The Morning After

My perspective on waking up to a Trumped America

Like many Americans, I woke up yesterday morning with a bitter pill to swallow: Donald Trump had won the presidency. But left on the nightstand was another bitter pill: the possibility of a Clinton presidency. As many have observed, this was an election of lesser evils. Either choice brought with it feelings of uneasiness, fear, trepidation, and, well, bitterness. It was like being Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, but this time there were two red pills.

My wife told me the election results at 3:30AM. I had gone to bed many hours earlier, when the Florida results were flip flopping, but the pundits were still predicting a Clinton win.

“Do you want to know who won?” she asked.

I grunted.

“Trump,” she said, the single word hitting the air with a dull thud.

“You’re kidding.” I wasn’t expressing shock or seeking confirmation. I meant the accusation literally. She must have been joking; all the polls had placed Clinton as the sure victor.

She wasn’t.

I had to be up in an hour for work. I couldn’t sleep, but I wasn’t awake either. The decision was surreal. It wasn’t that a Trump presidency wasn’t any better or worse, in my mind, than a Clinton one. Rather, it was the fact that now there was some finality to the yearlong battle of hate and vitriol that had spilled out from TV sets, radios, and web browsers across the country for the past year.

The fighting was over. Now the question was what would come next.

I left for work in the dark, as I did every other morning, but today the gentle pattering of rain gave the morning a surreal feeling.

As I drove, I tuned into NPR. It sounded as if they had done little to no preparatory work to prepare for a Trump election: audio clips weren’t queued correctly, announcers stepped on sound bytes and sound bytes covered announcers’ leads. It was clear they were playing catchup.

I imagined it being this way around the country. I pictured reporters who had already written their pieces on Hillary’s victory sitting at their computers and waiting to press the send button. But as the votes started to turn in Trump’s favor and then as his victory became assured with his taking of Pennsylvania, I imagined the momentary shocked silence of the news rooms and then the cacophony as editors screamed at reporters to scrap everything they had and scrawl something out about the soon-to-be President Elect.

As I neared my workplace, I passed a polling location. The rain was starting to let up and the sun was just peeking over the horizon. The dozens of candidate signs that had littered the grassy medians around this location had been removed late last night, but the signboards advertising this community center as a place of democracy were still in place: “POLLING LOCATION.” “VOTE HERE.” “TURN RIGHT.”

These signs could have been vestiges of an election that hadn’t yet taken place, where the candidates were largely unknown or uncared for and would soon be voted for calmly, anonymously, and without screaming supporters (or protestors) on the sidewalks.

Or maybe the signs were the wishful dreams of those who hoped they would wake up and find that the election hadn’t really been decided, that there had been a mistake at the polls and everyone would need to come again to recast their ballots.

On the radio, Morning Edition was airing an interview with author Attica Locke.

“So what are you thinking about this morning?” Morning Edition Host David Greene asked.

“I’m not crushed,” Locke replies. “I’m awake.”

As the sun continued to rise over the polling location, the nation was waking up too. People were going back to work, school buses were headed out to pick up children, and the city workers would soon be coming to collect the signboards. As a nation, we had swallowed the red pill. Now it is time to see where it takes us.

Disclaimer: I voted in this election, but not for Clinton or Trump. I generally lean conservative, but I never vote purely on party lines; I vote for the person, be he/she democratic, republican, or, as in this election, independent.