When Donald Trump was elected, I was standing in a doorway in my home in Windsor, Ontario, two blocks from the United States—a couple streets over from our front yard, then a site of thousands of gallons of industrial chemicals, then the Detroit River, then Michigan, which of course had just turned red for the first time in twenty-eight years. If there weren’t a bunch of trees in the way, I would, in fact, actually be able to see America from my house.
I grew up partially in Morden, Manitoba, a lunch break’s drive from the 49th Parallel. We’d go to roadhouses for dinner and drinks in North Dakota, not really for any other reason than my Mennonite-reared family found it exciting to not be in Canada. I eventually moved to the United States, where I went to high school, university, came out as a transsexual woman and transitioned (you know, the usual). I moved back to Canada in my mid-twenties and ended up in Windsor just a few months ago. I see an American skyline on my drive to work on Riverside Drive. At home, my phone gets confused sometimes and beeps “WELCOME TO USA!”
The night after Trump was elected, I walked down to my local pub, an old West Side 19th-Century building in the literal shadow of the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest trade crossing in North America, where trucks are backed up over the river virtually 24 hours a day.
I wondered, among other visions of horror, what my new border hometown might be thinking in the wake of Trump’s election.
Outside of the bar, young people were laughing and smoking and the only thing that looked different was “KANYE 2020” on the sandwich board. Inside, the same, except Idiocracy was playing on the TV.
The next day I buy some papers from my downtown convenience store guy. He’s a friendly young dude named Jim.
“How’s it going?” He asks.
“Terrible,” I say. “Trump’s the President.”
“I guess it’s the end of the world, eh?” Jim is forlorn but nonchalant.
Jim and I have a few short conversations like this over the next couple weeks. “Ben Carson, huh?” “Fucking hell.” Stuff like that.
Later, I drag Jim to a bar and ask what customers are talking about at his store. I’m curious what local Windsor folks are saying, but the first thing he tells me about are Americans. “We have a lot of crazy Trump supporters.” There was this one time, he says. “It was a Friday or Saturday night in downtown Windsor, if you know what I mean.”
You mean they’re Americans? I ask.
“Yeah. They’re younger. Not nineteen or twenty though. Try—twenty-three, twenty-five. They come for younger girls I’m guessing? They were in a verbal altercation, a group of white guys saying to a group of dark-skinned guys I’ll see you on the other side of the wall buddy! But…it’s not really different for Canadians. People who are against the Syrian refugees, that kind of shit. They yell at my Chinese co-worker, Go back where you came from! He’s lived here since ’92.”
I ask him what the immediate aftermath of the election was like.
“It was the thing no one wanted to talk about. Customers would be buying the paper with him on the cover. Customers I have regular political dialogue with, some of them with Bernie pins,”—Jim doesn’t like Hillary—“and now they’re in after the election buying the paper with Trump on the front. And it’s zero conversation.”
Another day, I get off work at five and head out for a happy hour drink. I get to the bar, the Phog Lounge, a little downtown music venue on University. It’s just me and the bartender, a sweet young woman with long dark hair. I ask her the same thing I ask Jim.
“Lots of people were talking about it. For a long time. We had it on,” she gestures at the TVs. “And we had the debates on.” She’s nonchalant, like Oh yeah, that thing, hey, right. “Most people who come in here are liberals. Some people were upset, some people were like ah whatever, the President can’t do much anyway. There is one guy who’s a big Donald Trump supporter. He comes in YEAH TRUMP with his fist in the air.”
She and I chat for a while. She gets less nonchalant as we do. “What worries me is the environment,” she says at one point. “More than any other stuff I care about. Feminism or whatever. You know NASA says we only have five years left?” Before things get really bad, is the implication.
“And Trump,” she goes on, her voice so clearly urgent now, “he doesn’t believe in climate change. You’ve heard about down in the Dakotas? The Dakota Access Pipeline? What they’re doing to people down there?” I have.
I pull up a link for a fundraiser for the Indigenous resistance and she writes it down. “And Trump, if he pulls out of the agreements, whatever, then the rest of the countries are going to pull out!”
“And you know what,” she then goes on, “things feel tenser—I’ve worked at this bar a year and a half, I’ve never seen fights in here. I seen three people get punched in the last month.”
“Because of politics?” I ask.
She says she doesn’t know why.
As our convo winds down, she lowers her voice and gestures to the window. “that guy about to come in? He’s the Trump supporter. I don’t know i—maybe you wanna talk to him.”
The guy looks about fifty, leathery white skin with a mustache. He gets a drink and sits at a table by himself.
For a second I reflect that both of us came alone to a bar to drink beer at five-thirty in the afternoon.
I introduce myself, tell him I’m writing an article and ask to talk with him. He says he’s a Trump supporter. I say even though I’m not, I’d like to talk with him anyway. “Well then tell me, why do you like Hillary? She’s a criminal! You’ve heard of her child rape case? She was laughing! There’s video!”
I ask about Trump’s own acts that way. He waves me off. “He’s been around 40 years, he’s made so much money, he doesn’t have to do that to anybody! Billy Bush set him up!” (He’s referring to the Access Hollywood tape where Trump bragged to Bush about grabbing women by the pussy.)
My own experiences of sexual assault fuse and block in my throat.
I very calmly say: “Why would Billy Bush set him up? If he was gonna do that, he would’ve done it when Jeb was running against Trump. That doesn’t make any sense.”
He chuckles. “You know George Soros?”
Our conversation goes pretty much like that for about fifteen minutes. Beyond journalistic duties or whatever, this guy could’ve been my dad in another life and I feel like I have to give a shot to getting through to this guy. I ask if we’re not talking past each other. That we believe different things from different facts, that we’re not really using the same baselines here. “Well you believe CNN News you’ll believe anything.” He’s referring to me bringing up that the KKK endorsed Trump.
I tell him about some people in the States who had DIE FAGGOTS keyed into their car after the election. I know about this through friends, you won’t find it on the news, I know it happened. He laughs. He laughs and laughs. “Well there are Democrats who pay people to do that stuff!”
I realize I can talk with this guy about as much as I could talk with the boys from my childhood who hit me for being a sissy. “Alright, okay, see ya,” I say, and put my shit in my bag.
He laughs again. “I ain’t trying to start anything, you sat down and talked to me!” Yeah, I did, didn’t I. He probably thinks I’m just a dumb young girl. I know what that fucking laugh means.