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The Most Important Thing
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What a great time to be American. I mean, I am not American, but I feel for those of you my readers and my friends, who are. As for the rest of the world, we're watching you. Make no mistake about that. Breath caught in our throat, until November 9 – and beyond, because the way things are going, the worst may not be over by then.
Cleverer people than me have analysed the run-up to the US presidential election, the presidential debates, the tweet wars, the leaked scandals real and imagined, the rumours of Russian hacking and the claims of a "rigged" election, the very real concerns about voter intimidation, and most shockingly, the threat of a new Civil War if Trump and his followers persist in their refusal to accept the election result.
Myself, I've been glued to my computer screen and my Facebook feed, watching the debates and some of Clinton's rallies, listening to the women of your country, liberal and conservative, rise up and denounce Trump for his pathetic attitudes toward women, and that is only one group of people he has used, insulted, and discarded. I've never felt this passionate about the outcome of an election before, and it isn't even my country!
Will things ever get better? Or are we as a planet doomed to slide back into the same hate and ignorance and disrespect for anyone who does not belong to the group of people who consider themselves "the norm", which have brought about the catastrophe less than a century ago. So much is at stake. It affects me. It affects all of us, and so many of us don't get the right to cast a vote. So please, make sure you use your's, and use it wisely. On all of our behalf.
I've been involved in so many discussions of the unfolding events with my politically engaged friends in the States: Jennifer Lane, a singer, voice teacher and all around beautiful person whom I met when she sang on my first ever professional CD recording, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, back in 1993. She is volunteering to register voters in her hometown of Denton, Texas. The record 15 million voters that have been registered in the State for this election are her work, too. That's Texas, once an unquestioned bastion of the Republican Party, now officially on its way to becoming a "swing state" which may influence the outcome not only of the upcoming elections, but other elections in the future. There's talk that it might turn democrat in this election. Who would have thought.
Maxine Eilander, friend and fellow harper, grew up in South Africa, came to study music in Germany, and now lives in Seattle with her husband, Stephen Stubbs – he who saw me through my final exam at the Akademie für Alte Musik – and two young daughters. She has been heavily involved in Moms Demand Action, an initiative to promote sensible gun regulations. She recently became a US citizen and proudly posted a photo of herself casting her first vote.
This election shouldn't really be called "Clinton versus Trump". But rather, "Clinton versus Misogyny". It has flushed out and brought into the open all the covert mechanisms that have kept women "in their place" even when we have all the rights of equal opportunity and equal treatment on paper.
The most blatant and most insulting of those, is that she – the most qualified person to run for president, probably in the entire history of the United States – is forced to run against someone who brings neither government experience nor qualifications, who runs on catchphrases and hate rather than policies and constructive solutions, and who believes he can run the show "off the seat of his pants" with zero preparation.
By virtue of the media's obligation to report on this election in a manner that does not favour one or other candidate, she is being routinely compared to her opponent as if he were in any way her equal. As if his empty rhetoric and consistent promotion of blatant falsehoods in any way compared to her thought-out policy proposals and constructive solutions. As if her wanting the convenience and efficiency of using a single mobile device for her work as Secretary of State, and not being on top of the technology needed to enable this, was in any way comparable to his not paying his taxes, not paying his contractors, openly promoting racism, and bragging about sexual assault.
How vastly more qualified, how impervious to making a mistake does a woman have to be, to be considered for the same job as someone who is simply not up to scratch by any standard, moral or intellectual – but male? This election will give us an answer to that question, among many others.
Clinton's moral and political integrity has had to be as close to 100% as is humanely possible – and even so she still gets blamed for every misstep as if it was a major national crisis, every choice of word someone does not like, every haircut someone doesn't find stylish enough. Her response to 30 years of constant scrutiny has been to take every criticism into account and act on it. To apologize, and do better. For her pains, she then gets criticized for, essentially, being too perfect. For being "unrelatable", for being "robotic".
She is forced to run against a known scumbag who lies, bullies, cheats, and routinely insults women, people of a different ethnicity than his own, people with disabilities, and a whole range of other groups whom he considers inferior. To say nothing of his haircut. Someone who turns out to be a sexual pervert and groper, and people still find excuses for him. It is harmless, it is "locker room talk", with the implication that all guys talk like that. No they don't. People point to Hillary Clinton's husband's affairs as if that has anything to do with anything. As if it weren't possible to even consider her a separate person. Trump, even if by the voter's will he loses, will still get quite a substantial portion of the vote. I don't get my head around that. How can someone like that even run?
Mr Trump is finally sounding coherent
On September 26, Hillary Clinton stood on the debate stage at Hofstra University and let us see for ourselves who Trump is. Up to that point, he had been able to bully and shout his way through the primary debates all the way to the presidential nomination, spouting nonsense and lies and forcing his opponents to engage with them as if they were valid debate points. None of his opponents in his own party were a match for his strategy, copied directly from internet trolls. Or for the whole new level of boldfacedness with which this man ignores and twists the facts.
Hillary Clinton did not let him do it. I caught the last half hour of that first debate live, and as for many people, including all of the professional media pundits, it took a while for it to sink in what we just saw. This wasn't a normal debate, as in, an exchange of arguments defending differing points of view. This was one person trying to verbally push the other person off the stage. Only that other person didn't take the bait. It must have been a new experience for Trump to be opposed by someone so coolly unfazed, someone who so utterly refused to be shut up, or to be goaded into defending themselves against his ridiculous assertions and accusations. When that strategy didn't work for him, he started to unravel pretty quick.
I had the debate on replay for a week, such a stellar performance it was. From the moment she rocked up in that power red pantsuit – I think she deliberately goaded Trump into wearing a different colour tie – and addressed him as "Donald", she was in complete control. I can only imagine the hours and hours of analysis that must have gone into coming up with a winning strategy to oppose his bullying, and it was executed with military precision. Clinton dismantled the man right in front of our eyes – Look! The emperor has no clothes! – while at the same time giving a live demonstration of just how badass a politician she is.
I like to think that that first debate would have been enough to swing public opinion Clinton's way. Interestingly enough, the professional pundits seemed to be at a loss for a while to determine who won the debate. They concluded that neither of the candidates had delivered a "knock-out blow". But it was right there. That moment when Trump was ranting on about his superior temperament, and Clinton responded with a genuine laugh and shoulder wriggle, saying simply – "Woo! Yeah". It was all there – the humour, the relatability, the connection with the audience. All those things people like to say she lacks. It speaks to her respect for the voter's intelligence, that she didn't think she even needed to comment on that.
Maybe the experience was so frightening for Trump that he started to systematically shoot himself in the foot from then on? It hardly needed the release of that infamous video tape that has him boasting about grabbing woman's pussies. I suppose at the end of the day, the tape only provided a face saving excuse for so many of his Republican supporters to jump off the already sinking ship.
The second debate was excruciating. I felt battered after watching it – the same mix of anxiety and paralysis that my father's unreasonable anger outbursts always used to cause in me. I can't imagine what it must have been like to sit there on that stage being subjected to all out verbal aggression, even physically threatening behaviour, for an hour and a half on live tv, and still manage to convey some sense of what she stands for, and what her policies are about. Again, Clinton kept her cool. Trusting us viewers to be smart enough to process the insanity of watching a US presidential nominee verbally abuse and physically stalk his opponent in a manner that feels all too familiar to nearly all of us women. The horror of witnessing a presidential candidate reply to audience concerns about racism and the rights of minorities, by promoting the very racism they fear. It must have been deeply upsetting for Clinton, and not for the reasons that Trump imagines. The third debate was kind of redundant after that. And Trump didn't help himself none during that one, either.
One of the advantages of running an independent blog on my own website, is that I don't have to make any pretense to be politically neutral. In case you haven't figured this out: I support Hillary Clinton. I hope you do, too. I think there should be no question, in this current race, that she is far and out the best person for the job, and I would wish it for her that she gets carried into the White House on a wave of the love she deserves and has earned from the people she has been serving and fighting for all her life. She has far more integrity than most politicians can muster. She is not "the lesser of two evils" and it offends me when people refer to her that way. My only grief is that I do not get to personally cast my vote to get her elected.
The importance of shattering that glass ceiling and getting a woman into the top job cannot be overstated – but in this election, this issue has become near irrelevant compared to everything else that is also at stake.
You American voters have the choice: continue the global trend toward narrow-minded nationalism and right wing fanaticism that has already, so recently, led to the Brexit vote – or stand up for human values and civil rights, for our hard won democratic system, for the values of equality and liberty enshrined in your constitution, and be the moral guiding light your nation has always wanted to be.
The most important thing: Vote. Nine days. So much at stake. You the people. Do the right thing. We count on you. Don't blow this. Be the great country you know you are.
Arohanui, from Asni