I’ve been thinking about writing this since November 9. God knows I haven’t been able to write anything else; NaNoWriMo went down the tubes for me, as pretty much all I’ve been capable of since That Night is watching British crime drama and, when I can avoid thinking about the future of America’s space program, Star Trek. I can’t just go back to posting book reviews after that last entry, but this has not wanted to come together. Still, here it is, such as it is, and then I’m going to try to return the blog to its previously scheduled bookishness.
Early on That Day, I had posted an image of the “I Voted” sticker. I went back later and burbled a bit about what happened when I tried to vote, and about how the day had gone otherwise. I kept going back to it as I watched ABC’s coverage on the tv and the “Says Who?” podcast live YouTube event on the laptop. At 8:00, when it pretty much all kicked off, Hillary Clinton had a 78% chance of winning according to the polls that were being referenced. By 10:30 the New York Times page was showing … he… had a 95% chance. I don’t want to talk much about the emotions as they all but declared it over; disbelief begins to approach it. Shock, physical shock, like one suffers after a car accident or earthquake, is also accurate. I couldn’t hear very well; I was dizzy when I went to stand up; I was numb.
It took a couple of days for that to ease up. Wednesday I had trouble getting into work – not because I’d been up till 1 AM, or because I didn’t feel well (though both of those were true), but because I literally forgot how to use the (incredibly simple) security system at the office entrance. Just stood there trying to pull the door open. Couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t. I didn’t do much that required actual thought for the day, and went straight home after work – as opposed to most days, when I stay a little late and then go see my mother and/or do errands after work. My car radio remained off; I couldn’t concentrate on an audiobook, and actual live radio seemed like a very bad idea. (I don’t know when – if – I’ll be able to go back to it.)
That night, as I walked up to my apartment building, there was a young man propping open the automatically-locking door to the lobby as he waited for someone to pull up in a van. As I went up the steps, he looked directly at me – and stepped out of the doorway, letting the door close (and lock) literally inches out of my reach, leaving me to fumble my keys out and let myself in. This is not directly connected with anything. It was just … par for the course. And my first thought was This is how it’s going to be now.
“It felt like 9/11” … I’ve heard it a lot. It could almost be argued that it’s in some ways worse than that – there are, so far, thank God, no deaths, but … we did this to ourselves as a nation, and it is the whole country that’s been attacked, not three discrete locations. Someone on Facebook compared us to Poland as the Nazis rolled in, and I realized: no, the perfect metaphor for me is Paris, June 1940. “But … no – everything still looks almost the same. How can THAT be in charge now?” It’s impossible, and it’s true.
I never thought I would see the day when the last most embarrassing person to ever hold the presidency, George W. Bush, would start to look good. Well, no, not good – better. At least the worst Shrub ever did to a foreign head of state was vomit on him. I fear we have new lows ahead of us.
So here we are, on November 21, just about two months out from the inauguration of someone whose name I can’t even bring myself to type, especially in conjunction with the words “President Elect”. That Wednesday morning, I walked into my office proper (once I got in the building) and the little group over in the corner was chattering happily about the election, and I had to pick up speed and stuff earphones in my ears. A little while later I heard my manager on the phone saying something about how the work is still there no matter who’s president, and then she literally said “Whatever”. And I reeled, because – that’s part of how we got here.
When I was thinking about this post, and thinking about putting it up earlier, I pictured the title as something like “If you’re not scared, you’re not paying attention”, because that’s something I’ve been saying for a long time now. And that’s part of it too. It goes back to that book review I wrote for The Design of Everyday Things, where I let loose a little bit of a rant on Wizard’s First Rule (which for those playing along at home is, simply, “People are idiots”). People don’t pay attention. People aren’t paying attention. Pushing it that much further: most people don’t think about anything at all except in how it affects themselves.
I’ve mentioned my literally sociopathic former boss in these “pages” before, who was a rabid Republican and who dubbed me the office’s “bleeding heart liberal”. That was, no kidding, how he introduced me to people who came into the office. It was extraordinarily uncomfortable, especially given how it was meant: nothing but derogatory. It took me a while to realize that – know what? Yeah: I AM a bleeding heart liberal, in the literal sense of the words. My heart does bleed (not literally) for anoyone who is suffering. This … this is a good thing, isn’t it? Or should be? The dictionary definition of “liberal” is “Tending to give freely; generous”. This is also generally supposed to be a good thing, right?
No, seriously – how can generosity be seen as a bad thing?
When all’s said and done, I would rather be an empathetic, generous person than the opposite. And I posit that it’s possible that the world would be a better place if more people behaved with empathy and generosity. Service to others is – or should be – the backbone (entire skeleton) of any religion or set of beliefs, and by extension of any … life. Someone needs help? Help them. It’s usually pretty simple.
What happens when people do not behave with empathy and generosity, when they do not take trouble to be aware of the consequences of their actions, when they live only in their skins and give no thought to how anything impacts other people … Everything from being stuck in a public bathroom stall with an empty toilet paper holder to death and destruction. A lot of needless negativity, from simple annoyance to anger to actual anguish. A president-elect who has no qualifications for the job and who is surrounding himself with like-minded, hate-filled people.
Something I’m incredibly tired of seeing and hearing is “well, I just didn’t like Hillary.”
You … didn’t like her.
You didn’t LIKE her??
What in the name of anything you want to name does that have to do with anything? You don’t like her – well, first of all, you don’t know her, do you? You like the other one? You don’t know him, either. Perhaps you’re confusing this voting process with American Idol?
You don’t like her – that means she’s not qualified to go out for beers with you, not that she’s not qualified to run the country. Me – after learning more about her I think I’d very much like to go have a glass of wine with her. I think she’d be fascinating to talk to. But that’s not a prerequisite for being President of the United States. Pushing everything else aside – gender, emails, lawsuits, fraud, sexual assault, ugly talk and actions, whatever else – look at the bare facts. One candidate’s qualifications for the job were far superior to the other’s. I will never, ever understand how the other won.
I have nothing but contempt for all the morons who didn’t vote for her just because they didn’t like her. They’re in the same category of – wait, sorry, basket of deplorables as the morons who didn’t vote, the morons who “held their noses and” voted for him, and the morons who threw their votes away on third party candidates who stood no chance (comment on Facebook: “I voted for love.” No, asshole, you indirectly voted for the most hate-filled candidate I’ve ever seen). As I said before, people don’t think. People don’t pay attention. And now we’re all going to be paying for it.
It frightens me a little – more than a little – to consider the possibility that one reason people just don’t like her is that she’s an extremely intelligent woman. I keep thinking of the word “bluestocking”, and all that went with it. It meant an educated woman, a smart woman, a woman who could hold her own or dominate in any given intellectual context – – and it meant a woman scorned and sniffed at by men who were, at base, horrified by women breaking out of the old molds of femininity. Men who were intimidated. Men who were terrified. I’ve seen in my own life, in my own office, how little intelligence is valued. In his 2004 keynote speech at the DNC convention, Obama spoke of the perception that poor black youths who read books are “acting white” – and this is bad; of course, whites don’t look on it with favor either. Not just men but people in general seem to be genuinely afraid of, and peculiarly disdainful of people who would genuinely rather watch a PBS documentary than “Dancing with the Stars” or who know Shakespeare better than Jay Z. I hope I’m over-inflating the issue, but given the way the election went, given that it had to have been said a hundred times during the week of the election that his following was solidly based in uneducated white men … I’m worried. I don’t think Hillary was not elected because she’s a woman – I think she was not elected because she’s a woman who’s smarter than the vast majority of the electorate, and that scared them silly.
What frightens me more is the prospect of whether, or how much, the next four years will encourage, exacerbate that attitude.
I’ve seen a lot of those “we all have to be kind to each other now” posts (preaching to the choir, I think, but anyway…). Yeah, I’ll try – the same way I do every day of my life, because that’s how I was brought up. But it’s harder now, when half the people I work with have shrugged and continued with their self-contained, self-absorbed existences; not much will change for them (until it does). I keep saying if you’re not scared, you’re not paying attention, and that’s the problem. They’re not. They haven’t been. That’s how we got here.
But anyone who feels the same way I do needs to get busy over the next four years. Everything from environmental causes to gay rights to funding of public radio and television to women’s rights have to be guarded and protected, and ways have to be found to pick up the slack when the, I think, inevitable cuts in government funding come.
And, arguably more importantly than anything else, steps have to be taken to dissolve the Electoral College. This is, I believe, the fourth time in history that someone who lost the popular vote still won the election, and the second time in recent years. And it makes no sense. We possess the technology to make that ridiculous system obsolete. One person, one vote – that’s what we’re taught from childhood. That’s what it’s supposed to be.
And doing something to counter the negativity from the White House might help quell the fear. Because – since I’ve been paying attention – I’m still afraid. Give him a chance? I have no choice. It is what it is. I’m one of those who have been saying for a year, never jokingly, that if he won I was leaving. Canada, maybe; we have lots of family all over Canada. But if it comes to war with someone with nuclear weapons – and that is a strong possibility in my mind – Canada would be too close. Ideally I’d go to Scotland, but maybe New Zealand would be better.
The problem with that plan is – well, twofold. One part is that I have no money. I printed out a passport application, but I can’t afford it for the foreseeable future – and if I can’t afford the $150 there’s no way I can afford to a) break my lease, b) fly anywhere, or c) live without any income until I found a job in another country. The other half to it is that … well, I have apparently frittered away my life without making myself into anything another country has reason to welcome as a new inhabitant. I’m an office worker, a paper pusher. England and New Zealand don’t need foreign admin staff. I’ve been researching since he got the nomination, and – I don’t know how hard it is to get into this country as just a person, but other countries? You’re welcome to visit. Don’t expect us to welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to flee the worst election result in US history. I meant it when I said “he wins I leave”, whole-heartedly. It’s not because – not just because I don’t want to live in a country led by … that; it’s not just an internet-style flounce. It’s a real and nagging terror that one day someone will piss him off, or he’ll piss someone else off, and buttons will be pushed and bombs will fly. I want out. It’s just not that easy.
So, being stuck here, what now? Keep the television and radio off; find a way to help and make things better; fill out that passport paperwork and start saving; maybe stockpile water and non-perishables and always be aware of emergency exits. And maybe research how the French did it in 1940. And hope. And maybe pray.
And pay attention.
OK. Enough real life. Back to the books. Here, anyway. For now. Which reminds me …