Amani A. | November 18 2016
I grappled for my phone, still half asleep. Through a bleary-eyed haze, amongst the tiny dancing letters, I made out the one word I had been so desperate to avoid: Trump. I didn’t need to read anything else. I placed it back where I had found it, screen and senseless headlines face-down, before rolling myself up tightly in my duvet.
On the night of the Brexit referendum, I had fallen asleep feeling nervous – anxiety is as anxiety does – but ultimately, unable to shake my quiet confidence in things turning out alright. I had been living in London nearly seven years at that point, and it had never stopped feeling like home. I clung on to my mother’s optimistic reassurances in the lead-up to the vote, taking comfort in the kind and clever souls surrounding me. How could I automatically default to pessimism in times of uncertainty when there was so much goodness around?
On the morning of the Brexit referendum results, I woke up all by myself in a huge house in Wales, and refused to believe any of it. Unable to go back to sleep, I got up in the early hours, ironing the dress I was going to wear that day to one of my best friend’s weddings in a meditative, solemn silence, broken only by the occasional loud sob. Most of my sobs that morning were quiet and constant. I thought kindness, for lack of plain old common sense, would prevail. It hadn’t, and it was heart-breaking.
This time around, I didn’t cry. A sense of dread had clouded my mind since late summer, and even if I still felt hopeful on occasion, I had my suspicions that the outcome of this election would be equally devastating. Once bitten, twice shy. I picked up my phone again and stared at the blank screen, unable to process anything. Numbness took over as the results sank in.
My mum is French, my dad is Palestinian by way of Egypt. They met in a swimming pool at 630 1st Avenue in the late 80s and it was true love. I eventually happened, and grew up in New York City in the 1990s. My America is diverse and dynamic and colourful. We had an unspoken pact: it didn’t ask me to omit parts of my burgeoning identity to make myself more palatable to it, and in return, I did the same, learning to embrace the differences that surrounded me and learning to find solace in the similarities that trickled down from them. Last week, my America went back on its promise. This is the second country I’ve called home to have told me in the last few months, in no uncertain terms, that I have no place there. As a woman, as an immigrant, as an Arab, as a queer person, as someone who firmly holds the apparently controversial belief that people who aren’t white, male, rich, or any combination of the above, also deserve to be happy, healthy, and thrive, I find myself on the fringes of two torn societies. I don’t look the part enough to be seen as a threat, I don’t have an accent heavy with history, my skin is not brown, people have told me, I am not what they mean when they talk about Arabs and immigrants. Am I supposed to find comfort in this zero-calorie fascism?
As I came to term with the results, the numbness left way to a medley of violent emotions. I was angry with the people who could afford to vote third party out of ideological purity. Do you lean to the left because you want to look like the most enlightened person in the room, or because you genuinely care about people less lucky than you? I was scared for my friends who would undoubtedly suffer abuse, simply for being different and daring to still exist, not instantly disappearing into the ether like the votes would have them do. I was seething with rage, suffocating from helplessness, the dangerous torrents of hate spewed by Republican voters drowning me. Regardless of my more complex feelings towards her, I was sad for the woman who was overqualified for a job that she did not get – seeing her concede her illogical loss with such grace added insult to injury on a planetary level. “A female has more hormones. She could start a war in ten seconds. If she has hot flashes, whatever – boom!” – a matter-of-factly motion of no-confidence in women leaders worldwide, courtesy of a woman at a pro-Trump rally in Wisconsin. Did you know a woman’s hormonal makeup during her period is the closest it will ever get to a man’s? The sharp drop in progesterone and oestrogen significantly reduces the disparity between them and a woman’s testosterone levels. So if we are brash, impulsive, and irresponsible because of the way we are physiologically wired for a few days a month, what does it say about you? Please, blame something other than half-baked biological pretences for your rampant misogyny.
My heart feels like it is about to explode when I think of the young girls who saw a nation back a man who built his campaign on bullying and harassing and belittling us. Is breaking a child the gateway to making America great again? Or maybe it is torturing them into a semblance of Wasp-approved normalcy? We have a vice-president elect who thinks you can electrocute gay youth straight. We have a quarter of a nation who cheers at the idea of families being torn apart and deported because they don’t look white enough to be American. They think they now have the impunity to share the toxic thoughts they’ve harboured against Black, Brown, Hispanic, and Muslim communities, and think these thoughts are justified. We have half a nation who by failing to turn up to vote just sleepily shrugged, “I may not hate you, but I certainly couldn’t care less about you.” I don’t know who my heart breaks for the most, as unlike the vast majority of people who voted blood red on Tuesday, I don’t believe it possible to hierarchise suffering and loss.
Illustration by Annabel Amin.
Amani A. is a designer and maker who gets up to all sorts (namely, trying to make friends with people’s pets) in London, England. She spends a lot of time thinking about cultural identity, body politics, material culture, where to explore next, and what’s for lunch. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter