It was shortly after four o’clock this morning when I turned off the TV and went to bed, stunned by the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America.
The skies are grey this morning. There is a slight fog hanging over the Ocean. But nothing can be clearer than that Americans have made an abrupt right turn under the leadership of their new Commander-in-Chief.
Since I awoke moments ago to the dawn of this new day I’ve had recurring thoughts, unsettling notions, blunt admissions. My psyche has been disturbed by fears for minorities, visions of men holding rifles, flavours of anything from the ’50s, church bells, reminiscences of patriarchal society, thoughts of isolationism. I approach the world differently, more cautiously. As I puttered in the kitchen mechanically preparing breakfast, tuning into classical music and casting a distracted eye upon the Ocean I was mildly astonished that the coffee maker worked as it should. There is an undercurrent of capitulation to authority, a sense of regimentation. Shamefully I acknowledge a retreat to a simpler time which unfortunately involves binary choices like black and white. The weight of old-fashioned traditionalism with its fictional air of propriety and faultless stain has been cast upon the nation. I feel as though I’ve lifted a rock and seen vermin scrambling below, then returned it swiftly to cover the sight. There will undoubtedly be many things better left untouched.
A jarring result such as this demands uncompromising decisions. There is no longer room for either ambivalence or niceties. And there is clearly work to be done. I won’t speculate upon whether Mr. Trump will deliver on his many remarkable promises – like building a wall, rounding up illegal immigrants, cutting ties with NATO, withdrawing from wars, rebuilding infrastructure, “draining the swamp” of Washington, cutting support to Planned Parenthood and rejecting terrorist aliens. For the moment at least it doesn’t seem to matter whether he can accomplish what he said he would do; it only matters that he has given hope of change to half the voting population, predominantly white, rural, uneducated and under-employed. I suspect that resurgence of hope will come at a cost, particularly of minorities and differences generally. Mr. Trump’s victory may easily be interpreted as a licence to dispose of what has been promoted by his followers as the burgeoning baggage of liberalism and lack of uniformity (or at least a return to way the things used to be). The Rule of Law will be supplanted by the cry for Law and Order, a suspiciously proletarian twist upon constitutionality. The enforcement of homogeneity will become the order of the day. Toleration of differences will take a back seat to regularity under the guise of harmony. Intellectual accommodation will be the refuge of armchair philosophers only, mostly urban dwellers and hidden behind cloaks of heavy draperies and isolated exclusivity.
In his acceptance speech Mr. Trump once again described his path to victory as a movement. He is the indisputable champion of the common man (and I am not using that term metaphorically).
During the Revolution, after the government had placed the royal family under house arrest in the Tuileries Palace in October 1789, several events linked to Marie Antoinette, in particular the June 1791 attempt to flee, and her role in the War of the First Coalition, had disastrous effects on French popular opinion. On 10 August 1792, the attack on the Tuileries forced the royal family to take refuge at the Assembly, and on 13 August the family was imprisoned in the Temple. On 21 September 1792, the monarchy was abolished. After a two-day trial begun on 14 October 1793, Marie Antoinette was convicted by the Revolutionary Tribunal of high treason, and executed by guillotine on Place de la Révolution on 16 October 1793.
The devotion of Americans to the enterprise of business compels them to accept the election result and to get in line, marshalling forces for the good of the nation. The comparative trivialities of social deference will give way to the hard work of shoulder-to-shoulder labour. There will of necessity be casualties along the way but the focus is not upon immediate philosophical gratification but long-term development and restoration. Certainly there is the threat of retrospective action rather than prospective thinking but the result may in the end be a distinction without a difference. What matters now is not how America gets there, just that it does get there. And for now the movement of the army begins with a right turn.