An historic event occurred on November 9th, 1989: the Berlin Wall came down as thousands of citizens took their sledgehammers to a construction that represented a generation of oppression, tyranny and death and reunited their nation.
Twenty-seven years later, in a country that once fought against the ideals that raised that wall in Berlin, votes were being counted to elect the 45th President of the United States. While many around the world sat in shock at the final result, myself included, perhaps it should have come as no big surprise after all. Only a few short months earlier, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in what was known as “Brexit” referendum. Most of us assumed that would never happen either. And now, look where we are.
I have been struggling to articulate my thoughts about the events that have unfolded in the past 24 hours. Being in Sydney, the polling booths were only just beginning to close from the east to the west coasts during our late afternoon. I had resisted the temptation to watch the election coverage until around 2pm. And then as the counts started rolling in and it became apparent that we were not going to be seeing the first female President any time soon, I picked up the phone and called my friends in Chicago. I began to cry.
All afternoon, I watched my Twitter feed light up with tweets expressing shock, horror, outrage, disappointments. I was among those expressing such thoughts. The most common expressions were: “What is happening?” or “How is this possible?” Occasionally, my twitter exchanges would be interrupted by “eavesdroppers” who disagreed with us, accusing us of supporting corrupt government/liar/baby killers, and so forth. Many of those people believe that January 20th, 2017 is going to be the dawn of a new great era in America.How does one describe this election? It was a campaign that lasted 18 months. It was often comical – late night talk show hosts taking shots at the now-President-elect’s “baby hands”, orange hair and skin, his use of the word “bigly”. Just as often, it verged on the ridiculous: how can someone who thinks that his success in business is the same as sacrificing your life for your country in war? Celebrities came out and said, “the American people are smarter than this. They can see through his rhetoric.” We can decry his racism, misogynistic tendencies, his lack of fiscal management or accountability for his own actions.
On the other hand, political punters and pollsters warned us: you cannot dismiss a man who, despite having zero experience in public service, has declared bankruptcy several times while travelling in private planes and choppers and loves nothing more than seeing his name atop skyscrapers, is smart enough to know the right buttons to push with enough people to get him elected.
Nobody is perfect. Hillary Clinton, for all the years of public service she has put in, is no angel. Even before she ran for President, her private life has been the stuff of public scandal. She has made mistakes. As have we all. Those who live in glass houses, and all that, right?
To any American reading this who may be thinking: why can’t you mind your own business? All I can say is, this election, like the Brexit referendum, is everyone’s business. For generations, the world sat divided. It began as a geographical obstacle which we broke down by building roads, planes, trains and automobiles. The world became a little closer. Trade opened up that allowed us all to have access to things we might not otherwise have had access to.
When things start looking a little awry, we let our fears overtake our better judgement. Our instinct to protect our borders and put up walls to “stop evil getting in” runs completely contrary to the solution: that if we all love each other, share what we have and accept each other’s differences, that there would be just one world, one race.
Now, the votes have been counted and a new President will soon move into the White House. The jokes have halted, if only briefly while the world wonders what there is to laugh about, but now, more than ever before, is not the time to give up and give in to hate and fear-mongering. Now is the time to prove that #LoveTrumpsHate and that the world is #StrongerTogether.
There is a lot more work to be done to educate and show the world that women will not stand by and be mistreated and grabbed, no matter how rich or famous the perpetrator is, that despite this loss, there are women in power around the world who can rule and lead and govern. Let us build bridges rather than walls. Let us hold out our hands to offer help rather than raise arms in war. There is work to be done and now is not the time to rest.