As we all know by now, Donald Trump has beaten Hillary Clinton in the race to the White House. Many, especially outside of America, did not dare ever imagine that Trump would become America’s new President-Elect. The Tuesday night / Wednesday morning leading up to the announcement, as the Republicans took Wisconsin and a Democrat victory became mathematically impossible, saw an unprecedented flurry of activity on social media. In the fresh aftermath of the news, we asked writers and arts practitioners within and from Northern Ireland to respond to Trump’s election.
Jo Burns (writer)
“Today I tried to explain to my daughters in measured words why an overqualified female candidate, who has worked towards the presidency her entire career, was beaten by a rich man with no political credentials and a limited vocabulary. I didn’t put into words my fears about nuclear war or unstoppable climate change under an autocrat who denies its existence. I didn’t tell them that I, living in Germany, fear that the world has forgotten how Adolf Hitler rose to power. They are too young to hear all of these ugly words just yet. There are words I had hoped my children’s lives to be free of: Fascism, Demagogue, Nuclear Weapons, Exclusion, to name but a few. It seems I cannot find the words I need to express my feelings in a calm way. The world has tilted and those words and hope seem to have slipped away.”
Paul Doran (12NOW writer and editor)
My two cents on the election: In the last few weeks of the race I started to feel that it almost doesn’t matter who wins. The damage, the real, cultural damage is already done. Like with Brexit, the conversation everywhere has become darker and ideas that once seemed extreme now appear to have been in some way legitimised.
In many ways the darker side of Western culture that we’re now seeing is something that we should have acknowledged and addressed a long time ago: it’s indicative of much deeper social, political and economic problems. But now we’ve ignored them for too long and we’re past the point of rational discussion.
Times like this aren’t caused by the ignorance or inherent bigotry of the masses, they’re caused by issues left unaddressed and real people left unheard. When a figure like Trump comes along everything is in place for him to take the podium and start conducting his symphony of horrors.
While my first instinct is to bury my head and hope for the best, it has never been so important to organise and resist the tide. Stand if you can stand. Speak if you can speak. Write if you can write. Call out hatred when you see it, and refuse to accept what you know isn’t right or isn’t good.
Deirdre Cartmill (poet, writer, writing mentor)
Trump’s election has made it unequivocally clear the power structures that control us will never serve us and has galvanized me into action. It’s time to step back into our authentic personal power and do whatever we consider to be right as individuals. It’s time to act with gentleness, love and compassion, and yet ferocity of vision for what we know is right.
It’s also time to remember that many who voted for Trump felt no-one listened to them or cared about them. This is not a time to scapegoat them but to confront the problems in society that made them feel less than.
His election has made the everyday undercurrents of sexism, racism and gender discrimination highly visible and therefore more easily confronted. Let’s reset the boundaries and tolerance levels in our own lives, to let the world know these are unacceptable to us, and effect change in our own sphere of influence.
Matthew Rice (12NOW writer)
In Japanese folklore, Urashimo Taro visited The Dragon God at the bottom of the sea, staying there for three days. Upon returning to his village he found that three hundred years had passed. In certain aspects of popular culture this story is used as a metaphor to describe one who feels lost in a world that has changed in their absence. I must admit I felt rather like Urashimo this morning, having gone to sleep in one time and place, waking up in another; a time and place where Donald Trump is president of the United States. I then found myself thinking ‘maybe someone will assassinate him…’ But that’s what Trump does, speaks to the worst in us. All any of us who believe in a shared and inclusive future can do is continue forward, attempting to make small and positive contributions in each other’s lives, resisting hatred with compassion.
Theresa Kieran (poet)
The strategist Michael Porter once claimed that for any organisation to embrace change it would require a complete ‘abandonment’ of everything that has gone before. Yeats’s famous lines, “all changed, changed utterly. | A terrible beauty is born” from ‘Easter 1916’, makes poetic reference to the same.
It will take some time to process the fact that America has voted a sexist, misogynistic, bigoted racist to lead its country; but whilst we may tut and sigh and shake our heads, there can be no mistake, a revolution of some sorts is underway. America’s ‘Brexit’ points to a deeply divided country and the Un-united States of America has just pressed the reset button. We might watch Trump’s administration through gaps in our fingers, gasping as he rolls out his pinball politics on the world stage and generates more cringeworthy moments than could fill the National Enquirer’s four year print-run; but we must uphold the principles of democracy and hope that good will come out of this – eventually.
Nandi Jola (activist, artist)
9/11 a date to remember!
America, wash your sins and sing the gospel of hope, for now you need to.
Making America great again is about forgiveness and the acknowledgement of the hands that built you; many people spoke and the day has dawned. It is only you that can build from these ruins. You were never great, but mislead and for once it is you that has the power to reflect and unite.
Savannah Dodd (artist, writer)
Sinking. I’m sinking into my bed, swallowed whole by the mattress as I read BBC headlines. Trump has won the US Presidential Election. It’s 5:30 am and my thoughts are churning. Even though this election has grave geopolitical ramifications, what sticks in my mind right now is my own family. I know that my family voted for Trump. How will this impact my trip home? Will Trump hijack the conversation over Christmas dinner the same way he hijacked the nation?
Except he didn’t hijack the nation. The nation was already brimming with hate, he just gave hate a soapbox.
Later that day, my mom messages me that say she voted because she heard that I mailed my absentee ballot from Belfast. She said, with an emoji-wink, that she wanted to “level the playing field for the two candidates.”
It isn’t a game. It isn’t a joke. This election is different. It’s about fundamental principles that will guide our future.
I have seen posts in my newsfeed from dejected liberals saying things like “I’m disappointed but hopeful for a bright future!” No. I’m angry. It’s okay to be angry. We can all be angry. But we cannot roll over and accept this.
Lesley Martin (writer)
There is little that shocks me anymore in the world of politics. After the Brexit result I was numb and teary; the shock of the grief overwhelming. That was the initial diagnosis. Donald Trump being elected the new President of the United States is merely the confirmation of what we knew already, in the deepest part of our guts – there is something seriously wrong with the world. Britain and America are nodding to each other as they pass on the street, both seemingly on the same page, while we are left wondering how it all could have happened, knowing that it’s all our fault, that we are to blame.
Ross Thompson (12NOW writer)
On dark days like this, it is tempting to hang one’s head and weep for the sorry state of things. This morning, we woke up in a strange new world where anything, however outlandish, is possible. In truth, the final outcome of the American election was just as ugly as the machinations that preceded it. Politics is by nature a bloody business yet this tawdy campaign was unprecedented in its ugliness, whose potential for change was squandered on petty squabbling, vicious baiting and sordid revelations. There are no winners here other than disunity and hatred. Not even that cry-baby Cromwell who is now humpfing around the Oval Office should take pride in the toxic waste that he has spread in his wake.
However, as difficult as it might be, we must have faith that good will triumph over evil, kindness will defeat cruelty, and hope will soothe despair. These are not mere platitudes; they are our duties as human beings. The world is a beautiful place that is worth protecting, and our fellow man should be treated with dignity and care.
We can do this through optimistic prayer, helping the disenfranchised, and speaking out for those without a voice. It is worth remembering that the President Elect will rule for a short while and then will be replaced. The timeline of history will continue to stretch, and we must direct it towards goodness and truth.
Emma McKervey (poet)
The Left has been increasingly detached from the working class over the last few decades, embroiled instead in identity politics and moralising at the people it is meant to represent. And whilst all the talk of a ‘disenfranchised’ working class is true, there is very little responsibility taken by those who exist in the media bubble whose overwrought hand wringing is to blame. We don’t really know what Trump represents as he is a political reactionary – ‘away from’, without much of a clue about ‘where to’. His rhetoric has been bombastic and contradictory, but he has no consistency.
If responsiveness, not knee-jerk reactionism, is what is needed to counter the cultural fear which has lead us to this point. that is where the Arts should be, not with the easy moralising or the bombastic. The Arts should strike a position of the considered, the weighed, the truth or truths, however explicitly or obliquely, because the Arts should live in the liminal between hope and despair, the axis between the external and the internal; if society has gone through the looking glass the Arts should not be the reflection of the current reality, we need to be the glass itself.
David Braziel (writer)
What many of us are struggling with today is the disconcerting feeling that our values and beliefs are so far out of sync with the majority of the people we live and work amongst. It was the same on the morning after the Brexit vote but less jarring, somehow because although those of us who voted remain felt that it was the right and proper thing for our country, we could see that there were some valid arguments on the other side. I am sitting here this morning struggling to come up with a single reason why Trump should be President of the USA. Of course there were reasons to oppose Clinton, reasons to believe that the republican approach to government is preferable. But why couldn’t everyone see that this nasty, graceless, vindictive, xenophobic misogynist simply wasn’t fit for office. Even if I were a Republican voter in America, I hope I would have the decency to see that my only choice was to vote for someone else and pray that my party can come up with a better candidate in four years time. In the past I’ve been able to at least empathise and understand where people with differing political views to mine are coming from. I genuinely cannot put myself into the mindset of the people who voted for Trump yesterday – and that is terrifying.
Nathan Thanki (poet and activist, currently in Marrakech for international climate talks)
Even with the efforts countries are taking to cut their pollution after the Paris Agreement was signed, the planet is on course to warm up to 3.4 degrees by the end of this century. That is *literally* incompatible with an organised global community. With Trump in the White House, you’re talking about the end of human civilisation.
Gerry McCullough (writer and poet)
For quite a while now, and particularly recently, there seems to have been no other subject of conversation on and off Facebook but the American election. Now, I’m not American and I couldn’t vote, so in a way it doesn’t affect me. But the USA is an influential country, so perhaps in other ways it does. However, the amount of gossip, slander, and muck raking there has been about both candidates makes me sick, and makes me thankful that I didn’t have to decide between them. Thinking about it, I can’t remember a single American president in my lifetime whom I could respect, and one reason for this, probably, is that in order to run for president a candidate needs to be very rich and be able to pull influential strings. I’m glad this isn’t the case in our own country. Rich people, almost by definition, aren’t fit to rule any country. How did they get rich, is question number one, and why are they holding on to their wealth and possessions when people are sleeping in the streets?
Colin Dardis (Online Editor for Lagan Online)
How to respond to a Trump presidency? Now more than ever before, we need to show love, tolerance and compassion to our fellow human beings. We are all in this world together, in scary times, and no one person is better than the other. Commit a random act of kindness. Be a force for positive change. Don’t reject Trump voters – encourage dialogue. We cannot be divided by the policies of one party.
Paula Matthews (12NOW writer)
Dear Mr Trump,
Please be aware that despite your vast and patriarchal presence in the world, you may not, under any circumstances, grab me by the pussy.
From Paula Matthews – Pauper, Woman and Poet.