My 2016: Getting Married, to Brexit, to Trump

At the very start of 2016 I got married to an American woman who is the light of my life. It was a Friday, and despite the rain of El Nino it was clear most of the day. Even though I knew I would spend the next few month forcible unemployed while I waited for my new visa, that weekend I felt like I had the world at my feet.

What I would give to have that feeling back…

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2016 has been awful for pretty much every human on the planet, except the Chicago Cubs. When I got married, we had only lost Lemmy, Alan Rickman, and David Bowie so far (although I’m probably forgetting some).

And even though we would soon loose Prince,  Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali, the last Ronnie (and Leonard Cohen before I even finished writing this post!) we hadn’t also lost our last traces of sanity.

Listening to This Too Shall Pass, Space Oddity and a lot of Jonathon Coulton was helping me through the loneliness and sadness of my forced unemployed for the first half of this year.

That June, going into the EU Referendum vote for the UK (I voted by proxy) I was confident that such an absurd notion would go down as simply as the Scottish Independence.

When I read that Brexit had passed…I don’t remember speaking to anyone for three days. I’m not sure if I can recall the rest of that month at all.

First and foremost, I am European. I was born in Wales and raised in an American International School in the Netherlands. My lifestyle has always revolved around the Freedom of Movement to which I was entitled to.

Now my way of life and my very identity where about to be ripped away from me without my consent, for no compelling argument.

Shortly after that, my was first Independence Day in America.

This cookie White House was made in Canada. That still makes me giggle.
This cookie White House was made in Canada. That still makes me giggle.

My temporary work permit had come through, and down to my last $13, I had also just started a new job. I was starting to feel more American, emotionally turning my back on my homeland. My thoughts were of citizenship after my Green Card came through.

To clarify: a lot of people asked if I was going to vote in this election. Having a Green Card does not make you a citizen! It was upsetting how many people thought I’d get to vote…Nope. All that money and hard work just to live and work in the US, no rights as a citizen or the ability to vote on the future of the country I have committed to living in. As a spouse of an American I can apply for – yes, apply, not “get” – Citizenship after 3 years of being a permanent resident under my Green Card.

Back “home” racially motivated violence was surging, and every Brexit politician was scrambling to salvage their careers as their facade came crashing that. Oh, and on top of that, an Inquiry blamed Cameron’s intervention in Syria as a catalyst for the Migrant Crisis – which we’re still not doing anything about by the way, in fact, the UK beat Trump to punch when it came to building a wall – but he resigned so he got off scott-free! Isn’t that nice!

And don’t think I’ve forgotten about the Chilcot Inquiry calling Blair a war criminal, finally and officially. But nevermind about that, because the marmite is gone and everything is on fire!

So, I was kind of disappointed on July 4th that, for the Americans I was with at least, it didn’t seem much different than any other excuse for barbecue. It didn’t seem any different than the Superbowl, but maybe that’s a credit to the cultural significance of the Superbowl more than a criticism of Independence Day fervour.

Even though I was fighting Brexit down any legal alley I could trick it into stumbling into it, so I could shank it and bleed out all of the puss of imperial arrogance – this analogy got weird – I was increasingly seeing America as my home.

Then, barely 3 weeks after I was finally awarded my Green Card, Trump was elected as the next President of the United States of America.

Everything changed continued to get worse, when Donald Trump was elected

You know when you’ve been crying a lot, and your face sort of “aches” in that distinctly sad way?

Well that’s how my face has felt since election night.

Friends from Europe and Asia have been checking up on me (thank you to everyone who did that, it was sweet) and they’ve been asking how things are.

I can tell you that everyone – here in the San Francisco area at least – is visibly depressed. Business is slow everywhere I go, people are downcast and quiet. One Friend told me their boss was visibly weeping all day.

It was as if everyone in town had found out that the water we’ve all been drinking just gave all of us a terminal disease. A sullen terror of inevitability shrouds everyone, in this corner of America at least.

Trump is terrifying for very obvious reasons that I do not need to detail. I really feel like it should be illegal to run for President if you are awaiting trial for rape. That sounds like a law everybody could get behind I would hope.

But, to my European friends posting that “nuclear winter is coming”. I highly doubt that.

David Edgerton wrote a terrific book called The Shock of the Old which makes the case that we need to think less about technology as something new and instead focus on what is actually used. The first time a nuclear weapon was used was Hiroshima 1945, and the last time one was used was Nagasaki 1945. In the 71 one years since then, there have been plenty of war, genocide, displacements and a too much suffering without the use of Nuclear weapons.

My point is, jumping to “the Apocalypse” in any discussion is sort of hyperbole, and kind of distracts all the very possible levels of atrocity that there are, before we reach nuclear weapons.

The reality is much more insidious.

The Republican domination of the Senate has held back Obama for his entire presidency. This majority has been maintained, and with the election of Trump; Bigotry, Misogyny, Sexual Harassment, Xenophobia and Racism have been accepted not only as rhetoric, but also as policy.

The Republican senate has a blank cheque to do whatever they want with.

Largely, we can expect this to be self-serving. The destruction of rights and laws design to protect individuals and make states and companies accountable for their actions, is a very real threat that can accomplished very quickly.

If anything, be afraid of that.

The other thing I’m hearing a lot from friends and family around the world is “HOOWW???!!?!?!?!”

Well, its a problem many democratic countries are familiar with: a flawed voting system.

More individual people voted for Hilary, but because of how electoral votes are structured Trump still won.

So, in reality, most Americans are as shocked, horrified and afraid as you are.

I really do feel that at the cultural heart of America is contradiction, and the propisitions were a great example of that.

What the hell Props??

I didn’t know this, but Americans vote every year. That can be a presidential election, but it can also covers senators, governors, mayors, school district chairs, transit councils, and propositions that anyone can submit.

My wife’s ballot was the size of a poster, 2 pages longs, both double-sided.

When Americans says “We need less government!”, I think they may be referring to the literal book that is delivered to them every year. It is perhaps a little much.

Here is a breakdown of some of California propositions:

Marijuana is now legal in California, across the state. Dank.

On top of that, higher taxes were levied on the wealthy and on tobacco, as well as some common sense Gun Laws, the Plastic Bag tax being applied statewide, and parole for non-violent felons is now easier and faster.

Great stuff.

But coupled with this, not only was the Death Penalty was not repealed, but in fact the whole process of state execution has been acclerated.

Because that’s what you’d expect from a ballot that completed decriminalised weed, right?!

Despite California evidently being as capable of contradiction as the rest of America is, the benefits of the federal system may protect me from some of the worst of Trump’s madness and an unchained Republican senate. But, there is still a lot of suffering to come, and its going to poison the lives of too many people for a long time after his presidency.

Even though I am reconsidering ever being “American”, and I’m not terribly fond of being British either, I am increasingly proud to be a Californian.

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On election night, myself and my wife worked at local Return Centre in Berkeley. I was given this pin for my civic service as well as getting paid a little for my time.

I knew this night was going to be historic one way or another…but had hoped to proudly wear this pin the next day.

Ballots from 45 precincts were being brought to us, we unloaded them, and loaded them onto different vehicles that took them to the Courthouse to be counted.

There was the occasional update on the election, but largely it was unpolitical. I got to meet some truly wonderful people from diverse range of ethnic and economic backgrounds, and they were all doing their part because they wanted to contribute to society.

They give me hope, and so have the events that have unfolded since Trump’s election.

Immediately there were protests across the country, from New York City, to Seattle (that’s coast-to-coast if your US geography isn’t so good). Closer to home, there were protests in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. Even high schools across the Bay Area saw mass walk-outs.

While Trump may have been elected, people are already making a stand that they will not tolerate him, and loudly saying to the world that he does not represent every American.

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The congressional representative for my county is still the totally Badass Barbara Lee, and the legislative body of California released a statement effectively saying, “We will not stand for anything Trump does, and we are actively looking for ways to fund programs he, and the republican senate, will try to destroy” – which will be really easy to do now that Weed is legalised.

While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values. America is greater than any one man or party. We will not be dragged back into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.

California was not a part of this nation when its history began, but we are clearly now the keeper of its future.

– Joint Statement from California Legislative Leaders on Result of Presidential Election

I mean how cool is that?

Could you ever imagine a British politician saying something like that and being taken seriously? Remember, when Ed Miliband unveiled a tombstone with his election promises written on it? Remember how cringe-worthy that was?

I won’t deny that American patriotism and genuine sense of civic duty makes me gag sometimes, but you just can’t deny their sincerity, it’s possibly their most charming quality (don’t tell the Queen I said that).

I’m not sure if #Calexit / #Califrexit would actually happen (jury is still out on which name is better), but the idea of California going independent is based on the same principles that Sturgeon’s renewed talk of Scottish Independence are: they are standing with their voters, united against racist, self-destructive policy.

One state has even submitted a plan to change the way voting works in the US to put an end to small rural communities dominating the politics of the entire country.

Sure, they deserve to have a voice, but the SF Bay Area alone has more people than some states, and much greater international, interracial, and inter-loving interests than Bumfuddlesberg, Nebraska (no offence Bumfuddlesbergians, but voting for a deranged man baby that in an insult to every man on the planet, decisions that drastically effect the entire world without).

Like Brexit, the Trump election represents an acceptance of bigotry and insular policy that we cannot accept. And just like Brexit, it can be fought.

Politics isn’t something that serves our personal interests, and a world worth living in isn’t going to be handed to us on a silver platter. We have to get up and fight for the world we want to live in, and you’d be surprised how many politicians may actually be on your side.

I’ve been greatly encouraged by the actions already taken against Trump, as well as how much love I’ve seen since the election.

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Came across this simple sign walking to the library to finish this blog

My wife has really helped me through the past few days by showing me so much love. In a bizarre way this election has brought people together. We are all afraid, and we are fighting that with so much love and kindness for one another.

I’ve seen so many displays of love in the past few days, and depression is quickly turning into solidarity – again, from what I have personally seen in the Bay Area at least.

It was encouraging to see people even sharing this list of anti-bigotry organisations you can support, and I’m so excited to see female astronaut Mae Jemison’s talk on encouraging “launching women into science and tech”.

There are good people out, trying to do good things.

The other day my aunt posted a picture of my Grandma. A widow now, in her 80s she went out to a Charleston dance class in London. Surrounded by hip, young faces of central London, she was dressed in appropriate period attire as a “flapper”.

Everyone loved it.

I thought to myself about all the things she has seen in her lifetime. She did her part during World War II, went the planet must have seemed on the brink of self-annihilation.

But, it didn’t. Through the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Rwandan Genocide, The Troubles the Berlin Wall, the fall of Yugoslavia, the Iraq war, the rise of ISIS and more, life must’ve been scary and tough.

And yet, “Life, er, finds a way”, as they say.

I don’t think its “Human Nature” to be self-destructive. I think given a choice, most people would choose to dance. We just have to make them feel better about their lives so that they feel comfortable enough to get their boogie on.

Christ, what’s next 2016?

The prospect of what 2016 has left for us is intimidating. I don’t believe in gods, fate or destiny, but my mind does jump to creating stories.

I hope its contact from intelligent life in the galaxy. In an twisted way it would sort of be worth it. After everything that has happened the world over, we would suddenly know that there was something more than us. It might not be a sudden, dramatic change, but just maybe humanity would start to come together (in fear of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers type scenario at the very least).

For me personally, I’m going to start considering moving abroad again and generally being prepared to weather the storm or outrun it.

In the meantime, I am fortune enough to be surrounded by so much love and I will fight to protect that.

 

– Eliot