2016 was a fantastic year for me. I turned 18. I starred in two shows. I finished school with a place at a great university. I traveled Europe with my best friends.
But needless to say, 2016 was a pretty dreadful year for the world. Britain made the inherently stupid and misguided choice to leave the EU. Typical of the friendly Anglo-American rivalry, a few months later the US tried to top that in the contest for Worst Decision Ever. And the BBC lost the Bakeoff.
I must admit that on December 31st I wasn’t feeling too hopeful about the state of things in the new year. As January 20th looms ever closer, I feel increasingly deflated and pessimistic about the imminent takeover of the most powerful country in the world by an angry, Wotsit-coloured man-baby. This morning I watched Obama’s farewell speech and bawled my eyes out.
Because it’s not just about what we could lose in the next four years. Besides the potential rolling back of rights for women, Muslims, LGBTQ and migrants (among other minorities) under Trump, and the very real possibility of economic disaster that he brings, the installation of such a shockingly vulgar and dishonest demagogue into the top office in the world has heartbreaking symbolism.
It symbolises a triumph for hatred, xenophobia, and nativism. In a country celebrated for – nay, built on diversity and migration, a sausage-fingered conman has won an election on the shoulders of the immigrant-hating racism he perpetrated. Suddenly, first-, second- and even third-generation immigrants don’t feel safe in the places they call home.
It symbolises a triumph for misogyny. At its most basic level, November’s election result was a man beating a woman, at least partially because he and his supporters just couldn’t hack the idea that she is a woman. The fact that an orange caricature who has called women dogs and pigs and whose go-to summary for anything vaguely complex in the political sphere is ‘whatever the hell is going on’ defeated the most qualified presidential candidate in history is beyond painful. Even with the release of the outrageous ‘locker-room’ tapes mere weeks before the election, Trump still managed to stir up the forces of misogyny enough to create a nice sturdy backup pane for the glass ceiling Hillary was tipped to smash.
It symbolises a triumph for untruth. Who needs experts, right? If Trump keeps telling himself that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese, maybe it’ll go away. And hey, if the Brexiteers keep telling themselves that all the economists were wrong about what leaving the EU could do to Britain, it just might come true.
Lastly, Trump’s victory is agonising because it means Obama is out. I’ve grown up with that man in charge. I started to become interested in politics when he won in 2008, and I vividly remember watching his inauguration and eating jellybeans with my tearful mother. We’ve been spoiled by a President who has dignity, integrity, charisma and generosity in abundance. That he and Michelle, the embodiment of grace, are to be uprooted in just over a week by a Cheeto in a suit and its Playboy-famous wife is, frankly, depressing as hell.
But I am trying to remain hopeful. Seth Myers, Meryl Streep and Saturday Night Live keep that flame of hope burning – not least because they trigger the President-Elect to react in predictable fashion on Twitter (seriously? You’re the President-Elect. Come on), highlighting time and again his extreme immaturity and weakness.
Young people keep me hopeful too. I’m proud that my generation voted 63% against Trump, and 75% to remain in the EU. As a wise man told me on November 9th, ‘the old bastards who don’t like darkies and women are dying off’. We are the most tolerant, open-minded generation yet, and I believe we can and will turn it around.
Another wise man told me that progress is not linear, echoing what I heard a very wise man named Barack Obama say as I wept into my Special K this morning: ‘for every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.’
Right now, it feels like we’ve taken three hundred steps back. But I am hopeful – or at least reminding myself to be hopeful – that after this twisted Trumpish nightmare is over, we will not be stepping but leaping forward.