Catastrophe has been averted. Let us all breathe a big, long sigh of relief

by Francine Prose

This election result is like the final scene of a disaster film: the sun is shining, the sky is clear, the birds – those birds that are left – are sweetly singing.


It happened. Let us all take a deep breath and recognize: a disaster has been averted. Like when the car coming straight at us swerves at the last moment, when the Covid-19 test results come back negative. Donald Trump is no longer going to be president of the United States. Can it really be?

It’s pleasant to imagine life without Trump in the White House. But it’s also painful, in a way, because it forces us to confront how we’ve been living for the past four years, the compromises and accessions we’ve made, what we’ve accustomed ourselves to absorb, to tolerate, to endure.

The pandemic rages on around us. But it is a relief to not feel that thousands of people are dying and the person who is supposed to be leading our country doesn’t care.

It will be a relief not to have to brace ourselves for the next act of cruelty, the next mocking of the disabled, the next racist or sexist tweet, the next vicious nickname or insult.

It will be a relief not to watch the president of the United States take pride in his own ignorance and bigotry, not to have to steel ourselves for the next embarrassment, the next example of rudeness and bad behavior that makes us look selfish and foolish in the eyes of the world.

It will be a relief not to have to confront how much we have learned to ignore, not to consider how many outrages we have witnessed and then forgotten because the next outrage had already taken its place. It will be a relief not to feel the daily dose of astonished disbelief, not to ask ourselves how we could have let this happen, why there is no one smart or brave or powerful enough to control it.

It will be a relief not to know that we are being lied to, every day, about matters of life and death. It will be a relief to go through a day without feeling that we have become characters in a real life dystopian version of The Emperor’s New Clothes, one in which the Emperor won’t listen to the truth – about his nakedness – that the little boy is telling, the version in which the Emperor humiliates the little boy. It will be a relief not to think that our president hates and has contempt for the poor – that he mocks and despises the same people who vote for him, who support him.

It will be a relief to not worry that our democracy is in danger, that Donald Trump and his cohorts would like nothing better than to see our nation transformed into a fascist kleptocracy that steals from us even as it restricts and deprives us of our constitutional freedoms. It will be a relief not to feel that the president and his family are profiting from the forces that contribute to so many Americans’ suffering.

It will be a relief to get through the day, to be able look at our phones or our TV without hearing Donald Trump’s strident voice and the maddening rhythms of his speech, without seeing his red face twisted with fury, without listening to his insults and meanness, without observing his untiring efforts to divide our country, to make us despise and fear one another, and above all to glorify himself and the terrific job he seems to imagine he’s done.

Of course I don’t believe that Donald Trump is the sole source of our country’s problems; I understand that he’s the symptom of our larger, deeper, more systemic problems. Nor do I imagine that a Biden presidency will offer an immediate (or even a lasting) solution to the nightmares that keep us awake: income inequality racism, sexism, climate change … the list goes on. But I also feel that this is not the moment to emphasize the fact that Biden will not solve all our problems. The posters said: Vote as if your life depends on it, and it’s true. Our health, our future, our democracy may very well depend on Donald Trump’s ouster.

When I imagine life without Donald Trump, what I’m picturing is something like the final scene of the disaster film: the zombies have been beaten back, the Martians have returned to their planet, the dinosaurs are extinct once again, the floods have receded, the wildfires safely extinguished. The sun is shining, the sky is clear, the birds – those birds that are left – are sweetly singing. The last living humans find one another, and we know what they are thinking even if they don’t speak.

They are thinking: it’s over. We’ve survived. Our country has been restored to us. We can breathe again.

  • Francine Prose is a novelist. Her last book is Mister Monkey

Joe Biden has won …