It happens at least once a day now, that feeling of twisting in my stomach and a rise in blood pressure. Sometimes I even start to sweat a little, the way one does right before nausea tips over into full-on retching.
Please don’t be surprised when I tell you the source of this is Donald Trump.
It didn’t used to be this way. Back in the heady, drunken days of the Republican primaries, I could simply shake my head, chuckle incredulously, and marvel that such a spoiled idiot had come so far, confident in the fact that there were still a few men left standing in his way.
By the time I was reading theories in newspapers about how, by staying in the race through to July, last-man-standing Ted Cruz could force a contested convention, those panic sweats and the tightening of my ribcage had started to manifest themselves.
Then Cruz put his campaign to rest. Now, that tight chest and I have become fast friends, thick as thieves. We’re thinking of opening a bed and breakfast in Vermont.
I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. In fact, I can see every night on TV that I’m not alone. Late night comedians who are making a living by lampooning this nitwit have begun to take on an air of desperation, sometimes giving way to outright anger and shock.
This seemed to come to a head this past week in the aftermath of Trump’s ridiculous “announcement” regarding Barack Obama’s birthright and citizenship. I feel like I don’t need to explain that joke of a press conference/liar’s pulpit further, first because what was said is probably common knowledge by now, but also because my blood boils at the mere thought of his hubris.
The reaction was severe, and that was just through the actual news media. Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert both resorted to expletives to capture their feelings. Colbert even referred back to an episode of his old show where he offered to dip his testicles in Trump’s mouth in exchange for a charity donation. (Trust me, the reference makes sense in the context of both Trump’s original charitable promise to Obama and the overall ridiculousness of this issue.)
The takedowns were funny, even cathartic, as have been previous editorials delivered by these two, not to mention John Oliver and Samantha Bee. But I rarely find myself actually laughing at the jokes, although I recognize them as being funny.
Instead of laughter, I just feel sick.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why Trump’s nonsense is making me feel this way, beyond the obvious answer that such simple-minded, racist pandering has never before been given such a high-profile stage by the media, or the voting public, to infiltrate our daily lives and make us reckon with the fact that an uncomfortably large portion of the American population actually thinks and feels these things.
And why should I be caring so much, anyways? After all, I’m a Canadian. The president of the United States doesn’t impact my daily life in quite the same way it would, say, my neighbours in Seattle.
But that’s simply not true. America has in a large way defined Canadian culture for a long time. We look up to them the way a little brother would, often from behind the swings as we watch them fight the bullies on our behalf. We rebroadcast their TV shows to the point where we barely pay notice to homegrown content, and most of our reality shows are just American transplants with “Canada” affixed to the title and poorer production values. We trade with them, take style notes from them, make room in our malls for their stores, and bring over their food so we can pour maple syrup on it. We may answer to the Queen of England, but we’re always passing notes under the desk with America.
Point is, just like with most other things, Canada looks to America’s presidents and sees an example, either good or bad. Now, we’re looking over and seeing a mess, a step backwards. Instead of continuing the admittedly hard and taxing process of fostering real change and growth in government and society, America is gleefully allowing a rotten pile of human garbage to fan the flames of indecency and racist rhetoric that has curdled in a small, yet far from insignificant, portion of the country.
And with each stumble Hillary Clinton has made in what looked at first like a cakewalk — the “basket of deplorables,” the pneumonia cover-up, the general slide into the gutter she could have so easily resisted — that feeling of nausea returns. Polls are tightening. (Although that generally happens this time of an election, but it has much more import now than in the past.) The Bernie or Bust brigade have done their damage on what could have been a united Democratic Party; never mind much of that damage had already been done by the Democratic Party itself. With six weeks to go before Election Day, there’s very little room for error, yet a myriad of ways in which further errors can be made. It’s the most stressful tightrope walk in history, and the outcome has never meant more.
But I think the biggest reason for this nervous, anxious feeling in my stomach is that I’ve never hoped for something more in my life. I want Clinton to beat Trump to a pulp in November. I want his smug face to show worry, fear, disappointment, anger, and sadness. I want him to realize money and power doesn’t buy you everything, least of all a position for which he has absolutely no qualification. I want it to be a message to all the other Donald Trumps in the world that you can’t always get what you want. I want this election to be a referendum on racism, classism, ageism, sexism, and homophobia, and that it is indeed true: “Love trumps hate.”
On Election Night in 2008, I was in college and learning how to report on the world. My friends and I ran to the student bar when it looked like CNN was about to declare a winner, and arrived just in time to hear Barack Obama’s name called. The room exploded. People hugged, kissed, jumped, fist-pumped, and sang in celebration. We, along with the millions of American voters that year, had been caught up in the hope of it all, and it was exhilarating.
I want that feeling again. Imagine how much more cathartic it will be this time, after just barely avoiding an apocalypse.