Everybody take a deep breath. Count to ten. Get some chocolate. Let’s try and process what’s just happened.
On Tuesday night and in the early hours of Wednesday morning, I sat with my housemates and watched as Donald Trump gained enough Electoral College seats to become President of the United States. We’d loaded up on American themed snacks – Cheetos, anyone? – and we were ready. We had emergency cheesecake, enough sugar and carbs to see us through the night and we were excited.
We remained excited and cautiously hopeful until about 2am. The news coverage was talking about how difficult it would be for Trump to win, how he had to work hard to gain certain swing states, how things were looking positive for Hillary Clinton. We were hungry; we contemplated a second serving of mac n’ cheese.
And then a shift happened. At first it didn’t seem like anything too significant. The interactive map the BBC was using turned slightly more red than expected; Trump pulled slightly ahead. It was okay. The Democrats didn’t seem in any immediate danger. And then the tone changed. Reporters started talking – with various degrees of incredulity in their voices – about how Clinton could pull it back, about what states she definitely needed to win. We forgot about the mac n’ cheese. As the hours unfolded, we watched as Republicans rejoiced across the country; Trump was edging closer and closer to 270 seats.
We were waiting for Florida to be called. We were religiously checking the website of the New York Times, whose prediction of a Trump victory was edging closer and closer to 100%. In the hours waiting for the last states to be called, we made emergency tea, tried not to fall asleep and attempted to convince each other that it might all be okay.
Today, I can’t write about food. Instead I need to write about how sad and scared I am that this could happen. How worrying it is that although Clinton won the popular vote, Trump won the Presidency. How grateful I am as a woman with a disability and a long term health condition that I am anywhere but America right now – and how sorry and worried and anxious I am for the people who don’t have that option.
I’m not going to pretend to know enough about US politics to analyse the reasons that people voted for Trump. I think that, much like with the recent Brexit vote, people wanted change. People wanted something different to the status quo. People are scared because the constant rhetoric about immigration and job stealing and healthcare draining has seen diversity blamed for issues that have far longer causes.
I just about understand that fear, even though I fundamentally disagree with it. I just about understand how some people in America might feel that Trump is the answer they’ve been looking for; that he might be the one to bring back their job, their state, their sense of identity. But I cannot comprehend how these values and these views ‘excuse’ a man who has numerous sexual assault allegations against him. A man who preaches hate against Islam, and Mexicans, and women, and anyone that isn’t rich and white and male.
Imagine that you are a woman in America today. As a woman, you may someday be in a situation where you, or a friend or a relative or someone that you know might have to consider an abortion. Imagine waking up today and knowing that your President Elect is a man who has stated on multiple occasions that this decision should be punishable by law. I understand that this is an issue which inspires strong views and differences of opinion but it is never a decision taken lightly. You will never know how you would react in that situation until you are actually in that situation, and if Trump gets his way and honours his words, as a woman in that situation your choices will be limited.
Imagine you are a Muslim in America right now. Imagine waking up and having to explain to your children that their new President is a man who has called for a blanket ban on all members of your religion entering the country. Imagine knowing, whatever people say and however people try to comfort you, that enough of your country stood with this man, who preaches hate and discord and fear, to ensure he is now President Elect.
I could continue. Imagine that you were anyone who identities as non-straight or non-cis. Imagine you had a disability, a health condition; imagine you were dependent on Obamacare. Imagine you were black or an ethnic minority. Imagine you were anyone who was not a rich white man. Imagine imagine imagine.
Except we don’t have to imagine, do we? This is the reality for thousands of Americans today, and tomorrow, and every day for the next four years. This is the reality for mothers and husbands and children and families; this is the situation for everybody, all across the country. Already there are protests, marches, arrests. The situation is tense, emotions are running high, the country is volatile. It’s difficult to fully imagine the anxiety that people must be feeling but my heart goes out to them.
Nobody knows what will actually happen when Trump takes office, whether his statements and policies might be tempered, whether he might be more moderate than he has been thus far. Nobody knows how this will affect the UK, the ‘special relationship’, the wider world – that’s a scary concept and one which many people are struggling to deal with. So I cannot write about food today except to say: eat a meal with the people you love. Things are uncertain and things are scary, but take care of each other. We are, as Clinton said, always stronger together.