Two weeks later, it still feels unreal. My stomach has not settled down, and every time I tell myself not to panic, a headline punches my fear buttons.
The photos of Trump proliferate, always the same strange orange grin, the look that says, Gotcha, sucker, we’re gonna have some fun now! with an undertone of, You don’t like me? You’re screwed. I refuse to watch the news and the best I can do is read the first few paragraphs of various Post stories and then skip to the next report. Today, there were thirty articles in the paper that either headlined Trump or mentioned him, his cabinet-to-be, the abuses committed by the people he has chosen to be his confidants, and the conflicts of interest surrounding the man who will soon be occupyimg the highest office in the land.
The three Francophone newspapers—one in France, one in Switzerland, and one in Canada—that contact me every year or so for stories on what’s happening in the United States want thirty inches of prose on the Trump phenomenon. One apparently already has a headline: Trump va-t-il Tromper L’Amérique? Will Trump Cheat on America? It’s a nice alliteration making the rounds of French-speaking countries. Another one told me to make sure I mention the pussy incident. In France, where the sexual adventures of premiers and presidents barely raise an eyebrow, readers are fascinated by Trump’s pussy comments. It bears out what many think, that a majority of Americans are crude and unsophisticated and will now be led by a man who relishes these unhappy traits.
What I will write about is the fear mongering. The media—print and visual—promises the end of the world, and these assertions play right into the reactionaries’ hands. Even as this happens, I think the country is largely catatonic, stunned by how one candidate could win by more than a million-and-a-half popular votes and still be defeated. This is not supposed to happen but does so regularly.
I’ll write that the street demonstrations in some major cities are unfocused and unorganized. They remind me of the Occupy Wall Street fiasco, when so many good and positive things could have occurred, but none did. Europeans, on the other hand, are masters at demonstrating. They shut down their countries over human rights, farmers’ incomes, women and LGBT issues, and suggestions that the retirement age be raised. They don’t really understand why in the U.S. there was not a massive mobilization before the election. They think the present protests are much like closing the barn door after the cows are gone (or some European version on this.) It’s hard to disagree.
And I will write about the fact that almost four out of ten Americans qualified to vote simply did not. This is beyond the understanding of most people across the Atlantic. Voting rates in Belgium are almost ninety percent. They are eighty percent in Denmark, seventy-one percent in France, eighty-two percent in Sweden. How, the readers will ask, can such a low voter turnout occur in the country that bills itself as the land of the free?
Apathy, I will say, appalling apathy.