what the future will bring. I know a lot of people think this result will bring change for the better—and that I can’t find a way to agree with them. I dislike hyperbole as much as partisanship, but I’ll admit it: this morning, I woke up afraid.
But you know what? Tomorrow morning, there’ll be a team of people at that elementary school polling place, packing bags of extra food for kids who need nutrition over the weekend. And some acquaintances from the dog park have set up a Google doc to coordinate help for an elderly neighbour who has hurt his knee. Looking out my window, I see a lot of people going about their business—working, going to school, looking after their families. I will too.
But no more mumbling.