Irish Daily Mail - YOU


After we watched Hillary Clinton lose North Carolina, I went to bed, knowing that the country I would wake up to would be changed forever

- Yvonne Cassidy

I AM SCARED TO WRITE this article. I am scared to write it because I know that I am going to express negative sentiments about the new Government in the country where I live.

And I am frightened that expressing myself in this way will have an impact on my status here. That what I write could have consequenc­es.

Reading that, you might think I live somewhere in the Middle East, or maybe China. You might be surprised to find out I live in New York City.

I remember when it started – this sense that anything could happen, that the old rules didn’t apply. At first it was almost entertaini­ng that a presidenti­al candidate could say the things this person said and get away with them. In fact, not only get away with them but through a strange mix of denying what he said and yet basking in it, that he would somehow make us more fascinated by him.

The twists and turns of the presidenti­al campaign were in turn shocking, addictive, infuriatin­g. But that was okay, there was an end date in sight – November 8 was when the world would return to sanity. Except it didn’t.

For me, that night unfolded at Hillary Clinton’s Upper West Side campaign headquarte­rs, alongside my wife and a couple of hundred other people of all ages and ethnicitie­s. We watched wallmounte­d TV screens as volunteers in American flag aprons circulated with homemade cookies.

A woman wearing ‘I’m With Her’ earrings served plastic cups of wine. The mood was excited, expectant.

We watched it happen together – the thing that couldn’t happen. We watched as one after the other the states on the TV screens turned red. We reassured each other – these were states he was always going to win.

But after we watched Hillary lose North Carolina things started to unravel fast. My wife and I kept watching as chairs around us were vacated and the volunteers took off their aprons. When they closed up shop we went home and watched more. At 2am, I went to bed, knowing that the country I would wake up to in the morning would be changed forever.

At this point, I need to pause – to check myself. I am a writer, after all, and heightenin­g the tension is a tool in my toolbox, something I teach my students. To say that the United States has changed forever, is that true? Is it fair? Is that a feeling I have, or is it a fact?

Today, as I write, it is a month and a day since the new president took office and there have been too many changes to list here. By the time you are reading this there will no doubt be many more.

Immigratio­n policies are changing to deny entry to certain communitie­s. There are plans for a wall to be built. Families are being rounded up and deported at unpreceden­ted rates.

These things are happening. They are facts, you know, the real kind, not ‘alternate facts’ or ‘fake news’ – terms that are in wide usage now. And of all the changes, no matter where you stand politicall­y, this discrediti­ng of the media is perhaps the most frightenin­g of all.

As a child, one of my favourite stories was The Emperor’s New Clothes. It seemed so funny that all the adults could stand in awe of the Emperor’s non-existent suit, that it took a child to point out the truth. But what if that child had already been branded a liar? If the adults had looked sagely at each other and said ‘that child is always lying – don’t believe him,’ what would have happened then? How would it have changed the story? What would the Emperor have tried next?

I’ve noticed that since November, everyone has different ways of navigating what’s happening. There are people who protest, who take action, people who share their views on social media. People who refuse to say this president’s name, as if he is Voldemort in Harry Potter. There are people who talk about it all the time and then there are people who can’t talk about it at all, people who have disabled news updates from their phones and who fill their social media timelines with cute videos of cats. And then there are the people who voted for him, who wish the ‘fake news’ media would recognise the good work he’s doing. There are those people too.

And what about me? As an immigrant with a pending visa. As a woman. As a writer. As a member of the LGBT community. Where do I fit in? What can I do? I can write this article, even though I am afraid. Because to censor myself because of my fear would be a change too far for me. There is a lot right now that I don’t have control over, but I still have control over when and how I choose to use my voice. And I am choosing to use it now.

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