Tonight a friend in Canada offered—jokingly, I think—to marry me. This was shortly before I received word that the Canadian immigration website had crashed beneath a deluge of panic-stricken Americans, but after I’d successfully right-clicked and saved the PDF of the passport application. Like me, she’d tuned into the election coverage with high hopes that by the end of the night we’d see the ascendance of America’s first woman president. Like me, she was devastated by the finale, in which an eminently qualified stalwart of progressive values was forced to concede to the world’s ugliest trust fund baby/rapist.
I’m never one to underestimate the stupidity of big swathes of people and the destructive power they wield, and even I was dumbfounded by what I saw tonight. Every time Google’s election tracker refreshed itself and the red ticker tracking Trump’s progress across the map got a little longer, my chest tightened. Even after it became clear that Hillary wasn’t going to trounce him as effortlessly as I’d anticipated, I felt optimistic that he’d pull some pansy-assed move at the last minute and weasel out of the race. After all, this was the same dumbfuck who tried challenging the presidential debate schedule on the grounds that it conflicted with a football game. Some conspiracy-minded commenters even conjectured that he was working to sabotage his own campaign, a theory I embraced with zeal. There was some strange comfort in imagining that the whole horrible Trump sideshow—from the ghoulish Mystic Tan to the barely intelligible, inflammatory rhetoric that sounded like a special racist edition of Mad Libs—was a bid for publicity that spiraled horrifically out of his control. It meant there was still a possibility that he’d pack it in, however clumsily, and then the reins would be handed over to the candidate with actual qualifications.
But this is 2016: The Year of the Tire Fire. Of course we wouldn’t get that lucky. Of course a year that kicked off with a harbinger like the surprise death of David Bowie would be bookended by a political calamity the likes of which will make Brexit look like Christmas morning. But the adherence to dramatic structure doesn’t diminish my horror a bit. It doesn’t take the sting out of knowing that American citizens were so eager for a permission slip to freely hate women and people of color that they chose to elect a former reality TV star with zero foreign policy experience to the highest office in the land, nor assuage my fear of what he’s now in a position to do to the Supreme Court. Between the Republican-controlled House and Senate, Trump’s presidency, and whichever justices he ends up nominating, we’re liable to see the unraveling of decades of advancement in equality, and needless to say the impact will be felt most acutely by black and brown people, women, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, disabled people, and the working class.
None of this is an accident. Trump didn’t spring fully formed out of thin air. He is a golem built by America’s most entitled from fistful after fistful of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. He’s the dying gasp of the dominant culture of straight white men who spent the better part of the last century tantruming on the floor because they don’t understand why they should have to share the world. They embraced him with enthusiasm as a mouthpiece for their continued supremacy, and now the most vulnerable among us are going to feel the weight of his foot on our necks for decades to come.
Tempting though it is to flee, nothing would bring me more satisfaction than to help destroy the culture that created him. I don’t want to run away from it. I want to join forces with everyone else who was told in not so many words tonight to bite the pillow and burn it to the fucking ground.