Published in the Irish Voice newspaper on Wednesday, Nov 9th.
From the time that I have written these words and the time that they have been published, we will have a new president of the United States.
My words are about to time travel. When I see them next, they will be in a newsstand alongside announcements of Trump’s triumph or Hillary’s victory. Is there much point in writing about anything else at all?
Every so often, an American friend or colleague will ask me what I or my (fellow Irish) people think about this election. Do we find it to be totally insane, nonsensical and ludicrous in the extreme?
Yes, of course we do. It was a circus, a media frenzy, a meme-generating, pop-music endorsed farcical merry-go-round of tweets, blasts and click-bait headlines.
Of course, that’s merely stating the obvious. What seems to be of greater concern is if we find it to be a fair representation of America today.
Find me someone who has not only traveled to but lived in all 50 states, and maybe they could be better suited to answering that question. Living in New York City, we only see a fraction of what America is.
My experience of politics here, over the last year, working in the arts, was initially drenched in support for Bernie Sanders. My fellow Irish and I were quick to follow a man who reminded us in many ways of our own president, and not just the specs and expressive white hair. We rallied to “Feel the Bern” and shake up the political world a little.
Once that option was out of the question, our natural instinct was to fall in line with Hillary. I have yet to meet an Irish person over here who would even consider supporting Trump -- but again, I refer to the bubble in which I live. A bubble in which I feel many of us have been comfortably residing.
Needless to say, we are not likely to align with a candidate who isn’t exactly the biggest advocate for immigration. Sure, he doesn’t seem to have it out for the (white) Irish, per se, but as a nation with an estimated diaspora of 70 million, how could we support a man who is so vehemently opposed to immigration, to helping those in need of creating a new life in more prosperous lands, that he wants to quite literally build a wall? Methinks not.
However, this theory implies that the Irish in America are supporting Hillary only as an alternative to Trump and his stance on immigration, which I don’t believe is true -- merely one of many factors.
Ireland has had two female presidents, both of whom were strong, admirable and exemplary leaders and whose political careers continue long beyond their tenures.
We elected our first female president in 1990, the year I was born. I was born into a country with a female president. Seven years later, we elected another female president. Two in a row.
In my lifetime, my country has had a male president for five years, and female presidents for 21 years. America, this is long overdue. Time to catch up.
Perhaps this is why my American friends ask, with a slight air of embarrassment, if we think this presidential race is a fair representation of America today? Do we think it’s accurate?
Then I turn to them and ask what they think of Ireland’s current political climate. Abortion is still a criminal offense. Do Americans think that’s a fair representation of Ireland? Of Irish women? No.
So, do I think the fact that the most qualified candidate ever was actually up against an under-qualified, racist, sexist man accused of sexual assault is a fair representation of America today? I say no. I think, similar to Ireland’s abortion laws, this is just one of many representations of a country on the brink of colossal change.
Just last year, Ireland was the first country to write same sex marriage into our Constitution. An undeniably monumental moment in our history, one that no one expected to come to fruition, but against all odds and smear campaigns we did it.
And now, here we are again on another uphill battle to shake loose the restrictions of the Catholic Church on our state. In my Ireland-shaped bubble, I see men and women of all ages and familial situations fighting for the same cause -- change. And the challenge they are being met with is resistance to that change.
The same can be said of this presidential race. On one hand we had a woman, on the other we had a man. On one hand we had a certain level of political experience that will utilize knowledge to result in gradual change; on the other we had a critical lack of political experience that results in promising changes that will likely be impossible to implement.
The radical change of a woman in power, versus the radical changes that Trump promised. A constant push and pull depending on which changes terrify or excite people on either side.
In my America-shaped bubble, I know which changes I’m more afraid of -- but in a country this size, we can’t expect to share the same fears.
For some of us, Hillary’s victory would be a dream come true where a shattered glass ceiling falls down upon us in glittering confetti and the feminist movement takes another crucial leap forwards.
For others, the horrific fear of being left behind becomes a reality again. Trump was a voice for people who have felt voiceless, for those who wish to resist certain changes and revert to the past -- to go back, to return to what felt safe or “great” before.
In the same way that resistance to change in Ireland hinges on the teachings of Catholic Church -- women cannot terminate a pregnancy, same-sex marriage cannot exist -- those who resist changes tap into the fears of those who don’t want to stray from what they were raised to believe is good. Those who are pushing for change have the vision to see that what worked before won’t work forever, and certainly doesn’t work now.
For now, I wait with bated breath but I sincerely hope you are trying to read this through a sea of brilliant, blindingly bright glass confetti. I am now, and will forever be, with her.