Writers on the 2016 US Election: Adriana Ramirez
The strongest feeling I had on November 9th was indifference.
The strongest feeling I had on November 9th was a lack of surprise. Don’t get me wrong–I felt shock, anger, mistrust, and the desire to riot as well. But, underneath the waxing and waning noise of emotion purred the constant hum of the expected. In truth, I wasn’t that stunned. In truth, this election confirmed something to me I already knew existed.
People in the United States want to go back to more stable times. There’s this idea that the past can return. That we can somehow live in the decades before things got complicated; before a mirror with harsh lighting revealed all our flaws and imperfections. Trump’s supporters want to go back to the time of sepia and soft focus. I get it.
Of course there’s baggage: the racism, the sexism, the xenophobia, the impossibility of pulling out of a global economy without severe repercussions, as well as the costs associated with maintaining the military-industrial complex. But let’s ignore that and get to the core of this election. It wasn’t about racism or sexism for a lot of Trump supporters—the election was about individual rights over the rights of the collective. It was about looking after your own by looking toward the past, and not caring about the future human collateral.
The problem of course is twofold. The past wasn’t as good as everyone remembers and there’s no way we’ll ever recapture it. The steel mills aren’t coming back to Pittsburgh. And if they are, the price of manufacturing will drive up the cost of steel. I’m not sure we’re prepared to pay full price for our goods and services. We like to shop at Wal-Mart. We search for cheaper goods.
But if we only eat California avocados picked by the documented, we better be prepared to pay a lot more for our guacamole. And what happens when the ordinary person can’t afford basic goods? Subsidies and taxation? But these are the same people who elected a candidate that vowed to cut government spending and decrease taxes. We may as well tilt our lances and start jousting windmills.
So perhaps that’s what I’ve learned from my country. We’re a nation of impossible dreamers, on both sides. We, as a country, watched and/or supported the rise of a candidate that represents the most unreachable of goals: time travel to a simpler time that only exists in the collective imagination.
We don’t manufacture Model Ts like we did a hundred years ago. It’s an outdated technology. The world changed. Things changed. Cars are sleeker now. People have changed too. Things are a lot better for many marginalized groups. Things got worse for others. But looking backwards doesn’t help. There just isn’t a market for it.
The irony of this election is that it showed how many Americans are hurting. Poor white people are hurting. Rural America is hurting. Urban America is hurting. People of color are hurting. Mainstream and marginalized Americans are hurting. The pain has been out there for a long time. As a people, it appears that Americans simply don’t know how to focus their pain correctly. So people voted for a man that represents drastic change—without realizing that packaged with that change comes a lot of pain for others, maybe even themselves.
I’m one of the people mistrusted by the people that voted President Trump into office. An intellectual, an academic, a Latina writer, an immigrant, and a Mexican one at that. But this November 8th, Americans proved something I already knew: we’re a nation of dreamers, all of us. Even if from some angles, it looks more like a nightmare.