I woke to the sound of the alarm on my phone and groaned. The past weeks have seen me take injections and muscle relaxants for the spinal injuries that have plagued me for what seems like a lifetime, but have done so for only 5 or so years. I lay awake in bed, thinking about the walking stick that lay just a little out of reach. I would have to lean out of bed to grasp it and use to help me get up from bed. I decided that it was best if I waited. Outside, autumn sunshine glowed brightly. A slanted ray of sunlight fell on my blanket where my chest was and I could see the shape of the shadows cast by the buildings outside mine. I was still groggy from the painkillers and the fitful sleep that seems to describe my nocturnal repast.
Slowly, thoughts begin to form themselves. They swirl into focus and I realize that the US Presidential results had been announced a day ago. Donald Trump had won. Was I surprised? No. Was I angry? No. Was I fearful? No. The mental checklist done, I leaned over and grabbed my stick and propped myself up. My left leg tingled, the ravaged nerves protested, but a few minutes later, I stood up in my bedroom, bathed in sunlight. Hours have passed since my waking up from a medicated slumber, and groggy though I feel, I can form thoughts with increasing clarity. Donald Trump has won, and he did it while being hounded by everyone, the media, the intelligentsia, citizens, and the world in general. It was a surprise to me that he won, and in my processing of this strange phenomenon, I read the various testimonials of those who feared for their lives, those who wished that Donald Trump was assassinated, and by those who rejoiced that they had won, that they had fought against the harassment of those who called them “racists” and “homophobes” and one particular writer particularly stated that Donald Trump’s victory was a victory for those who had been hounded and lynched by mobs of overzealous people who claimed that they fought for their own identity by branding and blaming working class Americans as being “racist, ignorant, stupid, homophobic misogynists”. That the victory of Donald Trump was a push-back against the large scale name-calling by those on the Left.
I am not a political scientist, my closes friends are, and we are yet to come to a consensus as to why Donald Trump won. He has won, and there is little to be gained from being emotionally upset as some people are. He has won and I have enough faith in the established order of bureaucracy and “the system” that whatever wild ideas he may have, can be pitted against saner heads, and I trust that saner heads will prevail.
But why do we concern ourselves with the goings-on of another country? Why do we sit at our computers typing endless arguments and counter-arguments that go nowhere. President Trump is across the seas and continents, and yet, in my apartment, his name hangs like a shroud. His name is echoed by my colleagues here, in this Eastern European town, and there is a wild exhilaration in the way they say that now, Europe would be saved. There is a wildness in the way bars portrayed the news of the Trump victory alongside news of the elections of the President for this country, and in the midst of the jubilation, the quiet cynicism of Eastern Europe returns. Not so long ago, someone had won an election in Europe’s backyard, and then, in his effort to keep intact his country, millions lost their lives, their homes and their children. An entire generation lost its future, and as they pick up the shreds of all that is left, they can’t help but look at the massive popularity of the leaders who win the hearts of so many and feel the despondency. Ultimately, war, disease, suffering and tragedy come to us all, and there is no president or prime minister, who can stop the inevitable.
I am advised a week’s bed rest, and I use this time to focus on managing the pain in my back. I haven’t spoken to Yvette in almost a month as she is busy in the Capital city, preparing for a concert. She calls me in the evenings to ask me how my day went, and I have the usual response of how well it went. Between us is an undercurrent of pleasantness, as though we keep up the cheer because we understand the coldness of the world around us, she, a woman who didn’t know her father, and me, a solitary foreigner. I understand the contempt for the Right Wing, and I understand the contempt for the Left Wing, and my political inclinations are neither kosher nor are they completely rational, there are flaws everywhere and I feel that we try, in an act of self-preservation, to try to fool ourselves into thinking that we are all above fault.
Chopin’s Spring Waltz plays on my laptop, I can hear the notes and the bars of this beauty, and I am reminded of the move “The Lives of others”, and I know that there is something that can be salvaged from all our losses. I wonder though, if all will ever be the same. I understand too well the corruption that comes with power for I too have lusted for power when I was younger. I lusted for power, and I know even now that I still do. Somewhere, there is a lust, an insatiable thirst for power that I cannot quench, and I understand that power, in itself, is a tool that will drive a wedge between your own values and yourself. Ambition embraces power like a lover, but power poisons ambition through its urge to fight everything for preserving itself. I lusted after power when I was younger and I realized that I could not be trusted with power if I sought it and hoped to conquer it. In all of us, there is an authoritarian, in all of us, is a war criminal and in all of us there is a commander of a death squad, and in ways that I have found inexplicable, I have never allowed these elements of myself to win.
I went to the Centre, leaning on my stick and I stood at the War Memorial, looking for names that I hoped I could recognize. In the corner I can see the name is scratched over. Legend has it that this name was removed after it was revealed that this was the name of an Officer who ordered the slaughter of prisoners of war. What was worse was that this Officer’s bravery on the battlefield saved the town from collapsing to the enemy. And yet, crazed in his power and his love for country, he ordered the execution of all the prisoners under his command. There is a small golden crown that can be made out from under the scratched off name of this Officer. I know nothing of this man, but I know enough of war to see the lust of power, the craze and the madness that comes in the pursuit of victory.
And yet, I stand at the threshold of change, and who is to say what comes tomorrow? Should we give up now, or stand resolutely to face all that comes to us so as to not forget how far we have come? I stand at the Statue of Father and as his arms are wide open, I can see the town stretch out beyond the horizon.