I moved into a new apartment on election day. Address changes ahead of summer travel had me voting in the suburbs near my parents’ house. In the morning Mom and I walked the half mile to the nearby church that was our polling location, and cast our votes. Then I rented a U-haul van, my brother and I picked up a couch I’d ordered, and I spent the rest of the day unpacking and attempting to assemble IKEA furniture. At around ten I went to a viewing party at a local museum and watched everyone sank progressively lower in their seats as the night went on. I got home at two in the morning. I fell asleep on a mattress on the floor, with Trump’s victory speech playing on the radio.
When I woke up Wednesday the world felt like a different place. I was living not just in a new apartment, but in a new America. At first there was a sense of betrayal. Like a person you’d known for most of your life had just done something that was so enormously out of character … Then over time those feelings morphed into others, directed inward. You saw how it wasn’t out of character, necessarily, but a different composition of the same basic traits. That character is just a conclusion drawn from limited evidence; it’s not the actual person, or in this case, country. And the reason you felt betrayed was a result of failing to see the truth. A result of your own inattention.
I go down the staircase.
The step at the very
I must try harder.
This summer in Asia I’d meet travelers from Europe who would, when they found out I was American, ask me about Trump. Did he have a chance? I told them I thought there were enough people in the country that so opposed to his campaign’s values that he wouldn’t get elected. And it turns there were – they just weren’t in the right places.
I’m doing that thing again. I’m looking for solutions, ways to fix this, keep it from happening again. I’m writing bad poetry. Everyone is grieving in their own way. Some are going to protests and signing petitions. Some are taking a Twitter break, spending more time gathering with friends. Others are diving head-first into the news cycle, devouring whatever they can about the cabinet picks of President-elect Trump (I haven’t said this out loud yet, and every time I even hear it it still feels so alien). And I imagine even many Trump supporters, now that the campaign is over, are left with a hole in their hearts. We all grieve in our own way.
I grew up in cultures that taught me it was inappropriate to show my emotions, that crying somehow made me less masculine. It seems so feeble now, definitions like these. So constraining to a human spirit. Allowing myself to feel fully what I’m feeling is something I’ve been working at for much of the last few years. I cried on the freeway Wednesday morning, listening to Hillary give her concession speech. I cried reading Whitman on Thursday, writing in his preface to Leaves of Grass about America being the greatest poem. I cried when I went with friends to see the film Arrival, Saturday afternoon. And I cried last night watching Kate McKinnon, in character, playing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the piano on SNL .
I’m getting emotional again now, remembering these things, writing to you. I know that even with your gracious replies there’s a one-sided quality to these letters. I’m transmitting and you’re receiving. But I appreciate even your silent presence. It’s comforting. It makes times like these a little less lonely.
Take care of yourself, friend. And have a good week, whatever good, at this time, might mean to you.