Dear US friends

It’s a dark day for many of you, as it is for many of us Canadians. Judging from the size of the pit in my stomach, I can only imagine the waking dread in some of your households this morning, whether you are a member of the LGBT+ community, a newcomer, visible minority, a deeply disappointed woman, or a decent person who cares about human rights. Overnight, your country has become a hostile place for many of you, and I’m very sorry.  

Go ahead and eat a donut or two and hunker down for a bit if you want to. 

I did not see this coming. I really thought there would be enough smart people who would see through the charlatan to out-vote the ones who would put their own self-interest first. I lived and worked in the US for a few years. Like many Canadians, I treat the border as a dotted line, popping down to the States whenever I can to sight-see or visit family and friends. I can honestly say that there are a few states I may not visit again for awhile, but I am in no way writing you off. I know lots of you are thinking you’d rather come here (enough of you that you crashed our immigration website last night) but I really think you should stay put because you’ve got lots of work ahead of you. Your country and the rest of the world are going to need you in the next four years.  We need your leadership and innovation. Canadians weren’t kidding around when we decided to #tellAmericaitsgreat.

How this happened will be talked about at length by people much smarter than me. Dr. Jane Goodall analyzed Trump’s behaviour and compared it to that of a dominant male chimp. 

Malcolm Gladwell suggested that a price was being exacted for 8 years under Obama, a fascinating theory called moral licensing. 

As a sensitive, empathetic sort, it makes me want to cry furious tears when bad guys triumph. 

What I personally learned from this election:

-hatred for women in power runs much deeper than I’d previously thought

-people would rather elect a misogynistic, racist hater than have a woman for a boss

-when confronted with Trump’s many misdeeds, many people, astonishingly including some women, shrugged it off with a “oh, he doesn’t meant that” (I’m afraid he did)

-people can forgive a man who cheats on all his wives, but not a woman who’s husband cheated on her

-there are many people willing to look the other way while the rights of others are dragged backwards 30 years as long as they are getting what they want.

It would be one thing if voters had prioritized a policy position over his misogyny, but they frankly just didn’t care. I can’t think of any policy platform that I would find so important that I’d be willing to overlook his disgusting comments, but he didn’t even have to bother with one. People don’t care that he’s a pig to women, because in this narrative, women don’t matter beyond their ability to support, amuse, decorate and please.  

Peace is fragile. Civility is fragile. When people perceive that their resources are being threatened, both peace and civility erode.  

We can’t just blame the uneducated. There were educated people who voted for Trump too, and there were systems in play that allowed him to get this far to begin with. Celebrity culture for one. We treat celebrities as though they breath rare air; they exist outside of social and moral conventions, and we assign their opinions far more value than is deserved. We equate notoriety with accomplishment.  

On the other end of the spectrum, we have denigrated the institutions in which we used to trust. Lower church attendance and a greater reliance on online information and social media have resulted in a society that doesn’t understand or doesn’t trust authority, and the basic, longstanding structures that support collective knowledge and will, whether it’s journalistic integrity or democracy. We saw the first cracks in the old shared knowledge model with the debate over vaccines. The anti-vaxxers were ignored at first by a majority that assumed such a ridiculous, unscientific argument would burn itself out, and yet here we are a decade later dealing with outbreaks of preventable diseases, and mired in a new communication paradigm that insists that we hear from both sides of the argument, as though either side is of equal weight and reliability. We need to learn from this. We can no longer assume that logic and proof will bear any weight. 

So, what now? First, once you finish your donuts, it’s time to put those pants-suits back on and keep being the bad-ass bitches that came out in droves to support Clinton. It’s time to mobilize, to build bridges with other communities fighting for their rights, and to make a lot of noise. It’s time to get behind our young women and girls to demand better of the Republican party. It’s time to call ourselves feminists, without explanation or apology. Spread peace. Reach out to your neighbours. Google Positive Space and see if you can start a small movement in your workplace, today, to make sure LGBT+ people feel included. Be the change. 

One final thought. I realized during this campaign, that I didn’t know anyone who was voting for Trump (that they were willing to share with me, anyway). I tended to avoid the pro-Trump propaganda and watch news sources that supported the Trump-as-anti-Christ narrative. It’s a real problem that there are so many angry, disenfranchised people, a much bigger problem than can just be swept away as racism. I find myself wondering if this could happen here in Canada. There are some vocal Canadians supporting Trump, and Manitoba has the highest number of Trump supporters. What are the sociological tectonic plates that have been shifting around and causing all this pressure to build? Sometime in the next four years, we need to figure that out and do what we can to fix it. It’s time for the grown-ups to talk.