Trump Carnage

That Donald Trump won the US Presidency should be old news to you now. What is a surprise is how few saw this coming. It seems like even those who voted for Trump were surprised at the outcome. Trump has given Americans free license to follow their inner assholes. He’s also brought to the surface and legitimized a culture of “Us versus Them” more pronounced than we’ve seen in decades. One of my coworkers expressed, “To me, this is worse than 9/11. Because we did this to ourselves.”

I have always felt like politics in this country was a matter of opinion and push and pull. I’ve supported compromise and that a great deal of good could come from each side understanding the perspective from the other side of the fence. For the first time, I’m starting to feel like there may be actual absolute good and evil involved. My mother grew up in Nazi Germany. She’s in assisted living now, facing the other end of her time here. Her reaction to today’s election result was pure, unhappy nostalgia. “Here we go again,” she said.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. In our democracy, we’ve given one sliver of absolute power to our citizenry – to ourselves, really. One act that can be performed without personal accountability or individual ramifications. Donald Trump helped make it ok to be spiteful, to be angry, to indulge in backlash against political correctness and the tension that accompanies growth toward equality. “It’s ok to let that spite and anger drive your voting choice. No one’s watching.” It’s practically a part of his message. He has opened up our nation to our own inner demons, like an inhibition-reducing bender. I get the feeling that Trump supporters are almost as surprised as Hillary supporters by today’s results. “I voted for him to shake things up,” “I voted for him to show ‘them’ how upset I am with the way things are going.” In a recent coffee shop poll, several patrons shared with one of our reporters whom they voted for and why. The most notable response was a young man who said, “I voted for Trump, but I won’t tell you why.” True to the spirit of the Australian ballot. But Trump opponents aren’t afraid to say why they opposed him. At least, not yet, and not out of shame or because they lack the courage of their convictions.

That the election expressed the unhappiness of Americans is a clear mandate for change. That this mandate has traveled hand-in-hand with a tide of hate, misogyny and intolerance – as opposed to the parallel and almost successful tide of change support that rose under Mr. Sanders – is tragic and frightening. Now that the die is cast, the good guys face a challenge: let the message of change propagate without poisoning our tolerance of one another, without glorifying hate or trampling the protection of civil liberties. Without making it ok to be an asshole – in public or private. Assholery is not the new American value we want to embrace or be known for. Make our national moment of self-loathing only a moment and not a lifestyle, as best we can.

If you are as traumatized as many in the arts and entertainment community by this election, there are some things you can do. The Huffington Post has a list of recommendations here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/if-youre-overwhelmed-by-the-election-heres-what-you-can-do-now_us_5822c7d0e4b0e80b02cdf133 and around Rhode Island you can go to rallies tonight at 7pm at the state house (United against Trump) and tomorrow at noon in Kennedy Plaza (Ain’t Trump). Keep an eye on Facebook as there are sure to be more.

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