When the election news came crashing down Tuesday night, the blow hit buoyant Democrats hard. Many third party-voters who believed Hillary Clinton had it in the bag and risked their vote for a futile statement were knocked back just as badly when that gamble came up snake eyes. And what of those 6 million Democrats who had voted for Obama in 2012 but for whatever reason chose to stay home altogether? How did they feel when they realized the Oval Office had been handed to Trump because they chose to sit this one out? Who knows. How does one begin to fathom that kind of disconnect, that level of negligence, that kind of selfish disregard for the future of our country? Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Americans look out for one another. Most of us look out for ourselves and ourselves alone. Even when so much hangs in the balance, even when doing the right thing would be so easy, it’s all too common for many people to do nothing at all.
One of the first things that happened in the aftermath this week was a wave of badly shaken white men, and probably women as well, who put up brave front and tried to say, “everything is going to be fine.” I was one of those. I have an 18-year-old daughter to reassure, so I told her that we’ve lived through some terrible presidents in the past and we can get through this one too. For the most part, barring the unthinkable, that prediction will turn out to be 100% true for most white men. Most of them will weather this well, with minimal loss of sleep, unless they are the kind of men we need most right now — men who truly care about the welfare of others. It’s both heartening and heartbreaking to see how many of those men there are, to know we’re not alone in the anxiety attacks we’ve all felt this week and will share in weeks to come. But most white men cruise through a lucky lane in American society. If they’re reasonable well-off they will not have to face any immediate threat by a Trump presidency. They can walk down the street with no fear of danger or harassment; well, at least if they are straight. Of course the more unstable men of the delusional alt-right will claim that immigrants, terrorists and “inner city” thugs threaten them at every turn, and that’s the reason we see those lunatics toting semi-automatic assault rifles on their treacherous adventures, like grocery shopping.
American women will find they have much more to worry about. When a habitual sexual assault predator assumes his place in command of our nation, you’d better believe it will embolden millions of men who now believe they’re entitled to ape the same loathsome attitude. Be prepared. Every woman is under threat. Women of color, white women, immigrant women, Muslim women. Women of every vulnerable age, women of every social strata. Every woman coast to coast was demoted to second-class citizenship the instant Trump was elected. The silence of every leader in Congress and every other position of authority who failed to speak out against Trump’s rapacious behavior, as well as half the country’s electorate who ignored it (many of whom were women), have now tacitly condoned a horrifying new normal. It’s the sickest license a man can be granted: to call a woman any demeaning name he wishes, to forcefully impose himself upon her, to interfere with any woman in whatever way his impulse dictates, any time he feels like it.
We no longer have a President and Vice President who give a damn about women’s rights. That’s over, that’s gone, that civilized respect is now a thing of the past and a return to a far darker past. Say goodbye to all that, along with trying to reverse global warming, providing healthcare for all, initiating student loan reform. What other hard-won fights are now in jeopardy? Likely NATO and our carefully constructed global alliances. Probably gay marriage, transgender rights. Certainly Roe v. Wade. All gone in one fell swoop. Perhaps if several thousand progressive liberal assholes who didn’t vote for Hillary could have gotten over themselves for five minutes they may have prevented this tragedy. But they did not, so now they own it. They are responsible for the upcoming results of their stubbornness, the consequences of their recklessness. History will regard them harshly.
Some of these repercussions will take longer to be felt, but make no mistake, no question about it, there are many people across America who suddenly confront automatic and immediate danger. Before we even get to Mexican American families and Muslim American families, we have the recent groundswell protests of Black Lives Matter, and President Obama’s efforts to reform our system mass incarceration. The very notion that black or brown people have the same rights in America as a white man is now threatened, abruptly and frighteningly.
In Ava DuVernay’s 13th, Hillary Clinton is absolutely not given a free pass. In these final volatile weeks of this election, it’s entirely possible that smouldering resentment toward the 1994 Crime Bill that was passed when the Clintons were in the White House was reignited. It might have lessened enthusiasm for Hillary in black communities, reduced turnout at the polls, and thus tipped the precarious balance in unforeseen directions. This arguably could have undermined the best hope for the kind of prison reform movement that the film and its creators strive so brilliantly to champion. But if this is so, if 13th makes its case that effectively (and it does), then the imminent danger of Donald Trump is presented in terms far more damning and stark. Trump has called the Black Lives Matter protesters “thugs,” and often ordered his minions to throw black people out of his rallies. Trump has the endorsement and hard-nosed backing of law enforcement groups intent on maintaining their systemic aggression unabated, so the hope for any kind of police reform that Hillary Clinton would have endeavored to pursue has now evaporated.
That means suddenly, and without warning, an entire protest movement will now be silenced because their demonstrations will not be tolerated. Cops will come down hard and that will be that. Trump will repeat that he’s the “law and order” president — indeed he’s beholden to his core supporters to make good on that promise. He’s brandished that big stick, and now he must prove he can use it. He will absolutely have no sympathy, no compassion for anyone complaining about unjustified shootings at the hands of police. A year ago there seemed to be widespread outrage that would lead to important progress, but the way these opposing forces just shifted in this country is astonishing.
DuVernay’s film lays out a painful history that has been largely untold for decades, an essential hidden history that every American needs to learn, and quickly, because another dark chapter is about to begin. 13th has even more resonance now than it did before this election because so much of what is explored in her documentary not only continues to happen; it’s about to get worse. Much worse. Like so many other progressive dreams that we might have made a reality if Hillary had been elected, we can forget any kind of prison reform. That’s over. Democrats lost everything. Those who voted unwisely or chose not to vote at all have thrown it all away. They stayed home and they lost Congress, they lost the Supreme Court, and they lost the presidency.
We lost so badly that it’s hard to imagine coming back from this anytime soon. Many moderate Democrats will likely drift to the right as loudmouths like Michael Moore and other Berniecrats seek to pull the Democratic party further to the extreme left, but as someone who has lived through many Republican administrations, I fear we’re about to enter an extended era of Republican rule.
It’s one thing for the white community to tell ourselves “everything will be fine.” For us, if we’re lucky, we will indeed get through this. But it’s imperative for Americans to understand, for the black community, things are absolutely not going to be fine. If we hope to persevere through this grim passage in history together, and be ready to retake the reins at the first opportunity, then we must all stay alert, get educated, and be informed. Learning the lessons of 13th is the one of the best ways to do that.