Six months ago in my hometown of Eugene, Oregon, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at our community centre. Protesters turned out from all over the state, bringing posters, banners, noisemakers, and solidarity. I went alone to the rally, a little nervous and shy, unsure of how the Eugene Police Department would react to the protest.
We shouted “Black Lives Matter,” “Muslim Lives Matter,” “Fuck Your Wall,” “No Donald Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA,” “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights,” and other chants. It was a beautiful night of solidarity in an extremely diverse group of people.
Tensions were certainly high. Trump supporters called us lazy, called us all welfare “leechers,” called the Hispanic and Latinx protesters “illegals,” called the Muslim protesters “terrorists,” and frequently used the N-word and other racist slurs. One man sporting a “Make America Great Again” hat yelled that he hoped I got raped.
When I tweeted about the experience later, I was accused of lying, of trying to make Trump “look bad.” As if he needed any help in that department. But I still had hope. At that point, there was still widespread disbelief that Donald Trump would become the GOP candidate, let alone the president-elect.
But this is our reality now.
On November 8, I watched a map of the United States turn red one state at a time. I watched as Texas, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and others all chose Trump over Clinton. I began crying as Trump reached 250 electoral votes, needing only 20 more to win the election.
I cried for my friends living in poverty, as the country voted for a man who doesn’t believe they deserve access to food or shelter in hard times, who calls them lazy, whose supporters call them “leeches” of “the system.”
I cried for my fellow woman-identifying humans, watching America choose a man who’d mocked sexual assault, a highly gendered act of violence. I cried for my friends on the queer spectrum, as the country which hasn’t even had marriage equality for two full years yet voted for Mike Pence, a man who has argued in favour of funding conversion therapy.
I cried for my friends who don’t have the privilege that comes with white skin. I watched the country vote for someone who’s openly xenophobic towards Muslims, who supports harsher punishments for minor crimes that disproportionately affect black Americans, who disrespects native land both politically and environmentally.
I cried for those who haven’t completed their immigration process, watching as the country their parents came to in an effort to escape violence — that the US military often had a hand in creating — voted to “send them back,” as if they have anywhere to go. I cried for those still living in the Middle East, who almost undoubtedly now await even more violence in their region in the interest of oil.
I didn’t stop crying until Thursday morning.
That morning, I woke up angry. At the brokenness of the Electoral College and the absurdity of the two-party system, and at how despite the majority of voters choosing Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump had won the election.
Plenty of my Canadian friends laughed at what a “joke” this election was, trivializing it as if it didn’t affect them, and that especially stung. If you don’t care about the lives of people living in the States, then let’s talk about how your lives will be affected. No, I’m not talking about an influx of American refugees.
Air pollution produced in the States does not stop at the 49th parallel. Neither does water contamination and, in an increasingly globalized world, nor does soil contamination. The transportation of food across borders means that the increased levels of pollution that will arise out of Trump’s grotesque lack of regard for climate change will affect the entire world, and it would be foolish to brush this off as an American problem.
When Trump incites violence worldwide, whether that’s through construction of a wall on our Southern border, or through xenophobic foreign policy, refugee crises will be exacerbated. Millions will be displaced. This is a global problem.
When Trump’s tax policies and blind faith in trickle-down economics, which has been proven time and time again to be ineffective, create another massive recession, the Canadian economy will go down with us. Our economies and politics are inextricably tied together, and the US is a major consumer of Canadian exports.
Canadians, what happened on Tuesday night isn’t a joke. Stripping away fundamental human rights has never been and will never be a joke. A Trump presidency is dangerous for all of us economically, politically, and morally. It’s a danger we need to take seriously.