At Halloween, my son, aged 10, went trick-or-treating dressed as Trump, wearing a placard that read: “Make America scary again.” This morning, I was still in bed when he arrived upstairs with the news that Trump was to be the next President of the United States. “Ha ha,” I said, sitting up and rubbing my eyes, “very funny! I know it’s a trick, I know you’re joking.” If only.
My kids took a keen interest in the US presidential race. They were watching and listening as Trump peddled racism, misogyny, hatred, all kinds of awfulness. They thought, and still think, him preposterous and appalling, so much so that the 10- and 12-year-old together adopted a new ironic catch phrase. “Who’s gonna pay for that wall?” they’d shout in unison in response to something they considered particularly mindless.
Paradoxically, they’d spent the summer immersed in a portrayal of a different kind of America. In June they got the soundtrack to Hamilton the musical. I’ve listened to this soundtrack pretty much every day since, sometimes multiple times a day. They play it constantly, in our house, in our car, they sing it in their bedrooms. Hamilton the musical is the story of one of the American Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, an orphan from the Carribbean. Rise up, it exhorts, as it celebrates equality, bravery, freedom, selflessness, the contributions of immigrants and women.
At our local primary school, our daughter’s class held their own ballot the day before the election. Clinton won comfortably. There was one spoiled vote, a child who thought Obama should be president. Now, in the aftermath, as part of her homework for tonight, our daughter had to come up with a newspaper headline to report Trump’s victory. I took a peek: “America bans pre-grated cheese as Trump vows to make America grate again.” Hmm… at least someone can still find humour in the situation. Her older sister, 14, says that it’s like the opening of a dystopian novel, and that Trump just has to grow a beard and he’d be like President Snow from the Hunger Games. She says she can’t understand how a woman who spent her entire career in politics lost to a TV presenter. She suggests a second American revolution.
Because I share my name with US-based political commentator Danielle McLaughlin, I’ve been granted additional special insights into voter mindset. By this I mean I’ve been on the receiving end of some idiotic social media communications.
I am bewildered by America’s decision.
Recommendations? It’s hard to know what one can do when faced with something as overwhelming as this. I think some solace can be found in doing small, positive acts, like, for example, supporting the anthology edited by Kerrie O’Brien and Alice Kinsella to raise money for the Rough Sleepers Team of the Dublin Simon Community – Looking at the Stars I’d also recommend listening to that Hamilton soundtrack. Or the Desiderata, with particular attention to the bit about avoiding loud and aggressive persons.
Irish Times: 10 November 2016
Read more reactions from Irish writers here