I haven’t been able to write much of anything since the election last week. I keep waking up and thinking it was all just a nightmare and we’re not really going to have to deal with this guy being our actual president. I keep coming up with emergency scenarios in my head of how somehow, between now and January’s inauguration date, something will happen that makes the nightmare go away. But chances are slim that this will happen.
And so, how to go on?
I will say that in the past week, I’ve had more detailed discussions, debates, conversations with friends and strangers, both in person and online, than perhaps any other time in history that I can recall. While 9/11 brought us together as a country in a unique way out of horrible circumstances and caused a spike in caring, humanity and kindness to strangers that we hadn’t seen before, 11/9 has had its own effect.
While protests continue and hate crimes are on the upswing, there are also moments of hope. Friends hosting gatherings so we can all discuss, debate, mourn, plan, whatever. Going out to a restaurant with friends just so we can eat and drink and feel alive. Perhaps it’s my own “echo chamber” but it actually has been helpful that literally almost every person I know and interact with, in person and online, have been horrified by the election results. It feels like I do have a group of like-minded people on the same side I’m on, and that perhaps together, we figure out a way to exist and move forward together so that we can get through it.
I don’t know how the people who voted for him are going to get through it, however. The ridiculously misguided notion that you can put the toothpaste back in the tube and “bring jobs back” that are gone, and gone for good, by waving a magic wand and changing the world economy, is pure folly. It sucks that the jobs are gone. But you’re the ones who insist on Dollar Store and Wal-Mart for “absolutely the lowest prices,” who say you can’t afford to pay more for the American-made product, because the rest of your money goes towards cigarettes or cable TV or an iPhone. I’m not trying to point fingers, I make those same decisions, but try to sacrifice where and when I can so that I can buy the meat from the local farm, instead of the factory farm. I can’t do it for everything, and all those products aren’t even available by now. But with minimum wages and unions and 8-hour work days, the way America works has priced itself out of being able to compete with countries in Asia, where they don’t have those worker protections. Not enough people can prioritize what money they have so that they can buy all American-made products. They wanted things cheaper and cheaper and cheaper and the result is where we are now. So those jobs aren’t coming back, and the people who were promised those jobs are going to be really mad once they realize it.
Instead of getting mad, maybe we all have to work together to figure out what the new work world looks like in America. It sure as fuck isn’t getting out of HS or college and going into a 40-hour-a-week job with health benefits, paid vacation and life insurance, working hard every year, getting a raise and a bonus annually, and keeping that life going until you get to be 65 and can retire, if you’re lucky. It’s just no longer a working model. And we have to have the discussions and decisions to figure out how we do exist with fewer jobs. Doing more with less. Downsizing lives. Maybe the tiny home people aren’t so stupid after all. If you unload one of your cars, or maybe the boat, or maybe the vacation home, or forego the trip to Disney or whatever, maybe you can make do with less. Maybe you help work on the farmer’s farm and in exchange, they give you food at a discount instead of you just buying the cheapest crap food imported from other countries. I don’t know the answers. I’m not an economist, thank goodness, and it’s not my job to figure it all out alone.
But perhaps, together, we can help when people on the other side realize that many the things they were promised will not be coming, and that some of the things they thought would mean one thing, mean an entirely other thing that’s actually terrible for them personally, and they’ll feel regret for electing someone who actually operates directly against their best interests. They’ll need allies so that we can figure this out together and figure out how everyone can live without being so fucking angry that their factory job left and isn’t ever coming back. Whether the answer is everyone working in alternative energy, or going back to vocational schools so there are enough people to drive truck and build bridges and machine tools, whether it’s downscaling your life so you can exist with less, these are things we can only figure out together. Not on either side of a fence (or a wall, even), pointing fingers and weapons at each other.