The day after the United States Election 2016: I am going to do my best to synthesize my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to Donald Trump as our President. If you can imagine the Tilt-a-Whirl on top of a roller coaster, that might best describe my emotions the last 18 hours or so. What a great experience to see this election while living abroad, gathered among so many people dressed their best with US flags everywhere and US-inspired snacks all night long: wings, gourmet macaroni and cheese, sliders…. It was exciting to be around so many people pumped up about the election. There were cardboard cut-outs, buttons reminiscent of Bernie Sanders, entertainment, reporters, quizzes… There was a lot of excitement! Even leading up to this event, American College of Norway had been quite involved in the election with our debate last month and many students being interviewed for the Moss newspaper and Norwegian TV and radio.
The news coverage in Norway was focused heavily on debates and news about the candidates. I would guess at least as much, if not more, than the US. I reflected on the fact that I have met many Norwegians and Swedes that can explain US politics and policies much more eloquently than I can. My perception from living abroad is that most of the entire world pays more attention to US politics than the average person from the States. That is why this election was such a big deal. All eyes are on us. I would guess those people are now also either sharing tears, cursing in anger, or laughing at our foolishness…
I was never convinced Trump couldn’t make it to the Oval. I have been quite afraid the last few weeks worried that it might be possible. I thought of how many people told me he’d never get the nomination. Well, he did. I agonized over my absentee ballot for days before I mailed it off to Minnesota with plenty of extra time in case something happened to it. I struggled with the feeling that I voted out of fear for my country and the ideals for which it stands. What I did not expect was that we are a country so grossly divided.
The night before the election, I let myself get worked up about articles and Facebook posts urging people to vote for Trump. One article in particular was putting the fear of losing our constitutional rights if Clinton were to be our President. I did not sleep well that night. The anxiety was setting in. I kept thinking, “There are people at home who actually believe this. People are afraid to lose their guns and that immigrants are a threat to our country (a country founded by immigrants, remember?) and that our precious tax dollars will fund Planned Parenthood which performs abortions (among a plethora of other preventative health services).” I was afraid.
Once we settled in to start watching the results come in, around midnight our time, the red didn’t stop flashing across the screen. Trump kept ahead of Clinton. The back and forth was stressful and increasing my anxiety. There was optimism and hope that Clinton would be triumphant. Electoral votes continued to grow. Worry started to increase. I was in disbelief. “HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?!” It just couldn’t happen. I became more and more sad and upset as the results came in. Flashes of scenes and scenarios from Scandal kept flitting in and out of my mind. Early on, when I saw that Trump had over a half million votes is when I think it really hit me. There are A LOT of people at home voting for him. The fear and anxiety crept back in. 3 million votes. He could actually win.
I was so confused and frustrated how that many people could vote for him. I stared at the screen open-mouthed and in disbelief. There was a shooting with 1 dead near a polling station. It’s not even mentioned. Then more fear crept in. “Shooting at polling stations? This country is going to get out of hand quickly.”
The event became too much for me to handle. Around 3am I headed back to the hotel room and tried desperately to sleep. Again, it evaded me. Every time I was rustled from snoozing, I saw the screen again with more and more electoral votes for Trump. “No,” I thought, “This really can’t happen. Clinton will pull through.” The disbelief again clouded my brain, “It has to be a dream! It can’t be real. It won’t be.” The silent tears fell down my cheeks. The sadness and fear was overwhelming. Finally, on the screen I saw “Trump vinner Presidentvalget.” Trump won. (My viewing of the election was a mix of CNN, BBC, and NRK (Norwegian news).) “NO! It can’t be. It’s not real.” Emotions surged me, and still it didn’t feel real. What’s going to happen to our country with a leader who is so blatantly demeaning and discriminatory to marginalized communities? How can he be the face of the United States? We are supposed to stand for equality and freedom and integrity. He is absolutely the antithesis of these ideals a world leader should embody.
I have felt despair, sadness, fear, anxiety, and panic. I have felt anger. I kept saying that I wasn’t going to come home if Trump won. How could I live in a country with him as our leader? I felt frantic and floundering for any kind of job to stay, determined I can’t go back now. Facebook was flooded with requests to come stay with the group of us who live in Norway. Yet, for me it’s different because I DO have to go back, and they live here permanently. I have to go to this new and scary place, this United States that I don’t know anymore, this place in which I have lost so much respect. The realization of how close the race was indicating how divided our country is, is what worries me most. There is so much hidden fear of the other that is propagated, which is only going to lead to more discrimination and hatred that could further divide our country. I am afraid of what the United States might become.
This heavy cloud hung over all of us at ACN today. There is this sense of feeling lost and hopeless and “Now what?” Thoughts in my head circled around that it’s the end of the world, and our country has taken a step back; the anger and shouting “What the FUCK is wrong with this country? How can people actually believe what his terrible person says? Where is the humanity and compassion? No, I can’t go back!”
Even before the election, for over a year, I have wanted to come back to Sweden. I have applied to countless jobs to have an opportunity to come back to Scandinavia until now with my position at ACN. But, maybe I have to go back. The amount of people also feeling afraid and feeling like they need to get out started to shake something inside of me. A few posts, articles, and videos have brought something into awareness. The US needs us to stay. We have to keep fighting and not let this be the beginning of the end. We have to fight to make it a better place. This debate has gone on for over a year: Sweden or ideal career? I think my calling is pulling me towards an exciting opportunity in higher education…in the United States. At the same time, I still want to stay.
However, to stay in Scandinavia almost inevitably means that I would need to take on a teaching position again. My thoughts flipped immediately in thinking about Trump as our leader that yeah, maybe I will actually take a teaching position in Sweden, despite the conversation I had with my supervisor yesterday that my heart just isn’t in teaching right now. I feel like the doors are opening up to higher education through this incredible internship with ACN. I thought, “I might have to put my career on hold. I might have to stay here even if it means teaching,” out of fear of living in a country with Trump as our leader. I wondered if I could actually give up a job offer at a university in the US in my mission not to go back. The posts that have flipped my thinking back to being more rational and compassionate have revolved around the idea that we need to continue to STAY and unite to create change so that this is not the end of the world as we know it. I have vowed to continue to stand in solidarity with those of us willing to fight the animosity, hatred, fear, and oppression that has been increasing throughout this horrible election.
Now, more than ever, the US needs educators that will continue to fight for inclusivity of all students and people so our country CAN be great again. I think my calling is telling me, despite everything I ever thought if I would see the day Trump became president, that I need to be in the US promoting inclusive spaces, understanding, and awareness so that all people can live their lives authentically without fear. That we cannot just accept but embrace one another; learn and collaborate together.
What I do know is that I deeply appreciate the words of President Obama and Senator Clinton in their commitment to stand with the people in the fight for a more inclusive and humane society. I was moved to tears by both speeches, partly because the thought of President Trump is still terrifying, and partly because we as citizens don’t have to accept this as the end all. Action can still create change. I am reminded of a few days ago I wore a shirt that says, “Everything has beauty.” My colleague called me out asking, “Really? Everything? What’s beautiful about Donald Trump?” I said there couldn’t be anything beautiful about such a terrible person. But, maybe, the beauty in Trump is that this election is going to start something new. Maybe it really will unite people in our country to be a better and more compassionate society. Maybe.
#Stillwithher #Pantssuitnation #Nastywomenunite #Stillfeelingthebern