5: There’s something in the water

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Sir, what are you doing?

‘…Cigarette?’

‘After, back inside’

It was 4am on a dark, cold night in November. Stuck at the border between France and the UK, our plans had taken a sudden turn and now rapidly they were going against us.

This disintegration of fortune could only have been topped by the failings of Hilary Clinton the night before after she had hijacked ‘progressive’ politics to serve her own ends and fallen flat on her face.

Amsterdam had given us experiences that were a privilege to be involved in. We had shut down roads in support of Standing Rock, raised money for anti-fascist groups fighting Islamophobia and met countless numbers of people who for them lived like this every single day.

After announcing his candidacy for the Democrat presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders had drawn huge numbers to his rallies from across the spectrum. It may have been idealised but people from different backgrounds, cultures and political movements were coming together in a national movement unseen at such a high level in modern American discourse.

For some unknown reason, we had traded that in for a bus trip to London, a city where money is power and the only way to get by is to have some or bow down to those who do.

The Democratic establishment had had Hilary Clinton lined up as Presidential candidate for a number of years. This new shift in politics was never embraced, barely acknowledged. Her team would build up a war chest for the campaign ahead.

During these 24 hours, their would be an alignment between our actions and those of the establishment of American politics. Our steps over this time would demonstrate how the actions of 70 years worth of American empire could fall apart as quickly as the plans of two doss Scots riding across the Channel.

The issue for us was that we had brought with us a vacuumed pack of magic mushrooms that we had bought on the first day. Due to a couple of mitigating factors we had yet to take them.

On the way down we had sailed through with no security checks. That had duped us into believing this was standard practice. To be on the safe side, Liam decided to stuff the mushrooms into a bottle of coconut water and leave it lying there with all of our things, dormant and away from the glare of any reality or inquiry.

Donald Trump was racing ahead in the Republican polls for their candidature. As was the case with the mushrooms, the Democrat Party had the election in the bag. The democracy of the party was then seized by those in charge as they took over the process.

We all thought we could take control of the events around us and at the same time, shield ourselves from all scrutiny. Such actions would lead to chaos but our belligerence could never have conceived of this at the time.

We went for a last supper with the group. We were heading to a squat putting on a three course meal and raising funds for a good cause. it escapes me what this cause was, but I believe it was a good one.

Donors and diners at George Clooney’s house would say the same as he allowed his home to be used as a venue for a $300,000 a head dinner for Hilary Clinton’s campaign against Bernie Sanders.

There would have been a lot to have gained from staying in Amsterdam but without knowing why, we were intent with going ahead and getting to London.

Bernie could have been an outlet for unrepresented groups in the USA looking to work together. However, as the most qualified candidate in Presidential history, Hilary would now be running as the Democrat candidate despite there never being any particularly vehement support for her.

It would only be later that we would realise how dangerous it had been to go through the motions at this stage.

We boarded the bus and would be in London in ten hours. Just as we had been certain that Clinton was going to be elected President. Everything until this point had indicated it was all a formality.

At 4am, the bus stopped. We were at the border between France and the UK. We had to get off after only just getting to sleep. With a British passport in my back pocket there should be no issue. An internationalist I may claim to be but at this time in the morning, there were no intentions of trying to address the inequities of global borders. Get off the bus, show my passport and get back to sleep.

As others mongered about their plans to erect walls and restrict immigration in the USA, Hilary would make some glib statement about diversity in the land of the free. She would say this as she operated in a government that for eight years had furthered American imperialism, destabilised global borders and fuelled mass migration for refugees and others around the world.

Moral failings can be shown up in many ways.

We climbed out of the bus and were told to bring all of our bags. In the drowsy confusion, I had forgot to intimate to Liam to leave the bottle on the bus. Liam, holding the bags, saw the possessions of those in front being laid out one by one on a scanner. We were to be searched far more rigorously than we’d expected. On the way into Europe we had been fine.

In the Democrat primaries, Hilary and her supporters had eschewed all scrutiny and ignored the discourse between Bernie Sanders and his supporters. As the polls opened on November 8th, Hilary Clinton had no reason to feel anything but confident, election night would be just as rudimentary.

But there was something in the water and we would all be equally ill prepared for the impending fallout.

Liam walked away from the queue and went outside, he bent down to tie his shoelace and tried to discard the evidence just as a border guard approached him.

That brings us back to where we began.

‘Sir, what are you doing?’

‘…Cigarette?’

‘After, back inside’

His left hand grazing the bin, the bottle in his right, he had no choice but to walk back in.

The FBI had just announced they were reopening the investigation into the emails sent on Hilary’s private server.

Once again in line, Liam was inching closer with the bag, the bottle poking out of the top of it, unsure what to do. Now was the time for executive action. A statement had to be made to say that everything was going to be ok.

Compelled by misplaced confidence, I lifted the bottle out of the bag and awaiting my turn, began to drink.

In the face of mounting tension, Hilary condemned millions of people who did not support her as deplorables.

The border guard called me over. I took a step forward, now stood inches from the working man’s face, quaffing down the remains of the liquid, so close to him he could hear the water run down my throat.

He looked at me, looked at the bottle and as his eyes moved towards the scanner, so to did his finger as he gestured me to place the bottle down on the belt and let it be shown for what it was.

Millions would cry in disbelief and in unison as they saw events in the States were no longer going to plan. ‘We’ve lost Florida!’

Time stood still as I frantically tried to figure out every permutation open to me. Maybe I could get away with this if I put the bottle upright, the airtight mushies might just look like sediment.

‘Maybe we can cling onto Ohio.’ Democrat strategists desperately chimed.

But we weren’t dictating conditions any longer. It was out of our hands. With that same finger, the guard pushed the bottle onto its side and with that, the swing state had fallen.

The bottle was as empty as Clinton’s campaign. Devoid of substance, it went through the scanner and the inefficacy of the situation was plain to see to the hoards of border patrol watching the screen.

I picked up my bag and waited for the bottle, watching it pathetically trundle through the other side. I picked it up and turned with the merest crumb of desperate optimism towards the bus.

Maybe six people trained to look at X-rays, looking only at the X-ray of an empty bottle hadn’t seen the bottle.

Maybe every vote still to come in was a X for Democrat.

Alas.

‘Monsieur, is this your bottle?’ the man most senior cried out, ‘What is inside?’

I claimed coconut water.

Hilary Clinton claimed she was the empress wearing new clothes.

Both were naked.

One was hollow packaging, now an empty vessel, its contents soured inside, marketed as something refreshing.

The other was once a bottle of coconut water.

They shook the bottle and shook the ballot boxes.

They all made a dearthly rattle.

It was over.

‘And maybe magic mushrooms’, I conceded.

Donald Trump had taken the call from Hilary Clinton. He would be the 45th President of the United States of America.

‘MAYBE magic mushrooms?’ they repeated, beginning to enjoy themselves now.

We had come up with an inexplicable plan and had chosen to see it through to the very end, in the face of all the opportunities and outlets to do otherwise.

I was stood around by a group of angry white men, the literal faces of law and order. They were emboldened, they had won but this wasn’t even a fight that had ever had to happen.

Hate crimes would soar in the USA in the days following the result as white nationalists would rally together and proclaim ‘Heil Trump’.

I had tried to trick them with perhaps the dumbest plan they had ever seen and until the very end, genuinely thought I was going to get away with it.

History will look back at the number of steps that could have prevented this from happening.

‘Do you have anything else on you? If we don’t believe you, we’ll have to strip search you’, the guard asked with a serious tone.

‘No, no’, I replied as forcefully and earnestly as I could muster.

Standing in the nude on a cold November morning with only the gloved finger of a Frenchman called Maurice for affection was not where I had ever seen this night going.

At least they believed me.

As Hilary’s tears fell upon the pages of her crumpled victory speech, Bill tried to console her, ‘at least you won the popular vote.’

Like the remains of the now torn open bottle, these were meagre droplets of comfort.

The establishment of power in the USA had listened to nobody through the whole campaign. In the face of something more positive, they had rejected it.

Just as we could have chosen Amsterdam over London, a bus ticket for Bernie Sanders could have prevented the warships going to Donald Trump.

People kept intimating something wasn’t right but rather than discard the bottle, Hilary and the campaign had held to it resolutely, ignoring all opportunities to change tack.

We never stopped to think if trying to smuggle mushrooms in through a water bottle was even necessary. If they’d been in our pocket, our bag, stuffed in my fist we would have been fine. We could have accepted the reality of the situation from the start and discarded them, stepped aside from the problem and cut our losses.

Our duplicitousness was our downfall.

We’d both been tripped.

Now we’ll all have to deal with the fall.

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