One year ago this week I was visiting Paris when the Parisian people were attacked by Islamic fanatics enacting the largest bloodshed that the city had experienced since the atrocities and occupation of the second World War. During the events I was separated from my wife and had walked through the city streets in a confused stupor, listening to a ceaseless drone of ambulance sirens while I could faintly smell the distinctly odd aroma of gunfire. I was a mere few blocks away from several of the despicable acts of terrorism and it was a frightening and influential moment of my life.
The following day after my wife and I were reunited I was filled with many conflicting emotions about what had happened. Overall I walked away from the incident oddly inspired and hopeful as I admired the Parisian and French people. Although there was a clearly somber mood to the city and the presence of armed militia on the streets was oddly both comforting and discomforting at the same time, the people of Paris continued about their business and this inspired me. Of course I couldn’t understand the language and therefore did not truly know the thoughts muttered on the breaths of the people; the fact that their voices spoke and commerce continued was encouraging.
That attack was an assault on both the French and Western way of life and had been organized by a small number of deranged extremists. It was an atrocious event but I was mindful that this atrocity was the result of a small group of lunatics that were an outside force attempting to destroy the fabric of a just, albeit imperfect, social system in the name of fanatical, hateful idealism. This fact doesn’t make it okay, but in my mind, the external nature of terrorism makes it less terrifying because it is random and unexpected. That may sound odd, but wouldn’t you feel more comfortable visiting any European country where there exists the potential threat of terrorism than you would visiting someplace with ongoing conflict that is real, present, and expected?
I cannot deny that both prior to and following November 13th, 2015 there have been a myriad of attacks across the globe where countless more people have senselessly died in the name of a fanatical and misguided idealism. This is very much the way of the world today. However, having experienced the Paris events my awareness was altered and when I was in Sydney over the New Year holiday, I was acutely hyper aware of the vulnerability of having so many people in such a small area. Living with this awareness I have tried to champion hope, knowing that although terrorism will continue and that the presence of these random acts are a fact of the present way of the world, there continues an ongoing struggle to reduce injustice and hate and promote peace. I had maintained these thoughts with a belief that terrorism would only win when the social fabric of order and peace is permanently disrupted and I refused to believe that day of disruption could happen.
I reflect on those past events and these thoughts regarding terrorism on this day of November 9th, 2016 because this day is just as impactful. Following the election of Donald Trump as the president of my country I am overcome with an indescribable emotional hangover that is utterly deflating. As I went on a walk during my lunch break in an attempt to gain some focus I was reminded of my feelings on that past morning of November 14th, 2015 when I had walked the streets of Paris searching for hope amidst violence. A year ago my thoughts and observations led me to follow hope but today I sadly I cannot rediscover that feeling of hope within me.
The violence that occurs through terrorism is an external force exerting a threat upon the social norms that the terrorists despise. I see this election as an social crumbling and reflection of an internal cultural terror. I see the “Make America Great Again” philosophy and marketing brand as a misguided idealism for a way of life that has been fading. This cultural idealism is no different than the violent idealism for a religious way of life that has long faded. Both idealisms are rooted in the lost hopes of a disenfranchised people. Never mind that we will be forced to look at that snarky orange face and listen to his patronizing voice for four terribly long years; the truly upsetting outcome is not Trump himself, but the fact that he succeeded in achieving the nation’s highest office by promoting a branded campaign based on misogynistic, hate-mongering, and racism with an embarrassingly unqualified platform that was only supported by ceaseless bullying, misinformation, and of course terror. The fact that this nation voted this clown, failed businessman and reality tv star into office is totally and utterly embarrassing. This nomination speaks from a voice of fears in the other and the platform of isolationism will not inspire the self awareness this country’s people truly need. On this day the people of this country have spoken: selfish fear has triumphed over the promotion of civil liberties. Isolationistic nationalism has triumphed over global cohesiveness. Misinformation has triumphed over qualified preparedness.
This country has taken a dark step into an already frightening world and I am completely disgusted and disappointed. There may be a market collapse as a result of Trump’s economic policies, there may be oncoming war or global conflict as a result of his flippant approach to international affairs, there may be a lapse of civil liberties and environmental protection in this nation and globally: or perhaps not. There is a chance Trump will be entirely ineffective and only last 4 years but he will never be a blip in the history books. The true damage I see is not the man himself. The true damage is the cultural damage enacted by not Trump, but his supporters. This has long been coming, the cultural divide in this supposedly united nation is cavernous and the direction is now headed is at odds with logic and human decency. The disrespect and vehemence towards both Clinton and Obama has been absolutely despicable, the Access Hollywood tapes, the mocking of war heros and the handicapped is only the beginning. I am fearful for more Fergusons. I am fearful for lynching and internal violence. I am fearful for the justification of racism homophobia and xenophobia. It is all so overwhelming that I just don’t know what to think. I am deeply saddened to call myself a part of this nation. I am deeply saddened to be raising a daughter in this world.
I am deeply saddened that I have so much fear.
And from this, I just have no more words.