It’s been a weird few days.
I felt grief at first. For hoping that we could be better. For hoping that the disillusionment felt by the white working class wouldn’t outweigh a basic human gag reflex. That common sense would prevail, that decency would win.
What this does is prove some things I have always suspected.
I have previously done political work for black candidates. I have done hours of call time where one person will tell me we live in a post-racial America and “they” need to stop trying to play the race card, and the next caller will answer and call the candidate a n—- before hanging up on me. The part that nearly drove me insane is how the first person denies the existence of the second, bending over backward to continue living in a world where overt discrimination is somehow not a thing.
There has been this weird blind spot in America for the past few years, like we finally saw what we could be, and we thought we were there already. We’re not. We’ve got a long way to go. In some small way, it’s a relief to have it out in the open. My personal goal is to never normalize this.
Part of what makes this entire thing surreal to me is the act of watching it from across the world. The actual day of the election, my students kept asking questions. One teacher told her rowdy class (to my mortification and amusement) that they had to behave because “Molly-sensei is already stressed enough about America.” With her permission and the class’s great enthusiasm, I held a mock election- Clinton, overwhelmingly, won. One student voted for Trump, and, when asked, clarified that he thought we were voting on playing a card game.
To understand what it’s like to watch this from a world away, you have to understand what Japan sees: the protests, the scandals, the pussy grabbing, the wall. Like some in America, most Japanese viewed Trump’s candidacy as some kind of odd joke- I was asked to explain him more times than I can count. The day after, one of my teachers asked me, “why do white colored women vote Trump?” NHK reported that 39% of white women voted for Trump.
There are some Japan-specific reasons for Trump being unpopular here- among them, his support for Japanese nuclear proliferation and increases in military.
I sat on this blog post for a while because I wanted to have something- anything- better to say. Something that would inspire, or comfort, or clarify. Right now, I am still speechless, trying to gather some of these scattered observations into something passably interesting. Perhaps I will have better words in the days ahead.