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On the US election and explaining geopolitics to our children

This column first appeared in the Western Mail in November 2020

Now, I’m not saying that it’s ever been appropriate to look to political leaders to reinforce the way we raise our children. I mean, can you imagine? Parenting with Pinochet! Fatherhood with Farage! Mama knows best with Imelda Marcos! 

But, jeez, 2020. Throw me a freaking bone here? 

If it’s alright with you, I’d prefer my son NOT to believe that it is entirely possible to behave like (nay, scrub that, I mean BE) a grade A cockwaffle and still get to be the leader of the free world. Is that really too much to ask, I wonder?

I write this the morning after the American Election, fuelled by adrenaline, tar-like cwaffee (obligatory to say it in a Brooklyn accent, given the context) and the dregs of a small supply of hope drastically diluted in the four years since the Tangerine Nightmare was first voted into the White House. 

We don’t know the outcome as I drag my sorry fingers over my keyboard. But we do know that 67 million people (and counting) put a cross in the box next to the name of a known misogynist, liar and White supremacist with narcissistic tendencies. To paraphrase Aaron Neville, we may not know much, but we know that America really, really needs a massive “U OK HUN?” and a lie down in a darkened room right now.

I told myself I wouldn’t stay up for this one. To be honest, staying awake for election slash referendum results hasn’t worked out well for me in recent years. But sleep proved elusive. 

I was heading for bed at midnight, with nothing stronger than a cuppa in hand (trust me, there’s only one thing worse than waking up to an all-pervading sense of dread, and that’s waking up to a horror sandwich layered with hangxiety). But then CNN’s John King sucked me in with his number-based wizardry and bougie graphs, and then it was 3 am, and I had no emergency chocolate in the house. What’s a girl to do except mainline prawn crackers and curse like a docker before skulking off to bed trailing a duvet, like a pre-menopausal Linus Van Pelt from the Peanuts comic strip?

I was rudely awakened by the sound of the Teenage Boy shouting at the TV. Emerging from the fog of what can only be called a microsnooze, he tells me indignantly that Trump is claiming he’s won, despite millions of uncounted votes in battleground states. 

I don’t know, readers. You do your best to raise your offspring to tell the truth, to know that honesty is the best policy, that crime never pays. And then all they have to do is turn on the news to learn that, perhaps, just perhaps, you’re the one that’s been dishonest. It’s enough to make you want to grab random men by the genitals, before boasting about it on tape, isn’t it?

Sensing my horror, he tries to cheer me up by informing me that Kanye West managed to secure 60,000 votes. That’s about the population of Wrexham, for context. So there’s that. 

As I drag my reluctant carcass into the shower, he shouts up the stairs that the good people of North Dakota have voted in a Senator that died of COVID-related causes over a month ago. So, there’s also that. 

At breakfast, he regales me with a clip of Trump introducing an inexplicably supportive rapper called Lil Pump (no, me either) on stage at a rally last week. 

Trump introduces him as Lil PIMP. It’s a notable Freudian slip, whether stemming from his proclivity for procuring sexual services, or just good old-fashioned lazy stereotyping of young Latino men. 

Either way, it’s like watching your drunk uncle use the words “endz” and “sick” in a misguided attempt to appear down with the kids. 

His aides had one job here. One job. “Rhymes with TRUMP, POTUS. Rhymes with TRUMP”. The President has no idea who this rapper is, it’s clear, and neither does the crowd. 

As an aside, the same rapper tweeted “F*** Trump” a year ago. Yet still, the adoring red-capped hordes honk and clap like seals. 

I wonder if I’ll ever understand humanity again.

And if I don’t understand it, what chance of ever being able to explain all of this (gestures over the Atlantic) to a Teenage Boy trying to make sense of the world and his place in it? 

They warn you about the sleepless nights, terrible twos and teenage sulks, but nobody tells you that one day you’ll have to explain the downright inexplicable, over and over again, floundering for the words. 

Whatever happens when the final votes are all counted, the Teenage Boy has his heart set on living in America one day. We’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Colorado, a liberal enclave with very impressive mountains – like Noo Yoik relocated to Wales, a bit. If he’s still intent on ending up there as an adult, then hopefully this whole clown car crash will be over by then. Is that what the American Dream means now?  

As I said, I don’t think it’s necessarily the place of political leaders to reinforce the moral qualities we wish to instil in our children. Or we’d all be going around stealing milk from the other kids (I couldn’t get through 900 words without a Thatcher reference, could I?). 

But it would be nice for them to possess any moral qualities at all, as a starter for ten, wouldn’t it? Just one? Or half of one?

As I shut down Twitter, ponder the risks of injecting coffee directly into my veins and trundle dejectedly to my desk, all I can think is that 2020: The Sequel had better be bloody good.

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