Election night. The results come in. You tear your hair and rend your garments.
Wild with rage and pain, you stumble out into the street. Around you, the monuments crumble. Abraham Lincoln’s posture on his memorial has changed so that he is visibly holding his head in his hands. FDR’s statue has rolled out of its place in his memorial, unseating its bronze Fala. Now it sits on the edge of the Tidal Basin, staring into it with an expression of blank despair. Martin Luther King Jr.’s statue has pointedly turned to face away from the White House. The Washington Monument is limp. The African American History Museum is glancing uncomfortably at the Jefferson Memorial. The Women’s Museum is in a defensive crouch.
Everyone around you moves like an automaton. You sit next to each other silently, staring into the middle distance. Cold rain falls. The whole landscape is grey and dark with pathetic fallacy, as though you have been transported to a 19th-century novel. The sales of Crest Whitestrips tanks. Who needs them? You will never smile again.
Somehow you fall asleep.
“Did this still happen?” you ask Siri, when you awaken.
Yes. It has still happened. Neither this nor your subsequent three stress-naps will cause it to unhappen.
You worry that the takeaway of “It Can’t Happen Here” was not what you thought it was. You should have read more than the title.
“It’ll be fine,” you tell yourself. No part of you believes this. You laugh, a long hollow laugh that rattles in your throat.
It is possible that Donald Trump did not mean anything he said on the campaign trail. Well, that’s a depressing sentence! Possibly it will be no worse than four years of, say, Ted Cruz would have been.
Someone approaches your desk to ask why you are making that low moaning noise deep in your throat.
Maybe Trump will get confused and accidentally do a good job of governing. You don’t know he won’t. You literally have no idea what he believes about anything. He’s been on both sides of every issue. All his opinions exist in a Schrodinger’s-cat-like state where they might potentially be correct. Maybe he was only constantly spouting giant untruths because he literally didn’t know or remember what was actually true, not because he was executing some sort of sinister plan. Does he look like a man who has carefully studied Stalin’s Big Lie? He does not look like a man who has ever read an entire book about anything. Maybe he won’t remember to ban Muslims from the country. Update: nope looks like nope.
This flimsy chain of logic blows away in a faint breeze and you have to start again.
It is possible to convince yourself that he will not be so bad. Maybe while you’re at it you can convince yourself that the electorate voted for someone entirely different. Maybe November will be as long as October and January will never come.
Slowly you start to lull yourself into a trance. Maybe he won’t do anything he said that he would do. Maybe it will be all right.
Yes, he has given strength and support to all kinds of hate. Yes, he doesn’t think women are people. Yes, he has lowered the level of transparency and decency expected of candidates for president and this may be the new normal. Yes, he thinks the nuclear option is an option. Yes, he has failed to denounce the KKK’s endorsement, has emboldened the forces of racism and sexism everywhere, has undermined facts across the board, has demonstrated that we live in a world where someone who mocks the disabled, boasts about sexual assault, and and — where were you going with this? Was there a “but” in here somewhere? God, where is the alcohol?
You go to Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged shack on the edge of the forest. “Please,” you say. “Take anything you want. I will make any trade. My free press? My bodily autonomy? My voice? My right to a place at the table?”
Baba Yaga looks at you, confused. “You must trade something you still have.”
The fear clenches into a fist deep in your gut.
Bile rises in your throat. You begin to type furiously.
Everyone seems angrier now, not just you. Some of them aren’t even grieving. They were just always this angry. Now you see them.
You are angry because you were wrong. You thought you knew when and where you were living but maybe you did not. It is as though you had the year wrong. It is as though you have been living in a future that does not actually exist yet. Suddenly you are a time traveler, fighting to rescue your timeline, the one where people are supposed to be equal, where opportunity will expand and the world will become a safer and more open and accommodating place for everyone, regardless of race or sexuality or gender or country of origin. You thought that history was only moving in one direction, that it had an arc that bent a certain way, that eventually everyone would come there. You thought that there was something inevitable about this.
No. There is nothing inevitable about it. You will have to fight, every day. You are angry that you did not know.
Maybe if you don’t get out of bed ever again the Trump presidency will not happen.
No. Not that. Never that.