A friend in Australia just asked me what it’s like living in Trump’s America. Maybe it’s because I’m reading eleanor & park with tears pouring down my face or maybe it’s because I realize I haven’t written about it exactly, but I want to write about it.
Living in Trump’s America is normal, and crazy, and surreal, and just life, all in one. For those who don’t know I became a US citizen on November 14, 2016; nearly a week after the election. I know I don’t need to say which election and elections happen all the time here. It’s the Election (intentional capital letter).
In the lead up to the election, everyone just knew Hillary Clinton would be the next President. We discussed “what if” scenarios but never seriously. To be fair, this is my experience, and I live in Washington state. And then, I lived in Seattle. I’ve heard it said that Washington isn’t really part of the US because it is liberal and outspoken. Seattle has a liberal bias, which frustrates me, but also creates a bubble where no one took Trump seriously. Even the entire Republican Party is more “oh, those silly little Republicans.” What made the bubble stronger is that I worked with a community-lead health insurance fund during this time. It’s often the only way people can get health care. Many of the members don’t speak English. The majority live below the poverty line. We worked there because we cared to make a difference.
So in the lead up to the election, it was fairly business as normal. Nothing’s going to change. I considered going to Bernie Sanders’ rally in Seattle, but I was more stressed with memorizing the 100 questions for the citizenship test. I was curious about the process because US elections are so different than Australian ones, but I wasn’t curious enough to do anything. Plus, the outcome was expected. There were offensive videos, history of mistreating people (not just women and minorities). Of course, it’s going to be President Hillary Clinton.
Early election results came in as the working day finished. I worked late, and a friend in Canada was texting me updates as each state was called. When I got in the car things were starting to look close, but no real reason to be concerned. By the time I was home it was essentially over. People on Twitter asked if I was still going to my citizenship interview (that hurt). I admit I cried. We knew it could be bad. Bad for the country, and bad for us.
The next morning at work was surreal. I’m never likely to be in a war zone, but it was how I imagine a war zone to be. Everyone was whispering and gathering with friends. There were more tears. The shock was widespread. That wasn’t the plan. I was contracting there, and the permanent staff was worried: Trump planned to remove funding for healthcare. Would they still have jobs? My, then, manager said it best: “Today we mourn, tomorrow we fight.”
It was similar the day of the Electoral College vote. We were a little more resigned and not really shocked when state after state canceled the checks and balances which would have negated Trump’s win.
I skipped the Women’s March. I’m not really a believer of marches, and walking that long would trigger a fibromyalgia flare-up, but I was liking and sharing photos all over social media. That’s how I could speak up. I could also become a citizen and vote. I could learn and educate people.
President Trump has lived up to expectations and more. I know I’ve stopped assuming we’re at the bottom of the barrel. Today the talk is of executive action paperwork being hidden so Trump can’t get happy and start a war. It disappoints me but doesn’t surprise me. I feel I want to shake the hand of whoever did it. But from the possible “suspects,” they are still nasty people who are hurting a lot of people.
On a day-to-day basis, not much has changed for me, personally. I have white skin, English is my first language, and the affection gained from the Crocodile Dundee movies still lingers. I live in a farming community near the Canadian border, and there’s an increased border patrol presence, but I’ve been told that happens every Summer. There are Trump stickers on my neighbors’ cars and windows. I wish I could get a photo of the ongoing billboard war. Someone painted over the “DE” on the de-fund Planned Parenthood billboards, so someone else painted the “D” back in (they missed the E). I’ll be chatting about the latest politics with friends, and we’ll change the conversation when someone we don’t know appears. Some people entered a cafe a few weeks ago saying they skipped their regular breakfast place because the owner was wearing a Make America Great Again cap. I’ve always carried my passports on me. Natural-born US citizens apologize to me, but I remind them that, unlike them, I chose to be American.
But that’s all in my bubble. As a freelancer my health insurance was already stupidly expensive, and I made the risky decision when my contract doesn’t include it to go without. The penalties were already lower than the fees. But at least I know I can get a Pap smear or breast examination done at a Planned Parenthood, and others don’t have that opportunity because the Trump administration removed funding to limit a woman’s capacity to earn money. Friends have organized safe houses for their Islamic friends.
To be honest, I don’t follow the Tweets and leaks that closely. There’s a lot of distraction, and it’s not healthy for us. I’ve also banned international friends from discussing Trump. I know they need to vent, but it’s my life. Being in Washington state has saved me, but I see what can happen to me personally. We also have different focus areas. Sure, a nuclear war with North Korea isn’t good, and canceling NAFTA may cancel my NEXUS card and close many of the farms around here, but even more, I don’t want President Pence. In power, he can bring the war to me. Trump is an egomaniac, and that limits his effectiveness. Pence could remove any hope.
This started off all end of the world, fire and brimstone, but, for me, that hasn’t happened…yet. However, I am on constant alert. Every tweet and news report prompts me to mentally ask how it impacts me, my friends. I sometimes switch off to preserve my mental health. I refuse to acknowledge the Trump Baby blimp; it’s not useful. But I also make more effort to speak with people who are possibly Trump supporters, so we can have a mutual ground and see we are all people. I have also voted every time possible and encouraged others to also.
That’s what it is for me, living in Trump’s America. Today, anyway. It could all change tomorrow.
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