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Image / Editorial

When It Feels Like Hope Is Gone

by Ellie Balfe
09th Nov 2016

Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton react during election night at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York on November 8, 2016. / AFP / Kena Betancur (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

November 9th 2016.
The day Donald Trump won the presidential election, and the world becomes a little bit darker.

Often when I sit to write a comment piece for this site after an event that has shocked us, I try to find some light in the situation to find a sense of balance. There must always be redemption, or the sense of it, right? As a writer (and a normal person with a thinking mind), I like to think we can always find it.

But, I’m struggling with that today.

When Paris was attacked, I said ‘don’t let fear force you mute?; there is something similar to be said today. To not let fear, disappointment and sadness make us blind to what we have to do. To how we must continue to raise and amplify our voices.

But first, we must mourn. For there has been a change so great, and so damaging to the global spirit, that makes this hard to bounce back from.

At least, not yet.

I am, as you are, still reeling from the TV footage this morning. The scenes on screen, as Trump’s triumph was called, were akin to waking amid a bad dream. You know that feeling when you are on the cusp of lucidity? When you still slightly inhabit that other world? The one of hazy, crazy visions, weird feelings and extremities of the imagination? It can take a second or two to shake it off and realise you are awake. You stumble towards the shower and it’s enlivenment. You may smile at what a peculiar nightmare you had, throwing your eyes to heaven and marvelling at your inner world and the nightly scenarios it throws at you.

Yeah, not today though. It felt like it should have played out like that. But it didn’t did it?

He’s in power. He has the White House, Senate and House of Representatives – an unprecedented level of power. Potential checks and balances are depleted. Make no mistake, the lunatics have taken over the asylum; there is danger here.
There is also extreme risk in the dance between Trump and Putin, where a power-crazed, smart and dark dictator understands exactly how to manipulate the new narcissist on the block. Flatter him, indulge him, invite him to sit at the big boys table’schoolyard tactics at work in the most dangerous way. We will all suffer with this terrifying allegiance. Aleppo to go first, just watch? then more of us. There is no doubt that this is a dark road.

It is hard though, to quantify in its entirety, what we are mourning today because it feels too big. It feels as though the door has closed on a brief phase of tolerance, openness and measured thinking. It feels as though these ideals never got a proper chance to become principles of the spirit. Most bizarrely, it feels as though many, many millions of Americans don’t care for these things.

I feel confused, as I don’t understand how something I feel so strongly to be true (the need for progression not oppression), is not felt by the masses.?I don’t mean to sound all ‘my way or the highway? about it, but you feel the same too, don’t you?
I feel confused that 60 million people would choose a sexist, misogynistic, racist and hate-inciting basic bully to be their leader.

?Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses??

Or don’t.

As a woman and a mother, I feel scared for my gender. I feel sad for Hillary – she tried hard to fight the good fight for a very long time. To stand for women especially. As a feminist, I feel upset, the carpet has been pulled from under us – all is unsteady.
Was she the wrong candidate? Well it looks like she was – she didn’t win. At the time of writing, she is yet to get the popular vote, previously deemed as the worst-case scenario for her camp.
But she wasn’t the wrong candidate. Could anyone, woman or man, stand against the global movement that has been so rapidly gaining a terrible traction? Trump, Brexit, Putin? seeds of deep unease have been sown for a long time. Now they are being reaped.

It’s time to face it – the difference here is between light and dark. Forgive me if I seem too melodramatic for your mental state today, but this is what’s at stake here. And we don’t know how it will play out. We feel nervous of it. Because that’s what sentient, thinking people do – we feel, we intuit, we read not only the words of the campaign makers, but also the mood of the people. We know there may be trouble ahead.

Obama was a brief beacon of light, weren’t we lucky to have had him for the time we did? His warmth, elegant rhetoric and inclusive modern nature were key legacies for me. I know I’m not talking of his actual politics here, I know there were flaws, hold ups and a million blockages to what he tried to do. But you know what? He’s just a human man, who tried his very best, who applied the contents of his soul and character to serving the country (and the world), and (again to me, and possibly because I am a writer) the battle of hearts is often won with words. With him we felt something. With him we witnessed change, but more importantly, we felt hope. And now it feels like hope is gone.

So, to my quest for light and redemption in my opening paragraph – ?I’m going to bring it back to that one thing. Hope.
That is the one thing we must not surrender in these dark, unsteady scary days.?That is what I am going to talk to my daughters about tonight.
My poor daughters, how I felt for them this morning as they saw me reacting to the Trump win and the loss of reason. Obviously, all of our kids have felt a build up to this election; they know there is a shift in the world. A lot of them would have seen their parents glued to the rolling news tickers from the crack of dawn.

As we were on the way to school this morning, I think they felt a little uneasy – they kept asking why did Hillary lose. We had been talking a lot about her in the days preceding this madness – I was talking of woman power, of how we, and more importantly they, can be anything they want, when they grow to be the fabulous women they will be. They loved this idea. I loved the idea. Do we believe it now? I’m not sure.

But I need to make them feel sure, so tonight at dinner, we will talk about hope. About dreams, about the wide-open world and all it’s possibilities.
I will say it – I will worry it won’t come true – but I’ll fly that flag.
Because that’s my job as a mother, and as a woman.

So, no, it didn’t happen this time. Progression lost, oppression won. But we must pay close attention and make it happen the next time.?Progression, hope and that ever-elusive glass ceiling-smashing hammer will continue to be on the ballot.

Often in times of worry, Maya Angelou’s words are balm to my soul, and these today are hers, and right.
“You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.”

And so that’s? what I’m saying to my daughters tonight.?And I will quote Maya to them again, from my favourite ever poem, ?And still, like air, I’ll rise??

So, my friends, we will rise. We must rise.

We’ll rise for our sisters, mothers and for our daughters. We’ll rise for our friends of all genders, race, persuasions and situations – political, sexual and religious. We’ll rise for those with health and without, for our young and our old, for our global family.
For our dreams, hopes and wishes – we’ll rise for the future.

Yes, again.
But tomorrow…
We’ll rise tomorrow.

Today, we can cry.