Today is a tough day. I am stunned, sad, and scared. Stunned because I didn’t see this coming; I thought we were better than this. Sad because today is terrible and destructive and needs to be mourned (Mozart: Requiem is on heavy rotation today). And scared because I really don’t know what come next. Thinking back to the 2000 election, I remember being stunned, sad, and scared, but it was a different kind of fear. Back then I was scared because I knew exactly what George W. Bush would do as President, and it terrified me. This is different, because I have no idea what Trump will do as President. So I decided to write out my fears on the theory that naming the monster under the bed makes it less scary.
- I am scared for the people of color in my family, among my friends, in my community, and in my nation. Trump pulled back the covers on an ugly orgy of American racism. I don’t know where that energy goes from here, but it ain’t anywhere good.
- I am scared for my beloved queer community. Weirdly, we’re the one right-wing bogeyman that Trump didn’t enthusiastically pile on during the campaign. But given what he’s said about judges, and his choice of Pence, I fear that our taste of political success under Obama may be shorter lived than we thought.
- I am scared for the rest of the world. Trump is impulsive, thin-skinned, craven, uncurious, and a simplistic thinker who only sees black and white. Him wielding the power of the United States Military is a frankly terrifying prospect, for us and for the entire rest of the globe. And let me just say, not even the middle-aged non-college-educated white men of West Virginia are going to be OK if Trump’s finger gets itchy near the big red button.
- I am scared for the planet. The progress made on climate change during Obama’s presidency was too little, too slow, and too tentative … but it was something. It was forward progress. Trump will erase that in a heartbeat to appeal to those West Virginians, a task made easier by the fact that much of Obama’s progress was made through use of executive orders.
- I am scared for the economy. My lecture this morning was scheduled to be about Andrew Jackson, so I used the opportunity to lead the students in a discussion about the parallels between Jackson and Trump, about the history of American populism and its links to whiteness and racial exclusion, and about the short-and long-term effects of Jackson’s politics and how we might use them to understand our moment. Let me just say, unleashing populist anger against “elite” political and economic institutions does not have a good effect on the economy. This is not to defend the way our economy currently works; rather, it is to say that blowing up the foundation destabilizes things in unpredictable ways. And guess who suffers along with everyone else? That’s right, the “ordinary” white people who brought the populist movement to power.
- I am scared for my job, and my career. Trump and his movement are profoundly anti-intellectual. Trump and his party are profoundly hostile to funding educational, scientific, and artistic endeavors. The aforementioned economic instability will make it hard for families to send students to college and for institutions to operate effectively. All of this bodes dark times for higher education in America.
- I am scared that I’m going to scare my daughter. One of my earliest memories is of my father telling me, in a serious tone, “Ronald Reagan is a very very bad man.” My child’s brain interpreted that as Reagan being a scary monster under my bed. I’m afraid that during a Trump presidency I will pass this family trauma on to the next generation. Trump/Reagan is the monster under the bed.
And now I’m going to take a break from the media, for a day, or two, or seven, or three million.