So I did something stupid yesterday.
I suggested to a colleague that for a class on ‘writing style’ we should set students a quick exercise: write the start of a history of the 2016 US Election from the point of view of 2026, looking back.
Why was this stupid?
Well the class evolved into an impassioned – and despairing – debate about where support for Donald Trump comes from. But that’s not what I’m regretting. What I regret is thinking we would all be able to look back – with anger and fear and disappointment of course, but not THIS anger, THIS confusion, THIS dismay.
I feel like I am living one of the contradictions of history, the tension between really being in a moment, and seeing a moment become part of a narrative.
As today becomes a fateful day in history, as it becomes overlaid with a million consequences, as it becomes a step down a path that historians will have to follow, I somehow want to meaningfully record just how shocking this moment is. I want to give the finger to the historians of the future, who will come with their causal explanations, who will put this moment into a narrative chronology.
Because they don’t get it. They don’t get what people are feeling today. This is not part of a historical narrative, it’s waking up and being told that the racists, misogynists, homophobes and haters have won. This is not a trajectory, it’s a car crash. This isn’t an emerging story, it’s the failure of sense-making itself.
Or at least that’s how it feels.
Sending love and solidarity to everyone in America, and to everyone around the world who feels this moment.
And fuck you, historians of the future.