The American hangover is excruciating this morning

2016-11-09 16:20
Rozanne Els

Rozanne Els

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“I can’t raise my son here. I am truly terrified for him and other children of colour.”

It’s 22:17 on Tuesday night and Republican nominee Donald J Trump is rolling in votes that no one thought he would get. (Bad news for pollsters – you are now considered to be even less reliable than weather forecasters.)

This fierce Latina mother is genuinely frightened for her son’s future. Only a couple of hours before the presidential race will be called things are not playing out as predicted. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, as not much has gone as predicted since Trump announced his presidential campaign on June 16, 2015. 

The mistake then, as now at 22:17, lies in not taking Trump seriously, or otherwise, seriously enough. He is the anomaly we only read about in Malcolm Gladwell books. Real life? Not so much.

But as the votes come in, the silence grows everywhere. In the reporting war-room on Columbia University’s campus the results coming in are double-checked, triple-checked and then reported on with loud and frustrated strings of “what the fuck?” 

From bars across town, friends are sending updates of what they see. “Everyone in this bar looks mortified.” “I’m putting my internet off, don’t tell me anything.” “People are crying.” 

And sure enough, they are. At the Javits Centre in Manhattan, where thousands of Clinton supporters have gathered to celebrate what they thought would be a sure win, the atmosphere is muted, somber. As late evening turns into morning the crowd thins and the leftover supporters are red-faced from crying. 

All the votes aren’t in when Clinton campaign chair John Podesta addresses them one final time, but we all know what it really means when someone tells you to “go home and get some sleep”. 

Because you’re going to need it. 

Because today my friend, the fierce Latina mother from Texas, doesn’t know how to raise her son in a country where the majority of people voted for a man who says Latino immigrants are “criminals” and “rapists” – amongst many, many other things. 

She is sure this is the end, if only because Trump’s victory gives weight to fear that grows out of ignorance, racism, hate. “This will give people so much more license to shoot black people.”

It’s not that she was blind to how Trump has been playing to Americans’ fear of losing their white privilege. Or that she hasn’t experienced the hate and the ignorance that come with it. But this? This she didn’t expect. No, she is not scared of Trump. She is scared of the millions of people who voted for him and who she shares the subway with, or lives in her apartment building – but don’t want to share America with someone who is different from them.

This morning feels like a bad, bad hangover. The kind where you do not dare open your eyes. Moving your head or any part of your body will mean certain death. You sort of remember what happened last night, but not quite everything. Until you check Facebook and it all comes back and you wish the world would rather end because at least you would feel better than you do right now.

The American hangover is excruciating this morning. 
- Rozanne Els studies journalism at Columbia University in New York and is a former journalist at Media24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    us 2016 elections

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