Thursday 23 March 2017

'The discourse changed overnight - this is a waking nightmare' - An Irishman in the US

Republican president-elect Donald Trump embraces his wife Melania Trump during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican president-elect Donald Trump embraces his wife Melania Trump during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President-elect Donald Trump talks to his supporters after giving his acceptance speech during his election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
President-elect Donald Trump plans to make a number of changes to America's tax regime
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, delivers a speech as Republican president-elect Donald Trump looks on during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Cormac Looney

In Portland, Oregon

Progressive, liberal, millennial and inclusive, Portland, Oregon is most of the things Donald Trump is not.

You don’t have to vote Democrat to live here, but it helps.

All of which explains the sense of fear, dismay and dread that the city woke to on Wednesday morning. No amount of artisanal, locally-sourced coffee could help –  this was a waking nightmare.

Unless you were one of the four-in-ten Oregon voters who voted to make America great again, of course.

That stat sums up the crisis facing the country today. Even in the bluest of blue States, many people – your neighbours, co-workers, possibly even your friends? – were happy to cast their ballot for a misogynistic xenophobe whose economic platform risks plunging the world’s largest economy into recession.

He’s not big on immigrants either, which is where it gets personal. I relocated to the States from Ireland last summer, arriving with my wife just in time for the debates.

Initially the prospect of electing a Groper-in-Chief wasn’t much of a worry. The choice was between a bigoted buffoon and an actual politician, who was far-from-perfect but who had a track record of public service, at least. What was the worst that could happen?

Fast forward to last night, and an election event in a bar on Mississippi Avenue, the heartland of Portlandia, an event crammed mainly with craft-beer drinking, plaid-wearing millennials.

A man dressed in red-white-and-blue sits on the curb during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A man dressed in red-white-and-blue sits on the curb during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

As the hours passed the mood switched from anticipation to indignation to – as Ohio turned red – resignation and anger. By 10pm the party was over, the room half empty.

While most of us retreated home some Portlanders did what they do best: staged a protest. Two hundred people blocked part of Interstate 5, a major route through the city, in the early hours after marching through downtown.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, delivers a speech as Republican president-elect Donald Trump looks on during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, delivers a speech as Republican president-elect Donald Trump looks on during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Their aim? No one knew exactly, it was just a purposeless, reckless action by a group of aggrieved Americans intent on sending a message. Sound familiar?

Elsewhere the rest of us began adjusting to a country where President-Elect Trump is the new normal.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump gives greets people in the crowd after delivering his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Republican president-elect Donald Trump gives greets people in the crowd after delivering his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The discourse has changed overnight – literally. This morning the CEO of my wife’s company emailed employees to assure them that sexism and racism were not acceptable under any circumstances.

As for us immigrants, things have changed.

I’m one of the lucky ones, I have a Green Card. But what about the 11m immigrants here who don’t, without whom the country would cease to function? Will they be subject to mass deportation? And when will work begin on that beautiful wall?

Legal or illegal, as an immigrant in the US – a country built by new arrivals – Trump’s message is simple: Americans first. Where does that leave me and the hundreds of thousands of other Irish-born immigrants to this country?

We’ll find out over the coming four years. Until then, it’s time to adapt that most American of outlooks, one probably favoured by the next President himself: deal with it.

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