Thoughts, a Few Days After
Now that the dust has settled and the shock worn off, I’ve articulated a few thoughts about the travesty that is a Trump presidency.
Actually, I’d like to share a story. It may or may not fit into the neat structure of a personal essay, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about since Tuesday.
A few years ago, fantasy author Philippa Ballantine and I visited Mount Vernon: George Washington’s home, now a historic site. You can tour Washington’s house and grounds; watch a blacksmith making nails; chat with a wandering Ben Franklin. There’s also a more traditional museum stuffed with multimedia exhibits, displays, and artifacts. Fairly standard set-up.
It was so bizarre.
The museum’s narrative makes Washington a god forging his country from the fires of British oppression. As we watched mini-films about the “enemy British” and gazed at reconstructions of the general’s face, Pip and I—New Zealander and Canadian—giggled a little nervously. In one gallery, a woman openly wept over Washington’s wooden teeth.
This is not my narrative, I remember thinking. I see what they’re doing, but I don’t share this.
The current state of affairs is not my narrative. However, I do share this. Wednesday evening, I commented to author Lauren Harris, “It feels like someone’s died.”
“It feels,” she said, “like the day after a national disaster.”
And that was it. That was it, exactly—the same mix of helpless grief, and grim determination, and need to reach out and make sure everyone was Okay. Strong emotions, and they honestly took me by surprise. After all, I’m not American. I am fiercely, proudly Canadian. Every bio reminds the world of this fact: “KT Bryski is a Canadian author and playwright…”
Holy frak, I have a lot of American friends of every kind. The effects of a Trump presidency hit them a lot harder and a lot quicker than they do me. There are a lot of people I love who are very scared right now.
Beyond which, a racist, sexist man with a short temper sitting in the world’s most powerful office does not exactly fill me with confidence for the greater global community.
As a matter of pure moral principal, it simply isn’t right.
Cliché as it sounds, Hamilton has helped me understand the American psyche: a little brash, a little loud, a little arrogant, but passionately and utterly devoted to its ideals. Seeing this (you can skip to the 3:00 min mark)—
—stirred more sympathy and understanding than anything at Mount Vernon did.
But that’s what art does, isn’t it? It fosters connection, encourages empathy. It shows another world. And that is why I expect art—art that is beautiful, but above all, brave—will be so important in the years ahead.
There’s been a lot of Tweets thrown around, accusing the left of melodrama and hand-wringing. “It’ll be Okay,” they say. “He can’t do that much. It’s not the end of the world.”
I direct them here.
As to the specifics of American executive power—I don’t know them well enough to comment. I don’t know how much authority and/or autonomy the president really has. But I do know that he’s got a Republican senate and house, which tends to undermine the checks and balances built into the system.
But leaving aside the practicalities for a moment—
This is a man who has gloated about sexual abuse. He has picked needless, painful fights. He has threatened to deport Latinx en masse and bar Muslims from entry. He is a bully.
And the United States awarded him the top job.
What sort of message does that send? How does that not legitimize sexism, racism, homophobia, religious intolerance?
We’ve not even touched on the economy yet. I’ll admit: I expected the dollar to tank. I thought we might be exchanging at par in the foreseeable future. I didn’t realize the loonie would sink first—at time of writing, we’re trading at $0.74 USD.
It makes cross-border travel harder. A collapsing economy hits freelancers hard.
But that’s just my knee-jerk survival mode reaction, since most of my business is with American publishers/readers. Breathing, stepping back, thinking about others—a collapsing economy hits freelancers hard. Especially freelancers who have just lost their health care (if the ACA vanishes, as is likely). Again: many people are very scared right now, with good reason.
Breathing, stepping further back—you thought 2008 was bad? You know, the recession that kicked an entire generation in the knees? The one that triggered a housing and banking crisis?
When 9/11 happened, I was ten years old: old enough to realize that the world had irrevocably changed, young enough that I fretted about my dad being sent to war, à la Mulan.
We went to Disney World shortly thereafter. And you know what? I was scared in the airport. Nervous until we passed through Disney’s gates. All my life, I’d been told that the United States was our friend—and suddenly, it didn’t feel like a safe country.
This is the first time since 9/11 that I’ve been legitimately nervous about travelling through the States. I do not intend to be in the country around December 19th (when the Electoral College passes their votes) or January 20th (Inauguration Day). Any travel plans not currently locked down for 2017 are being suspended; I anticipate reduced travel in 2018.
The United States is our friend. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like a safe country.
So what can you do to feel safe?
Reach out. Ask if people are Okay. Listen. Stand up.
In some ways, it feels like the beginning of a resistance movement. Wherever I look, I see people girding themselves, getting ready. Digging in, fortifying their trenches.
It makes me nervous, of course. But as my friend Dave Robison has been posting:
I have a message for the NSA, the Bots, the Web Spiders, the Social Media filters, and all the other techno-sniffers that troll people’s feeds for information.
Let me lay this out for you and save you some demographic algorithms…
I am Pro Choice
I am Pro LGBTQIA+
I am Pro Women’s Rights
I am Pro Reglious Freedom for ALL religions
I am Pro Arts
I am also…
No matter who you are—if you feel unsafe, #IllGoWithYou.
I will also make art. Because that is what I do.
I spent six months in New Zealand a fear years ago. While there are many, many similarities, I did feel some culture shock and a lot of homesickness. It was always wonderful to run across another Canadian: we didn’t have to explain. We just got each other.
While backpacking alone, Americans made me genuinely, desperately happy for much the same reasons. Two different countries, two different cultures—but definitely a common understanding.
I’m glad to have that understanding now.
What I’m Listening to This Week