So. It happened.
Somehow — despite all our optimistic hopes, despite the polls — Donald Trump was elected the president of the USA. Like most of the world, I’m still reeling; I think it’s going to take a while for the truth to sink in.
I didn’t mean to stay up all night and watch the results. I knew it would be stressful, and I have morning lectures on Wednesdays, so despite staying up a little later than planned I did actually head for bed at around half two. I just didn’t sleep.
This was partly anxiety, both about the election and the usual variety that makes my muscles tense and my legs jitter so that actually relaxing enough to drop off is quite a task. I’m used to that. It was partly pain: I had a flu jab yesterday morning, and my left arm is still sore and painful, which combined with my usual shoulder issues has made for a seriously uncomfortable left side, in turn inhibiting my ability to breathe (because my chest muscles are too tight). I’m not entirely blaming the flu jab for that — I’m sure it would have been fine if I wasn’t a broken human being — but still, it was a factor. When pain is bad I can’t find a comfy position; anxiety makes pain worse; elections make anxiety worse…
I didn’t sleep at all. I tried several times. Announced I was going back to bed to try and catch at least a couple of hours before my lectures. It didn’t work. Then I started to get hungry, and began to fantasise about having pancakes for breakfast, but once I got myself to the kitchen I found that my scales were out of battery and I didn’t have enough milk. Nor do I have much in the way of other food. It’s not a great way to start the day, if I’m honest.
And yet all of that — all of that is irrelevant. I’m focusing on these tiny complaints because the big ones just haven’t sunk in. At 5am when it became pretty obvious what the result would be, I started to cry. Nellie, the local cat who adopted me, had stayed in my room last night — normally I put her outside before I go to sleep, but it was tipping it down with rain so I let her stay. She woke up while I was crying and I ended up just hugging her and crying for about fifteen minutes.
As you can imagine, she wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about being sobbed on, but she put up with it, and honestly, I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have a warm, soft friend to go to at that moment when I just needed comfort, any comfort.
People ask me why it matters so much to me, given that I don’t live in the US. They clearly have little understanding of how this world works — even during the night I saw news headlines about the Australian economy suffering as a direct result of US politics, which goes to show that when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches the cold. The Atlantic ocean won’t protect me and the people I care about from whatever darkness might be coming.
But all of that is less immediately pressing than my fear and concern for the people I know in the US itself, people who will wake up today (if they managed to sleep) to find that their human rights might just be in jeopardy. Queer people, who are now faced with a vice president who believes in conversion therapy. Disabled and chronically ill people, who have no idea what this will mean for their healthcare, and therefore for their life. And that’s without even touching on the huge swathes of the population — those who aren’t white, and those who aren’t men — who will suffer disproportionately.
I have no words to tell these friends of mine what I feel because there is absolutely nothing I can do. I can send them pictures of cute animals. That’s about it. I can’t fix a country where voters are swayed by white supremacist arguments and bigotry over reasoned discussion, and rudeness over actual political experience. I can’t usher them all into a nuclear bunker that I haven’t built (… yet). I’m powerless, and so are they.
All I can say is this: there are still good people out there, and there are still opportunities to do good things. So as I said on my book blog, keep loving each other. Defy hate with kindness. Defy violence with peace. Make a revolution of your generosity. Be good to each other, because the world won’t be.
And if you get the opportunity to be the protagonist in the YA dystopia that is now your life, take it and save the world, because it needs it.