“Bullies never prosper,” I say aloud in class.
“Unless, that is, you want to be President.”
It’s two weeks since the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America. It’s high time I said something about it. I am running on approximately 600mg caffeine, 2 hours of sleep, nine teaching contact hours, and 1 kilo of kimchi. I also bought myself the present of a Chinese tuocha this evening. It’s like a pressed cake made of tea.
I’ve been an incoherent ball of unpindownable emotions since Wednesday the 10th, my time. 13:30 Korea Standard Time found me glued to the NPR livestream on my borrowed smartphone, heart beating painfully out of my chest. Hands shaking. Inability to teach confirmed. It didn’t help that I was to do yet another godamned singing lesson about the storybook ‘Ali Baba (Jr.) and the FOUR Thieves.’ It all broke loose then and basically hasn’t been right since.
“You might see some scary news in the coming weeks,” I say to the eldest of our kindergarteners, gathered near my knees.
“Scary things might happen. It is an emergency. That’s why teacher needed to look at her phone, ok?”
“I’m going to call the police and tell them that Coleen Teacher was using her phone during class!” says, Daniel Lee.
I just can’t bring myself to wear the red, white, and blue skirt I wore on Election Day in the hope of unity. I feel like throwing it away.
I vacillate between wondering whether anything has really changed or if it all has, and wanting to tear my hair out every time I hear the words, ‘President-Elect Donald Trump’ and thinking surely I’m over that by now. I mean, it has been two weeks.
It’s a good thing that I listen to All Things Considered in the shower in the morning; the only moral response to such words is immediate vomiting. Obviously it’s cleaner to have placed oneself directly under a stream of hot water to avoid any unsightly bits of dignity or stench when trying to appear a professional at work less than an hour later.
On the night of 10th November, I was in my ninth class of nine at 17:30 local time. I checked my phone for the last time that night, praying against hope that it was some horrible joke.
DONALD TRUMP ELECTED 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
I don’t remember which group on my Twitter broke the news. I know that I immediately redirected my anger and despair onto an undeserving student. She’d been talking in Korean all class, even when I’d expressly forbidden talking during the quiz. I walked over and picked up her paper. I tore it up.
The pointless and unrecorded quiz was put back together with brown packing tape because our school is too cheap to buy any supplies at all.
I was obviously just some arsehole American.
‘Trump won. I don’t know where to start.’
‘I went to the temple up the road and lit a candle. Then I bought a bottle of soju. Now, I write. I couldn’t muster going to Home Plus and I can’t see up here in the clear night. Half a moon is up there, grinning.’
‘I knew it. To be honest, as soon as he was the nominee I knew we were fucked. Brexit on last June 23 showed it. The stars aren’t laughing at us. They just don’t care at all.’
In case anyone cares, I did in fact hold my nose and vote for Clinton.
In 2012, people yelled ‘Let him die!’ at a Republican Primary debate. I was studying in France. I was shocked. I thought that was as bad as it could possibly get in US politics.
Sheer disbelief that all the facts and well-reasoned arguments in the world could win over the blind fucking racist idiots with lethal force in hand, who decided that the best thing to throw at a powerful female candidate for the Presidency was SHE’S A WITCH in the closing hours of the election campaign. I shit you not. Reading the hashtag feed for #SpiritCooking on any social media may be capable of producing immediate frontal lobe cancerous growths, but it was worth it. There is no secret recipe to why Clinton lost. It is all the worst possible things it could be. Everyone would do well to stop trying to explain it all away as some fluke. Some mistake. Some accident.
This is no accident.
This is who we have become.
Clinton’s concession speech was brutally painful to listen to. I was, pre-emptively, in the shower on Thursday morning Korea Time.
‘“I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but some day someone will, and hopefully sooner than we think right now.
And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.’
All I could say was, ‘Bullshit.’
As eloquent in defeat as she was, Clinton was not reassuring me in that speech. I don’t believe her. I don’t think she believes her. I now believe that women cannot do everything. That we will be judged on our possession of a vagina alone. That we are reducible to the sum of our genitalia when it comes to the most powerful office in the world (barring Russia, but who seriously thinks that Putin will be giving up power to a woman anytime soon?).
Women can’t have it all. And maybe we never can. And maybe everything I’ve believed my whole life has to change. And maybe people aren’t inherently good. And maybe I’m suddenly wishing for more Leviathan. And maybe I’m crying.
‘If this were a movie, that would be foreshadowing.’
TrumpWorld tower in Busan looms next to the big bridge opposite Gwangalli Beach in the gathering darkness of twilight. I squint to look at it. Sure enough, that’s what it says. It is the 5th of November, 2016. I carry a Trump effigy made out of a toilet roll in my backpack.
Instead of The Guy, we burned a Trump on the beach that night. The effect turned out just a tad gruesome. Fittingly, the first part of him to burn was his crotch. Grab him right in the…
If this all seems a bit disjointed and unhinged, that’s accurate. I haven’t been able to sleep properly since the election. I keep seeing the images of Trump’s orange, smug-arse face behind the podium. I keep seeing Nigel Farage, the architect of Brexit, in that golden fucking elevator. I keep thinking mildly violent thoughts, which basically chicken out at hoping some vaguely horrible accident might befall the president elect before he could be elevated to the Oval Office.
But it’s too late anyway. He’s already installed trolls, misogynists, white supremacists, and openly-racist fuckers. They would just continue what he has started.
One good thing: I have every right to comment and analyse. When everyone was/is so wrong, there is space for even an overworked, insomniac TEFL teacher in Busan at the table. I did my research last summer. I courted the crazy on Twitter, asking Trump supporters questions about their stances. They offered me nothing of substance. A fair few told me the now-common line, ‘I want change. I voted for Obama in 2008, and now I’ll vote for Trump.’
I dismissed them as batshit at the time.
The rooftop is my escape. No CCTV with hawkish moms watching my every breath in the classroom. No bank tellers helpfully stepping away from my foreign arse at the counter and refusing to serve me for the crime of speaking in English. No Trump. Right? Right?
I went up there twice the night he won. Once to scrawl angrily on my journal.
Once to weep.
I don’t trust myself to write anymore.
I don’t see the point of writing in the post-fact age. Maybe I should just retreat into lies on this blog and wade into the wide river of bullshit that is the American Psyche at the moment. It’s the hot thing right now. Lying.
Some would spin it as fiction. And I am suddenly retreating into fiction. News, commentary, and writing about my grinding day-to-day existence are too painful.
My idealism, more ironic than dear-held since at least 2010 is drowning in cynicism. Or perhaps burning away is the more accurate metaphor. I think that I’m over it and moving from anger and automatic vomiting to something approaching acceptance. Then I see something like this:
And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel like I’m the one burning up on the beach in effigy, slowly consumed by a fire started by someone who thinks it’s ok to grab me by the pussy. An Attorney General who doesn’t believe that grabbing someone’s gentials against their will constitutes sexual assault. A family that will invariably enrich itself and peddle Trump Steaks all over the world in exchange for favour, while they laugh at us for speaking the words ‘conflict of interest.’
I dissolve into the stream of ‘FUCKs’ plastered all over my social media for the last two weeks, which my friends and family must surely be tiring of. I collapse on the floor of my tiny-arse kitchen here in Busan, stomach in knots. I try and fail to sleep well for the 15th night in a row.
I have decided that the part of me that believed people could make informed democratic decisions that hold lasting ramifications for themselves, their global neighbours, and posterity has to die. I’ll hold a nice funeral and all, but she has to go. There is no more room for her in this brave new world.
Memes will not save us. Protest songs will not save us. Knowing the words that the alt-right calls people like me won’t save us. We (probably) will not save us. My guess is currently that nothing will save us.
It is now the Trumpocene Epoch. There is no going back two weeks.