If only most Americans knew, as they voted, how powerful their country actually is. That whatever its government does goes way beyond their backyard; that the whole world is on tenterhooks as they vote for their President; that a vote for US laws and acts is a vote that will affect the whole world. If only most Americans thought that if their country is half as great and special as they are raised to believe, this means in turn that whatever it does will create shockwaves elsewhere. And that if it is great - and even better! - doesn't it make sense to share it with others?
It goes without saying that this is going to make life even harder and more precarious for so many people. From afar I felt the impact, first and foremost as a woman. On 8th November, having only followed it all very vaguely, it occurred to me how meaningful it would be to have a female US President and how close we were to that. No, not the first female leader of a nation by any means, but of the most powerful, high-profile nation on the planet (whether you agree with its imperialist politics or not, this is just a fact). I was tearful as I considered what kind of message this would put across. Some part of me did, yes, subscribe to the idea that if a woman could become President, I could do anything and magically be taken seriously in the same way men are. I thought back to when I stayed up at age 17 to see Obama win for the first time. I was tearful then, too.
The past few days on the internet have felt fragile like never before, as everyone tries to make sense of it and cope in their own way, whether that's making Harry Potter analogies (ugh), making petitions for Hillary Clinton to be President (not gonna work guys) or Obama/Biden memes (okay, this I can get on board with). It has also been thinkpiece city and in a weird way I can't look away. I lurk on Twitter when my mind wanders and see everyone argue about what they are supposed to think and the correct way to react.
I have witnessed straight white dudes IRL earnestly put the President-elect's compulsive sleaziness and sexual assault habit on the same level as what Mr Clinton got up to - that's right, not the actual candidate, but her husband! - and suddenly care so much about women in "third world countries" who "have no rights". I have felt inward anger as I see straight white dudes mansplain on my female friends' Facebook statuses about how the whole sorry affair is not misogynistic - or, they even take it one step further and tell them to calm down. You know exactly the type I mean; the type who like to play devil's advocate. They like to say he's not actually going to enact any of the horrible policies that defined his campaign. Well, how do you know that? And more importantly, why are you excusing a person who says those things in order to incite hatred? I know for you it's all just fun and memes, because you never have to really think about any of this stuff in your real, day-to-day life. You don't stand to lose anything.
I hate how during the campaigns there was so much of this "better of two evils" rhetoric, that people couldn't bring themselves to mention Clinton without saying "yeah she's corrupt but what can ya do". I hate how people compared the two candidates as if it was even a fucking question.
I hate how even over here, in Berlin, there is such a sense of smugness, exactly as there was with Brexit. In the run-up, walking around, I saw signs saying stuff like "AmeriKKKa was never great". Run along back to Rigaer Straße. Also yeah, most people living in Germany can't do a thing to change the situation in America.
I don't know if I will ever set foot in the United States as a visitor again in the near future - for financial reasons, mostly. It feels incongruous with its good cultural exports I have enjoyed my whole life, the good people I know from there and the good times I have had there. I suppose it is the same when people think about times they've visited the UK and what they enjoy about it. That is sadly just a small corner of what a country is about.