Fear and Loathing in Trump’s America

by Michael Anthony Farley on November 10, 2016 Baltimore + Obituary

Photo of the author on Election Night, by Chrissy Abbott for City Paper.

Photo of the author on Election Night, by Chrissy Abbott for City Paper.

I’ve been drinking pretty much non-stop from around 7 p.m. on election night to about 12 hours ago. That’s when the realization sunk in that the world hasn’t ended—yet—and I had to work today, sober.

I guess cultural commentators are supposed to provide some sort of eloquent, thoughtful observations in times like these. But there’s just not a lot I can muster beyond repeatedly screaming “FUUUUUUCK!”

All I can add to the echo chamber of despair is an honest account of how one white queer person on Medicaid and food stamps —who is scared shitless for my nieces, and my nephew with disabilities, and my chosen family that’s disproportionately comprised of trans*, immigrant, outspoken, poor, black, brown, and female bodies—has been trying to cope.

Being totally shitface drunk was the only contingency plan I had to postpone confronting the full horror of a Trump presidency unchecked by a wholly Republican government. In retrospect, I think that’s because I had been bracing myself for this outcome subconsciously. I’m terrified of my rage (and terrified in general). Grief is safer. It’s easier to douse that flame with alcohol and collective tears shared among friends.

On some level, maybe I thought I was prepared. November 8th is my birthday, and I’ve lived through an eerily similar microcosm of this disappointment before.

That was the 2014 Maryland gubernatorial election, when solidly liberal Maryland elected Republican Larry Hogan in a shocking upset. The Democratic primary had selected Anthony G. Brown, the then-Lieutenant-Governor over the much more progressive candidate Heather Mizeur. Brown had establishment credentials and a strong support from the party base (namely, church groups who vote en-masse). But he lacked the charisma and leftist agenda of Mizeur. There was little enthusiasm for him, and in an election with tragically low voter turnout, estranged rural voters handed the victory to Hogan—a real estate businessman with a foreign-born trophy wife. Sound familiar?

I spent my birthday that year utterly devastated. My state lost environmental protections, my city lost a much-needed subway line, and I lost a little bit more faith in the Democratic party and process.

So this year, after the now-infamously-sketchy-and-divisive presidential primary, I planned myself an apocalypse-themed birthday party: Night of 1000 Melanias. We all showed up to the bar in drag as our potential new first lady or other figures from the Trump campaign. I came as Melania from her absurd maternity photoshoot, when she descended pregnant from the Trump jet wearing a gold bikini and precariously high stilettos to a limousine where her husband waited for her. We danced to music from a band fronted by a Donald Trump impersonator, downed drinks with names like “The Spray Tan” and “The Wikileak”, and DJed songs such as “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”.

As the results rolled in, and it became evident Trump was actually going to win, the night took on a surreal tone. I was still manically determined to have fun for one more night, even as drag performers dropped out because they couldn’t stop sobbing. By the time I took the stage, Trump had already surpassed his needed 270 electoral votes. I was lip-synching to the SSION song “The Woman”, in which a vaguely-Eastern-European-sounding woman delivers an absurdist feminist manifesto, using a guitar to smash a piñata crudely painted with the text “TOP SECRET: CLINTON EMAIL SERVER” and “CONFIDENTIAL DNC DOCS: ANTHONY WEINER’S DICK PICS”. By the time I reached the lyrics “I wonder, yes I really wonder, is there any future for the woman?” I realized this was no longer an ironic gesture. I was furiously beating scraps of cardboard into the ground with a splintered guitar, mascara tears streaming down my face.

The rest of the night is a blur (at some point, it had occurred to my Mexican-American friend and I that tequila might become scarce in Trump’s America, and that we ought to indulge while we still can). She and I woke up on a mutual friend’s couch, still in whatever makeup we hadn’t already cried off, holding each other and the bottle, sobbing. When the rest of the party guests peeled themselves off the floor, we decided the only course of action was to head to a bar (it’s hard to protest in heels).

But as much as I desperately needed to be around other people, drinking in public didn’t help. From the safety of a cheap vegan sushi bar in a mostly Latinx neighborhood, surrounded by queers and socialists and CNN on the flatscreen overhead, we realized the full, absurd extent of how insulated we were from “Other America.” People were crying in the street. As we watched the Peso drop against the USD, I drunkenly called various family members with a plan to sell everything and collectively buy homes in Mexico City, where there’s still gay marriage and healthcare. I texted, “This is the point in the holocaust movie where you’re screaming at the screen ‘JUST LEAVE VIENNA BEFORE THE BORDERS CLOSE!’”

Still in half-drag, we retreated back to our friend’s place and drank in the dark, half-watching a marathon of movies from the “Alien” franchise. Intermittently, we would try to figure out who could hypothetically marry who to stay and/or escape the country, depending on our various citizenships and whether it was safer for certain people to stay and fight or flee. But we quickly realized it’s impossible to make those kinds of decisions. It’s too much to deal with. Most of those friends are still drinking. I wish I was too. Because I honestly have no fucking idea what to do now. And despite all the listicles imploring us to channel this grief into some productive act of service, there’s only so much time and emotional energy in a day.

So please, let’s not judge each other for just needing a few days to cry without a plan. I’m going to a protest today, and I guess there’s a small comfort in the knowledge that millions of others probably are too. But that comfort quickly turns to panic and guilt when I think of all the people who can’t risk civil disobedience due to their legal status. My mind becomes a jagged mirror of social media—wherein the politics of who is entitled to rage/guilt/despair/activism are vitriolically hashed out. Maybe we need a moment to unplug. And many of us definitely need another drink. Will we still have tequila in 2017? Will we still have all of our loved ones to share it with?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: