It feels so strange to be writing this column before the election. I feel like I should pull a Paris Geller in the Harvard vs. Yale football game episode of “Gilmore Girls.”
(A “Gilmore Girls” reference is long overdue, and it’s only natural that I reach for that comfort right now.)
Anyway, Paris doesn’t want to stay and watch the game so she asks Rory to take two photos of her. In one she says, “We won!” while smiling and looking excited, and in the other, she says, “We lost,” while pouting and looking sad. She plans to discard whichever one becomes irrelevant and keep the other as a college memento.
I wish writing this column was as simple as taking separate win/lose photos. I could insert headings that would say, “Read here if Biden wins,” and “Read here if Trump is re-elected.” It would be like a choose-your-adventure book, except the outcome would already be decided.
It’s hard to know what to write when you, the reader, may already know who won the election. Or honestly, maybe you don’t know.
I won’t be surprised if come Wednesday morning we don’t have a clear answer. Paris Geller should have taken a tie photo too, or an indefinite overtime photo, so I’d have some sort of guidance on how to document this uncertain future.
The anxiety of not knowing what’s going to happen is driving me crazy. I want to believe good will win and Biden will be elected, but I’ve unfriended enough Trump supporters on Facebook to know that his base is still strong, even among those I once considered at least semi-rational people.
I feel like rationality has gone out the window in the past four-plus years. It’s like I’ve been in a waking nightmare all this time, trying to understand if it’s all real or not.
I think it started when the pussy-grabbing comment surfaced in 2016 and nothing happened. I thought that couldn’t possibly be real, because in what world could a presidential nominee brag about assaulting people and not face any consequences? And in what world would he still be elected?
I entered some sort of daze when that happened and I still don’t think I’ve woken up. I catch myself sometimes thinking this is a dream, but it’s not enough to fully make me believe any of this is real. All this time I’ve been waiting for the punchline. I keep believing Trump will say he was just kidding and that all of this has been part of some elaborate ruse to see how much our government would let him get away with. In my head, all the horrors and atrocities have been manufactured as some sort of sick social experiment.
I’ve also wondered if this has been a joke gone too far for Trump. Like, maybe he ran for president as a joke or a dare – and then to everyone’s shock, including his own, he actually got elected. I keep waiting for him to step down and say the game’s gone on long enough.
I think I want to believe these ridiculous fantasies because they’re easier to believe than the truth. The truth hurts too much. It’s too traumatizing. I think we’ll be traumatized by this time for the rest of our lives.
The idea that Trump could get re-elected after everything he’s done – all the lies he’s told, all the people his carelessness and policies have killed and hurt, all the corruption he’s been involved in, and all the hate he’s spread – just doesn’t seem possible. Growing up I was taught our government has checks and balances, but these past four years have shown me that’s definitely not true.
As many people know, however, our country has had problems for much longer than four years. I’ve just been living in some little starry-eyed privilege bubble that’s been unceremoniously burst.
If Biden wins it would be really easy to just go back into that bubble, put on the rose-colored glasses, and kick back. But we can’t do that. There’s so much in this country that needs fixing and dismantling and rebuilding and that’s not something Biden can do alone. It’s something we all need to be involved in.
One person in charge, whoever they may be, doesn’t determine the direction of this country alone. So whether we get four more years of hell or a hopeful new beginning, we need to continue to show up for our communities and for each other and keep fighting.
Kate Gardner is a Portland-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, SELF, and Bustle. You can follow her on Twitter @katevgardner.