I moved from New York to Berlin two years ago. In the past month it occurred to me to have an election party, to do something American, to celebrate the sure victory of Hillary Clinton. It would be our first female president and a steady, continued course of Obama’s slow progress. Also: a reason to socialize in the cold November night! I’m glad I decided against it in the end. The timing just didn’t make sense.
I stayed up until 9am that night, much more sober than other nights I’ve stayed up until morning. I followed the live updates on Reddit and watched the New York Times odometer tick mercilessly toward the right. I texted with friends from coast to coast, trying to make sense of what we were seeing. How could it be? What the fuck is happening!! I was in denial, unable to even process it.
When I woke up on Wednesday I just hoped that Hillary found a way to contest the election. Surely something illegal must have happened. A recount at least — she won the popular vote after all! But no. I quickly descended into sadness. And shock. It was like being hit with a ton of bricks.
I tried to have a normal day. I went into the office. Berliners gave me hugs, which was comforting. Hey, I live in Europe — it doesn’t have to affect me! I tried telling myself this. Indeed, the distance from the States has helped in terms of avoiding TV news and the onslaught of nauseating media coverage. And it doesn’t come up so often in normal conversation. But my parents called, devastated. More friends. Everyone feels like they’ve lost their country. As nice as it is to be in a foreign country, I felt connected to the United States in this moment.
Part of why I moved to Europe in the first place was to avoid the shitshow that is American politics. Even with someone awesome like Obama in the oval office, the country is full of absurd ridiculousness: inadequate health care, terrible wages, crippling student debt, a huge drug war and prison industry, a need to constantly be the best and work too hard and never rest, incessant identity politics. The American dream is a nightmare to be honest. And living in a creative sanctuary like Berlin has been amazing. But still, no matter how much German I try to learn, I will always be American.
And yes, it hurts to hear the phrase “President Trump”. It hurts to imagine him taking over the government. All the emboldened assholes that will now walk America’s streets… It’s terrifying, frankly. Who knows what damage lies ahead. Trump could give rise to a new bigoted nationalist movement. White supremacists flock to him, for Christ’s sake. And at the top, his administration could undo the few good things we’ve achieved: affordable health care, less war, legal weed…
That night, I really just wanted to get drunk with a group of people that were understanding. I settled for late-night Facebook conversations while drinking whiskey at home. I’ve just been processing everything, reading news, trying to make sense of this planet. It’s sad. And enraging. Why is the world so full of injustice? Why don’t we fix things?? I have so many thoughts and I work to express them, to vent, to give form to the complex inner experiences we all surely have. In the end, though, sometimes we just have to let our emotions run their course. Hopefully the next four years won’t be too tumultuous…. But they probably will.
One thing is for sure: I’ll be renewing my German visa soon. I see no need in returning to Trump’s America.