Photo: Gage Skidmore

In high school, most of my friends were second- generation Vietnamese-Americans. That was in Irvine, California. My freshman year of college I attended UCI, referred to by the locals as “the University of Chinese and Indians.” Today, most of my close friends are Latino or of Latino descent. For the last decade or so I have been “the white guy” in my social circle. But that’s not what I was growing up.

My grandparents, Dana Nahigyan and Annette Dobakian, were born of Armenian immigrants who settled here to escape the 1915-1917 Armenian Genocide.

My grandparents, Annette Dobakian (L) and Dana Nahigyan (R), were born of Armenian immigrants that settled here to escape the 1915-1917 Armenian Genocide.

Growing up, I was hairier than my classmates, and darker too. My family moved around a lot, from Massachusetts to Georgia to Florida. My father was Armenian and my mother is white, so I was often asked if I was Mexican. In the South, I was accused of it. I spent a good portion of my childhood being treated like the outsider. I was constantly the new kid in class, and I never looked like them.

Living on the West Coast again, it doesn’t matter. I’m surrounded by so much diversity that I am considered white by my ethnic peers. My few drops of Armenian blood don’t change that, dark as those drops may be.

I never thought it was important. In fact, being the progressive liberal that I am, being slapped with the “white” label was something I was a little guilty about. I regularly report on indigenous rights on this website, and even a cursory understanding of native relations in this country engenders shame in the hearts of decent citizens. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington, 2011. (Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC in Washington, 2011. (Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Going into last night’s election, it is clear now how little knowledge the media and the Democratic establishment were working with. Everyone, myself included, expected the campaign to be a walk for Clinton. Bernie Sanders warned us repeatedly that in test polls it was he and not Clinton who scored higher against Mr. Trump. We’ll never know if he was right, but I’m sure more than a few members of the DLC are wondering if they were wrong. Bernie was outmaneuvered by the Democrats at every turn, punished for dragging his Independent ideals into their cozy, conservative version of Democracy.

But that’s all water under the bridge. The party bid adieu to Bernie long ago, and so did I.

The question facing me now, in this unexpected America I’ve woken up to, is where is my place? It is painfully clear that America’s coasts do not see eye to eye with America’s heart. States swung red for Trump, and kept swinging until the body of the nation was bloody. In the lead up, Planet Experts had its fun with Trump’s policies and personal idiosyncrasies. We, like the rest of the media, did not appreciate how angry the rest of the country was, how separately the coasts and the heartland view their place in the world.

To us, Trump represented an outdated conservatism: A blustering megalomania that considered America exceptional, immigrants expendable, the environment immaterial. We’d spent eight years under the leadership of a “cool” African-American Democrat. In the end, his policies were more moderate than any liberal wanted, but that didn’t stop the right accusing him of being a socialist. That was the most polite thing they called him.

When Planet Experts was in Paris for COP21, we met more than a few activists and NGOs who wanted to know what we were doing about Donald Trump. That was in December 2015. We dismissed him outright. I laughed and said they didn’t need to worry, America was angry but it wasn’t stupid. No one in Paris thought that was funny. The joke is now definitely on me.

Where is the place for me in Donald Trump’s America? I’m half-white, which didn’t matter until today. I’m a reporter, which until so recently was a respectable profession. Trump supporters have been photographed wearing t-shirts that read: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.” They chant “lock her up!” re: the Democratic candidate.

To lefties, it’s like we’re suddenly living out the prologue to a dystopian YA novel.

This article was originally going to be a brief overview of Hillary Clinton’s environmental promises throughout her campaign, and how important it was that we hold her to them. It started like this:

“Now that we no longer live in mortal fear that President Trump will vomit up the progressive environmental gains of the past eight years, President Clinton must become the standard bearer for those same gains. To hold her accountable to that end, Planet Experts will offer a snapshot of where the President-Elect stands on green issues.”

We’ve already written at length about where Donald Trump stands on these issues. Far out in the weeds.

Donald Trump has called global warming a “hoax” created by the Chinese. His rival, the former Secretary of State, was on the side of the U.S. military. There is no “believing” in climate change when 97 percent of scientists agree on the facts. “Ultimately, the data wins; the observations win,” retired Rear Admiral David Titley said in 2014. “The ice doesn’t care about politics or Democrats and Republicans. It just melts.” Hillary Clinton firmly adhered to the science. She said that she believes “we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying, clean energy jobs.”

Her relationship with coal, natural gas and especially fracking were murkier issues, but at least she spoke about the issues. Donald Trump ran his campaign on venom and bloviation. Now I’m wondering if using a word like “bloviation” really is as elitist as his followers say.

Like it or not, last night’s election was a repudiation of Obama’s moderate brand of progress. CNN’s Van Jones called it a “white-lash,” though I hope that isn’t the part that goes viral. I hope it’s the tears and the fear in his voice when he describes how difficult it will be for parents to answer their children’s questions about where they  fit in Donald Trump’s America.

I am scared.

I am scared for my friends who are Muslim and dark-skinned. I am scared for the LGBTQ community. I am scared for Planned Parenthood, and women in general. And yes, I am scared for the environment.

I am scared of how badly I misjudged my America. It’s true, Hillary Clinton was a charmless candidate, but she wasn’t a bigot or a bully. She didn’t treat women with repulsive disrespect. She had decades of experience forging international ties. She was qualified for the job.

Our 45th President lost every debate against her, called her a “nasty woman,” and suggested that he’d accept the election results only if he won.

Well, he won. What’s next?

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One Response

  1. Erin says:

    I’m with you. Im scared to death. I’m a white Catholic women and my husband is Palestinian Arab Muslim. Trump is a racist disease in which just days after the election is spreading. My prayers are with all people of different races, sexual preference and religious beliefs. I hope this passes and we as Americans can stand as one. May peace be with us all.

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