I won’t act like my time in post-election America is some valiant act of political journalism, or that I’m trawling the streets, looking for locals to talk to about Trump. Instead, I’m eating Thanksgiving food (way too much of it, of course) in my sister’s house, playing with her kids and, every other day, meeting new people – friends, colleagues and neighbours, all of whom slow down in their cars and roll down their windows to say hi. In that sense, Indiana is a lot like rural Ireland.
While I’m not seeking out political commentary or conducting daily vox pops, it’s impossible to avoid mention of Trump – or the very different political landscape Americans are suddenly faced with. Even in the house, with two Irish women and my American brother-in-law, the name comes up several times daily.
From what I can gather, America has always been divided, in one way or another. There are Republicans vs Democrats, sure, but there are also gun-lovers vs the gun-averse; there are Christians vs non-Christians; there are those who believe Judge Judge is a real judge, and there are those who choose to believe that no real judge would conduct her court on television.
But now, there’s a division that, in a way, leaves no room for compromise. Personally, I tend to agree with Jessica Valenti – Trump voters should feel ashamed, and they don’t deserve our forgiveness or empathy. But where does that leave you, if you have to work alongside these people? What about family members who voted along different lines?
There’s a weird echo of 1990s Northern Ireland about post-election America in 2016. Remember when, if you were going to Belfast, you would be told never to answer if someone asked your religion; or to feign ignorance if you were asked whether you supported Celtic or Rangers.
I am, honestly, terrified, that someone – in a shop or a salon or in line for the ATM – will strike up conversation, and choose to do so with politics in mind. How would I hold my tongue, if an Indiana native asked me what I thought about Trump? Even while knowing it was none of my business, I just couldn’t stay silent.
My sister has told me about colleagues who didn’t go home for Thanksgiving yesterday, because they’re not speaking to family members who voted for Trump; another friend isn’t speaking to her mother, because her mother didn’t vote – she just didn’t think it would matter, and she didn’t like either candidate.
The reality of post-election America is, the incoming president is a sexist, misogynistic, narrow-minded reality TV star who thinks women are there for the groping, Mexican people are criminals and has been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. So I get why people aren’t all, “well, we have to respect other people’s politics.”
The scariest thing, from a total outsider’s perspective – I mean, aside from the fact that Trump is clearly going to, at the very least, set the US back 20 years in terms of climate change policy – is that the rise of the right isn’t unique to the US. And, I can’t help but wonder, if both sides had tried better to communicate with and understand one another before the election – instead of assuming that everyone would vote the way we do, simply because “we know we’re right” – maybe there wouldn’t be so many people eating Thanksgiving dinner alone this year.
Main photo credit: Alexey Topolyanskiy via StockSnap