Since the 2016 election, I’ve had this bizarre feeling that I used the wrong exit in the multiverse—depositing myself in the darkest timeline of Community’s Remedial Chaos Theory. Out there, somewhere, is one of many worlds that I wish I belonged to at the moment.
In that universe, my country elected its first woman president. In that universe, the majority of Americans celebrated the unmistakable march of progress—a country that rejected obvious bigotry. In that universe, we heard a candidate say that Mexican immigrants are rapists, watched him demean women, brag about assault, call for torture of terrorists and their families, reject the unquestionable and dangerous reality of climate change, praise dictators, urge a foreign power to manipulate our elections, and said, “enough! We’re done with you.”
In that universe, Muslims don’t fear they would be put on a registry and LGBTQ citizens don’t worry about a homophobic Vice President-elect’s influence. We watched a candidate hire alt-right racists to run his campaign and we said, “Not in our country!”
But I’m in this universe, where Trump is President-elect. Damn you, quantum physics!
As it turns out, there are enough people out there who, for many reasons (employment, terrorism, SCOTUS) saw the racism, the homophobia, the fear of Muslims, the attempt at election manipulation, the praise of dictators, the insistence that climate change is a hoax, the calls for torture, the bragging of assault, demeaning of women, and the slander of Mexicans and either cheered him on or shrugged their shoulders and said, “I can live with that.”
But maybe there is another way of thinking about this, one that doesn’t require the donning of evil goatees just yet.
There is this feeling I have, after all, that things are not entirely settled. This universe has a candidate who won the Electoral College—assuming there are no surprises December 19 (come on, multiverse!)—but another who clearly won the popular vote—a superimposition of moral states we are stuck in at the moment. There are more people who rejected Trump even if they didn’t all live in the right places for it to count on November 8. Progress delayed is not progress ended, and we might, I hope, still be on the path of a brighter timeline where we all work together.
There are reasons, therefore, for us to believe that we can’t know yet, whether Schrödinger’s America is dead or alive. Maybe we should just wait a little longer to open that box.