As I write this my heart hurts. Not just with the heavy feeling of loss that so many are experiencing after last night’s US election results, but with an actual acute physical pain. I’ve been crying on and off all day, and my stomach feels like it’s permanently stuck on a roller coaster. You would think that I’m just upset at the prospect of President Trump, but I’m not. It’s not about him. He’s just one man. An evil, racist, xenophobic, sexist, horrible, horrible man, but he’s just one person. And I’m done caring about him. My heart hurts because the world I thought I knew is gone. Worse, I fear it may never have existed in the first place, and that thought has shattered me beyond anything I ever thought possible. I used to think that the world was an inherently good place. I don’t think that anymore.
To be clear, good and evil have always co-existed. I live in Paris, a city that’s rapidly approaching the one year anniversary of the November terror attacks of last year, so I know about the world’s capacity for evil. As do the people currently living under ISIS rule, and the LGBT community in Russia. The millions of displaced Syrians, and the families still awaiting the return of their girls from Boko Haram. And then there’s the billions of people; men, women, and children across this world who will be raped, assaulted, objectified, harassed, and in countless other ways traumatized in their lifetimes. We are all much too aware of the evil that exists in this world. But even in the face of such overwhelming odds, I always believed that the goodness in this world far outweighed that evil, and I believed that love would always win. I don’t believe that anymore.
I should have seen it coming. I was in Australia three years ago when Australia elected Tony Abbott as their Prime Minister, a man with a record of sexist, racist, and xenophobic actions and statements. I was in Canada last year for our own election, and got into screaming matches with my own family over the fact that they would rather use their vote to preserve their status quo than try to remove a man who used his power to discriminate, intimidate, and threaten the civil liberties, not to mention human rights, of our fellow Canadians. I watched from across the English Channel as the Brexit campaign unfolded with such horrifying measures to its astonishing conclusion. I have watched as far right groups have gained ground across Europe, Rodrigo Duterte became the President of the Philippines, and headlines in my adopted country of France trumpeted the fact that Marine Le Pen and her National Front party are gaining in the polls in the lead up to next year’s election. And this morning, I woke up to the news that Donald Trump was the next president of the United States.
I should have seen it coming, but somehow I always found an excuse for these events. A reason for why I shouldn’t be too concerned. Tony Abbott lasted just two years in power before being forced out by his own party, my fellow Canadians voted out Stephen Harper, and post-Brexit Britian got rid of the leaders of that debacle, ushered in a new Prime Minister, and appeared to show remorse for the outcome of that vote. I reassured myself that history is filled with ups and downs, but in the end, we will get it right because the majority of the people in this world are good people. I believed this with all of my heart and soul, and I’ve written about my optimism and faith for the future of humanity over and over again because I believed in our inherent goodness as people. But not anymore.
All day I’ve read articles positing the many reasons why Trump won. They say that the economy is to blame, that people feel left out of the political process, and that Trump was the maverick outsider who appealed to voters because he was going to shake things up in Washington. But that’s not why he won. A survey of far right parties across the world show different stances on every issue except for immigration, and studies have shown that the only consistent factor in people’s affiliation with far right parties is racism and xenophobia. This holds true across all wealth brackets and educational levels, showing that a person’s wealth and education, or lack thereof, has little bearing on whether or not they will be xenophobic. Throw into the mix a healthy dose of sexism when considering voting for America’s first female president and you have this election in a nutshell. Trump came to power on a platform built on fear and hatred of disenfranchised people, and Americans flocked to him in droves. It was Brexit 2.0, and who knows how many more outcomes like this are on the horizon.
Today, I can no longer pretend that the majority of people in this world are good, because they aren’t. A good person does not vote for a man like Donald Trump, no matter what their reasons for doing do. A good person does not vote for someone who holds so many of their fellow citizens in contempt. A good person does not support a candidate who is racist, sexist, and xenophobic, no matter how much he promises to fix the economy. The basic human rights of your fellow citizens should be worth more to you than your pensions. That is the way the world should work, and that was the world I thought I was living in. One in which people took care of each other, and treated each other with kindness, compassion, and respect. There will always be evil in this world, but I believed that it could always be overcome because I believed those people to be a small, very vocal, but small nonetheless minority. But this is not the case. I see that now, and that truth is devastating. For me, and for all of us.
In the wake of last year’s attacks in Paris, a widowed father eloquently declared to the world that his wife’s murderers would not have his hate. I hope I am that strong. Fear and hate may have led to last night’s election results, but now I fear that when my tears run out they will be replaced with hate. My heart may hurt right now, but I’m afraid that when the pain goes away, so will my capacity to see the good in people. My ability to counter the anger with love, the resentment with tolerance, and to do my part to tend to the wounds of division with compassion and respect. I do not want to succumb to my fear, anger, and the hatred that is so often not far behind. I want to believe in the world again, but right now I can’t. All I can feel is the anger and rage I have at this utter betrayal of common human decency.
So tonight I go to bed with a broken heart. To everyone who shattered my belief in the goodness of this world, I concede. You get my tears and my hope. You get my faith in humanity. But you only get it for tonight. Tomorrow I start to put the pieces back together. Tomorrow I begin to hope. Today I give in to anger, but tomorrow I begin to love again. It’s not going to be easy. The road ahead is scary and unknown, but I’m going to try because I want to believe in this world again. I want to and I have to. The world that I thought I knew may be gone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone forever. That thought is my reason for getting up tomorrow morning. I hope you all find yours as well.