I have voted in American presidential elections for 44 years, and never on the morning after have I felt such despondency and disaffection. In the coming weeks I will come to a more measured, rational place, because as my father memorably observed in the last few days of his life five years ago, I'm a reasonably smart guy. But right now my mood is black.
Had you met me, say, 50 years ago, you might be surprised at my perspective this morning. I grew up in a conservative, working class family in a working class neighborhood. My elders and my friends and I were casually racist; we put no effort into it but we never stopped to think that we might be wrong, either. When my school and neighborhood integrated, we mostly just shrugged, cracked a joke or two about the basketball team getting better, and said "whatever." We never gave a thought to women's rights and we were convinced we knew no one who was gay—they were all in New York and San Francisco. On my street, every woman but one was a housewife; the men were a cop, a postal worker, a sign painter, the owner of a storefront insurance agency, a factory worker, a paper mill worker, a used car salesman, a gas & electric company worker, and that guy on the corner nobody seemed to know. The Vietnam War was raging but I knew no one who opposed it, at least openly. (Wait, there was one teacher in high school...) There had to have been professional people in my town, but I knew not one. My people, including most of my kin, were white, working class, Christian, conservative, Republican, patriotic believers in America.
Then one day I came home from college and my mother said to my father, "That is not the boy we sent away." And my dad, bless his heart, replied, "Well, that's why we sent him to college."
So let me tally this up now. Not the Boy We Sent Away is now almost 63 years old, still white, no longer working class, not Christian, not Republican, and increasingly skeptical of patriotism. I am against racism, against nationalism, against misogyny, against war, and deeply suspicious of organized religion. I am pro-women, pro-LGTB, pro-life, pro-immigrant, pro–African-American, and pro-organized labor. I favor stringent regulation of the financial sector and all the rest of Wall Street; favor stringent environmental regulation; favor legalization of drugs; favor stringent gun control; favor a single-payer health care system; favor public assistance for the homeless, the indigent, the disabled, and the unemployed; and favor tax reform that closes off every loophole that favors the rich and corporations over that alienated working class that just voted for Trump. I stand against fascist punks wherever they live; against the national security state that has largely been a fraud that has looted public coffers without making us safer; against religious fundamentalism of all stripes; against torture; against the mass-incarceration nation; against covert war; and against the craven, cynical, amoral deniers of climate change.
Oh, and for 40 years I've been a journalist.
So you can see why this morning I might feel like more than 58 million of my countrymen just gave me a dismissive glance and said, "Fuck you."
Over the coming months, I will come to some kind of emotional equilibrium about this and begin to think about how to resist the bad shit that I fear is coming. I have a wife to love, friends to love, a magazine to finish, cats to feed. I'm bitter that I might live out what remains of my life dealing with the damage that I'm convinced is imminent. So it goes. The ignorant, the deluded, and the disenfranchised will gloat today, convinced their lot is about to improve, and when the time comes for their reckoning that they've been screwed again, I'll try to be compassionate, but not this morning. I don't have it in me.