I lay awake last night wondering why I felt so afraid. An aging orange caricature, a would-be media star screaming dissonant sound bites and superlatives, has launched himself to the highest political office in the world. What could possibly go wrong?
I’m afraid for myself, for the wandering hands of every man emboldened by this self-styled pussy-grabber. In crowded spaces, women know the lingering touch of the males who feel entitled to run their hands wherever they fall: the faux-polite “I’m behind you” sweep across the lower back or shoulders, the “accidental” ass-grab, the “you’re just so pretty” ass-grab, the “don’t worry about it, you’re wearing leggings” ass-grab, the “you can’t be offended because I’m a little buzzed” ass-grab. I’m afraid for my friends, for my nieces, for the young girls growing up in this world. I’m afraid because in those situations, I turn around, angry, ready to punch someone in the face, and I meet a crowd — no single person to chastise, only the crowd of men who might have done it. And how can you fight a crowd? How can you fight a nation of men who gleefully emulate the guy at the top crowing that his position, his wealth, his status, allow him to do whatever he wants to whichever woman he chooses?
I’m afraid for the land, the bones of the country, for the seams holding us together and giving us clean water, clean air. I’m worried that our public lands will be handed over the highest bidder, our national forests razed, our waters polluted, our earth mined for oil and ore until houses collapse and the air grows unbreathable. I walked through the quiet Austin neighborhoods this morning and leaned into a domesticated oak, and my heart ached. What would we be without our wilderness, without the trees pumping water inland to our fields, to our herds and the wild animals of the forest? Where would we be without clean water to drink? And will the powers that be realize the dangers before we’ve killed our tenuous ecosystems, killed the plants, the animals, and finally ourselves?
I’m afraid for my brothers and sisters of different ethnic backgrounds, especially those fighting on the forefront of keeping their land from being harmed. I’m afraid to see them unarmed in the face of armorment, see them go up against a system where they cannot win. Peaceful protest will land them in jail, and armed revolt would be worse.
I’m afraid for what this means for international diplomacy. For trade and maintaining the peace. My job hinges on international and cultural understanding; the market-driven rather than political kind. The market is always affected by politics, however. Nationalism is bad for the economy, and I’m worried now to see the Dow plunge, the markets panic. To see nations begin to shut themselves off, suspicious of a people who would elect such a uniquely unqualified candidate.
I’m afraid as a journalist. This man’s supporters have issued death threats to journalists; the man himself has threatened the entire First Amendment of our Constitution. I’m afraid for anyone who does not think exactly like this man, whose creed, color or language sets them apart. And I’m afraid for those who are exactly like him. This is perhaps the most dangerous position: the position of complacency and safety — even of victory — where so many others are threatened.
And perhaps these fears will not come to pass. Perhaps the people of the United States will rise above the man they’ve chosen to lead them. Perhaps his words will not define us. Perhaps his narcissism will be curbed and directed by more seasoned individuals. But you will forgive me for my sleepless night, for pressing my cheek into the oak this morning and wanting to cry.