civic guilt, cultural privilege, and a flurry of other lovely thoughts in the wake of USA election 2016.

I have never seen so many people publicly acknowledge being brought to tears. Well, here’s me: I’m on European time so I woke up to full hysteria. My gay black American roommate was freaking out since 07:00 CEST as the election day was drawing to a close stateside. I made it all the way to late afternoon before I started receiving celebratory messages in the family chat. I burst into tears and tyler held me as I shook with sobs, no words.

immobilising guilt

I’m dreading my trip to South America in January after being excited about it for years. It just feels silly now. Everything feels silly. I read but then I put down my books. I write code and it just seems wrong that I’m doing that instead of … something else? Even writing this feels like a comical waste of time even though putting words to feelings is helping me work through this confusion.


I think of my lovely friend, Ping, an excellent human who from my arm’s length vantage point seems to be constantly weighted by guilt that he hasn’t saved all humans by now. And then there is my friend d, who is an upstanding person and thoughtful conversationalist, patron of the arts and appreciator/contributor to fine engineering. He dreams nothing more than to purchase a plot of land as remote as possible on which to build his stronghold against the fluctuations of a confused society. He wants to bring his friends there so he has excellent company.

These are my reference points. And so it comes down to the maddening question of balance, finding the right point along the spectrum of how much fucks to give. Too many fucks, and you’re in constant agony while carrying the emotional burden of all humans (and maybe animals too, if you’re into that). Not enough fucks and you’ve denounced the very society on which you’ve scaffolded your comfort, success, and happiness.

We want to do something, anything that will alleviate the horrible feeling of helplessness. We ask, how do we help? what can we do?

uncomfortable answers

It doesn’t feel satisfying but throwing money at orgs that need it is crucial: ACLU, planned parenthood, EFF. But without getting your hands in you don’t have the delicious sensation of making a difference. And what about all these skills I have? Shouldn’t someone out there need some code or something?

please stop telling me to empathise

I sincerely wish I could see over the internet wall into the other side. I want to believe trump supporters are saying to each other, wow these people are angry, but maybe we can try to understand them. Go talk to a Hillary supporter. Don’t know any? Well that’s your problem. I guess it’s reasonable that they worry more about the safety of themselves and their loved ones than they worry about our economic anxiety.

I really really hope someone out there is saying that the way like-minded folk to myself are saying the inverse to me.

The underlying assumption there that everyone had a blissful upbring where they peacefully inherited their values from their family is almost insulting. Some people had to look elsewhere for their moral frameworks, and going back is a mental health death wish.

I already understand them, thanks. And that’s more than they’ve done for me.

So now that we understand each other, then what?

I was young the last time we voted in a non-Obama president. Was it like this?

Were people telling each other to stay safe? Were they sharing tips on how to intercept public acts of aggression towards marginalised people? I hear talk of stockpiling medication that they owe their life to the way I imagine people talk about stockpiling guns in case of gun control.

People say they are shocked that this happened not because it’s actually surprising that people are willing to overlook (embrace?) racism, xenophobia, etc in favour of their own livelihoods, their jobs, a promise of the continuity of their familiar way of life. They’re shocked because it was a physical blow of disbelief from the formalisation of the divide in priorities that we already knew all about. Shit got real.

the environment is fucked and we’re going to be responsible for affecting all humans

Here’s to hoping we hit the singularity and gain ultimate understanding as a global hivemind before we manage to destroy each other, so that the jokes rolling out of my mouth in a sad coping mechanism don’t feel as trite as writing all of this in the time I could have used to apply for socially responsible software jobs. I’ll speak up when I can. I’ll fight if I’m able. I will escape if the worst happens (I’m not going to pretend tyler and I didn’t talk about contingency plans). I will find a balance between paying back for the good things my society has given me and appreciating the things that make me happy about this life and I must do this asap.