Sunday, November 5, 2017

The post-apocalyptic life continues

Two weeks since I came home, almost 7 weeks after the hurricane Maria. The observatory has finally an internet connection thanks to our awesome computer department. It’s slow and disconnects every once in a while, but it’s great when it works! Especially because my home still has no working internet connection. Mobile data is okay every other day or so, depending on whether my phone connects to AT&T (my actual operator) or Claro (the competitor, so no mobile data but texts and phone calls work). There are also days that neither one works. Power and water have been more or less stable, outages lasting 2-12 hours every three days or so. But I’m still in the lucky minority that has power at all; a clear majority of the population is still waiting to see their ceiling lights and fridges to turn on for the first time since Maria (excluding those with generators).

Life hasn’t been all luck though. One of my dogs stepped on something sharp on the backyard and got a big cut on her paw. I took her to a vet who’s good but expensive. A few stitches with all that comes with them (like meds) cost almost $300, and they like many other places only take cash. And of course the dog got rid of the bandage as soon as I got home and half of the stitches in a couple of days. I’ve had to keep her inside since, with only short visits outside. Luckily, she gets along with the cat nowadays, although I wouldn’t call them the best of friends quite yet.

Also, my other dog’s harness broke a week ago. I needed to go buy groceries as well so I headed first to Walmart. The parking lot was completely full of cars but I managed to find a spot in the far end when someone else was leaving. I walked to the door – and saw the over 30-meter line of people waiting to get in. I turned smoothly around and decided to find another grocery store. I drove to the mall of Plaza del Norte for the new harness. Petsmart was luckily open, thanks to generators. They were well supplied, but the lights were dim, no A/C, no card payments, and they had had to give up on all the fish that used to be sold in the aquariums on the back wall.

I found the harness and bought a new rope toy since I couldn’t find the old toys on the backyard anymore. When I was about to exit, I noticed it was pouring rain. I could also hear a thunder. The umbrella was, naturally, in the car. On the bright side, I wasn't standing in a Walmart entrance line. I stopped by in the main part of the mall, where I could get in without walking through the rain. I bought a pretzel and a drink and waited for the rain to pass by. I sat next to a nail salon where my friends took me for a birthday present. This time it was dark and there was water flowing out from under the door. I peeked in to find at least an inch of water on the salon floor. The manicure tables were still in. A sign on the outside wall said that they had moved to Barceloneta.

The rain hadn’t stopped but I ran to my car. I knew the dogs must have been panicking like always during rain and thunder, and especially now with hardly any cover by the few pieces of porch roof that were left and a dog crate. I drove out of the mall parking lot to find an intersection packed with cars. I took the marginal road towards the center because it looked like the cars weren’t moving forward, except to the marginal road. I found out soon that it wasn’t just due to the lack of traffic lights: the road was flooding heavily. The marginal road was flooding slightly less so I managed to drive through the water. Right next to the flooding part I saw a broken electric pole – not a rare sight anywhere on the island – with cables in the water.

I drove to another grocery store and found it was open, had plenty of parking spots, and no line. I bought what I needed and headed home. The rain had stopped by the time I got home. My neighbors came to bring Bubbles back to my yard. The poor dog had panicked as I doubted she might, and without a harness or a collar she had got easily out of the yard (the fence is still squished by a fallen breadfruit tree) and ran to the neighbors’ house. I dried all the wet dogs with a towel and put the new harness on Bubbles. The rest of the weekend I spent cleaning up the house. I removed the lamp that had almost fallen due to the leaking roof. There was still water in the cover bowl.

We celebrated Halloween as traditional at my neighbors’ house, although in a bit smaller scale than usually. We even went trick-or-treating, but only three houses or so opened their doors. At most houses, we were greeted by a fiercely barking dog. It felt post-apocalyptic. There was a curfew starting at 10pm and the next day was a work day, so everyone left home early. But all-in-all it was as pleasant evening as the circumstances allowed, and something we all need in the midst of trying to get back to normal.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


The night has fallen. I’m sitting in my bedroom, lit by a camping torch, headlamp, and a line of owl-shaped Christmas lights. I hear the humming of the neighbor’s generator and whistles of frogs and crickets. I’ve used one and a half evenings cleaning up my fridge that still smells like a dead animal, probably because of some creepy creature(s) that sheltered inside it and died there. Half of the evening passed in a defensive warfare for a bathroom that got conquered by an army of termites. Their fortresses rose along the edges of the wooden door and the inner corners of a closet that used to withhold towels on the upper shelves and tools on the lower ones. The first time I touched the bathroom door, a few termites dropped on my hand. By the end of the chemical warfare, the poison had done its job, and I couldn’t see any more movement of the tiny light-yellow creepers. I decide to leave the battle of pantry for tomorrow and use tonight to recollect energy.

When hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico over a month ago, I was safely in Riga, Latvia. Hurricane Irma had hit the Eastern parts of the island only two weeks earlier. I had flown away from the island a few days before Irma for a work and a family meet-up trip to Finland and Latvia, as planned months ahead. My return flight was due five days after hurricane Maria, on the 25th of September, but all the commercial flights were cancelled until the end of September so there was no way for me to get back. And despite the slow return of the commercial flights to their regular schedule in early October, I got strong recommendations from various people (bosses, mum…) to stay off the island for a while, and ended up doing so for four weeks longer than planned. Luckily, I was able to take shelter on my brother’s sofa in Finland for a few weeks and had another scientific conference in Utah in mid-October. All that time, I was eager to get back to help my community, to take care of my pets that I had had to leave in the good care of my neighbors. But all I could do was to read the horrifying news reports of the people on my dear island dying for lack of electricity to keep their medicines cold or life support equipment going, or for lack of food or water for being stuck in their homes, roads blocked by trees and electric poles. Nevertheless, the news let me get mentally prepared for the return to home.

I landed back to Puerto Rico on the 23rd of October. A friend picked me up from the airport. We drove to a nearby mall and a supermarket for lunch and to buy food and other supplies. The mall had electricity and, although it was early afternoon on Monday, it was packed with people. All restaurants had a line. Some shops were closed because their payment systems were still not functional. 80 % of the population was still without electricity, almost half of the population without regular water supply. The days of 8–10-hour long lines for gas and food had passed some weeks ago, but many stores were still out of water and some food items that used to be grown in Puerto Rico, until 80 % of the crops had been flushed or blown away by Maria.

Driving on the expressway revealed the still evident damage to the nature. The trees are starting to grow their leaves back, but the difference to the old, lush dark-green jungle is shocking. With every other tree uprooted or tilted and all leaves stripped, I could easily see the rocky hillside where the trees grow on. Before, the hills had been covered by solid layers of green leaves and bright-colored flowers. Most palm trees still had their long, spiky leaves, but now growing only on one side of the trunk, as a reminder of the direction of the hurricane winds. My friends told me that some days after the hurricane, the air was covered with bees that were confused of the lack of vegetation. And not only bees, but the fumes of thousands of generators, and sand flying from Sahara had been filling the air as well.

We arrived to my house in the suburbs of the city of Arecibo when the sun had just set. The bigger roads had street lights, and some intersections even traffic lights. A few people had stopped on the edges of the expressway for cell signal near the ramp to the city. My home street was completely dark but the last rays of sun light revealed some remaining damages. An electric pole in a 45-degree angle above the street, many of my neighbors’ fruit trees gone, but houses mostly intact.

The lamp saved by the cord from breaking completely

Termites had enjoyed the bread crumbs and the bacalaíto flour

I took my flashlight before entering the dark house. My cat ran to the door to greet us when we stepped in. My three dogs were on the back yard tied up. A lamp in the living room had fell down from the ceiling and is now hanging by its cord. The only thing I heard of my house before arriving was that the house’s roof survived but the porch roof was gone. And as I saw with my own eyes, only a few pieces of aluminum that made up the porch roof were still in their old places, and even some of those badly bent. The rest had been scattered all over my backyard, but the landlady and her family had cleaned up the yard only two days earlier, as my neighbors reported. The porch roof wasn’t even near the only damage. An on-ground pool (which was in a bad condition even before the hurricanes) had bent from circular into a crescent shape. The most major damage was caused by my neighbor’s 30-meter breadfruit tree that had fallen directly on my yard, luckily not on anyone’s house. It had squished the fence, and due to the size of its trunk, lifting it away from my yard and the fence would require some relatively heavy machinery.
An electric pole on my home street

Almost every aluminum panel had detached. But Bubbles is fine!

As expected, my house had no power nor water nor cell signal. My neighbors provided me with a jug of observatory water, and the next day helped me to get my car out of the garage. The door is very heavy and usually works with electricity. I gave them a solar panel charger, and a UV pen for sanitizing water.

The Arecibo Observatory is an oasis in the middle of the disaster, more than ever. There are generators for electricity, and even more importantly, pumps for clean ground water. When all other water is scarce or completely unavailable, the observatory provides the whole surrounding community with water. Anyone can fill their water canisters at the gate, and the employees take some for their neighbors. There’s also a helicopter pad, which helps FEMA, national guard and other aid organizations to get relief packages to an area far from San Juan, or pick up those who have trouble travelling themselves. The water is, however, dependent of the diesel deliveries. If the fuel runs out of the generators, also the pumps stop working.

The observatory equipment itself suffered some damage, but much less than everyone feared. The world-famous, 305-meter radio telescope is composed of the dish of metal mesh panels, and a gigantic platform hanging on top of the dish in a height of 130 meters with three concrete towers and 39 massive cables. The platform sustains various receivers, and the world’s most powerful radar transmitter inside a gray dome that is a size of a two-bedroom house. The wind and pressure measurements during the hurricane showed that the eye of the hurricane passed through the observatory, and the sustained winds were near the maximum theoretical limit that the platform can take.

But to everyone’s amazement, the 54-year-old platform and the 22-year-old dome survived the winds! One receiver, called the line feed, broke off and punctured holes to the mesh panels of the dish on the way down. Luckily, only a very small fraction of the panels got damaged, and they are relatively easy to change. The million-dollar line feed requires some more effort, but it is only used by specific atmospheric measurements, or less than a quarter of all measurements that the observatory does regularly. Radio and radar astronomy are able to continue their observations as soon as the situation on the island stabilizes, the staff can safely return, and the electricity gets back. The world’s most powerful radar transmitter requires three times as much diesel as the rest of the observatory to run, so when fuel is needed to support life elsewhere on the island, radar observations will wait.

FEMA box contents

P.S. Electricity returned to my neighborhood last night, the lucky 26th percentile. Water is back occasionally but it is not drinkable as such so carrying from the observatory continues. The observatory got an internet connection back yesterday. Progress is slow but certain.

The white space used to be covered by a huge breadfruit tree (now lying on my fence)

Avocado tree is not much more than a match stick right now

A stripped breadfruit tree

An ex-pool. (The neighbor's palm trees are fine though!)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

It's X-mas time!

Merry X-mas! Here are some pics of things that got me on christmas mood this year and some more of how I actually spent the christmas day.

In mid-December I attended the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco. I chose a well-rated hotel called Inn San Francisco although it was a bit further away from the convention center as the listed conference hotels, and I'm glad I did; the place was amazing! The decorations were overwhelming, christmas songs were playing in the background, and the lobby even smelled like christmas! The breakfast was delicious and the hospitality was among the best that I've ever experienced. The rooms had candy, real flowers, and fruit and hot beverages were available at any time in the parlor.

Around home the yard christmas decorations of my neighbors were simply jaw-droppers for a person used to the modest Finnish christmas lights. The electricity in PR is not cheap but with the decorative lights, the locals just don't care a bit.

And here's how I ended up spending the christmas day with my family who escaped the cold and darkness of Finland to PR. Because most places were closed, we decided to go beach hopping. We drove to the North-West corner of the island and drove around Isabela and Aguadilla.

Playa Guajataca

Playa Jobos

Montones Beach

Pozo de Jacinto

Crash Boat Beach

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Scrap human rights

If you want to make the world a better place, scrap every right you have ever heard of. Scrap human rights. Scrap right to free speech. Scrap any right based on nationality, color of the skin, gender, or any other superficial stamp. Because almost every right only leads to a sense of entitlement.

If you want to make the world a better place, start speaking of human responsibility. It's simple because, instead of a million rights to choose from, there's only one responsibility: the responsibility as a human to respect and help others; the humans, the animals, the nature. Because from all the creatures on the Earth, the humans are the most capable of surpassing their basic instincts. Don't judge actions of others based on rights of yours or others, judge yourself and others equally, and only for the lack of responsibility.

If you want to make the world a better place, scrap the borders, and respect the culture and customs of all the people. When the people and cultures spread and mix, scrap your fears of them violating your rights. Scrap the dream of becoming rich. Instead, dream of happiness, you don't need to be rich to be happy. If you're in trouble, don't be ashamed to call for help. It is part of the human responsibility to help those in trouble, but not to make you feel happy. That is an attitude choice, which only you can make.

Seek freedom from fears. Seek freedom from the power of money. And most of all, seek happiness. Just don't make any of it your right over your responsibility as a human.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The illusion of freedom

On Thursday, November 24, the American people celebrated thanksgiving, the most ironic holiday in terms of recent times. Cynically, the Americans celebrate the time when immigrants flowed into the country and terrorized the natives. Anyone who didn't believe in the god of the immigrants was oppressed. But despite the origin of the day and how it's being celebrated (by first over-eating and on the next day by over-consuming), the idea of having at least one day in a year when people take a moment to think what they are grateful for is excellent.

As for myself, I am grateful mostly for three things:

  1. The people in my life: My mom who has always done her best to be as good mom as possible and succeeded pretty well despite all the trouble she has had to go through in life, my friends abroad who can lift my mood when needed, and (especially during the last weeks when life hasn't been exactly the "happily ever after" -part of the childhood fairy tales) the whole Observatory community and especially Team Radar and Team Astro for the amazing team spirit that keeps on blooming.
  2. Freedom: A bit of a cliché maybe, but something that most people take for granted. However, I'm speaking of freedom in a wider sense. Even in the "free world", there's a number of invisible chains that restrict people from freedom to take advantage of opportunities or freedom of self-expression. Sometimes the chains are set by the society or our closest people (e.g., inequality or money issues), sometimes by ourselves (e.g., inexplicable fears...). I'm grateful for the people who promote equal opportunity and help in any way those who have the least freedom in the world, today as well as in the past.
  3. Education: I'm grateful for being one of the (relatively) few people in the world who have had an access to the best education in the world, and for the people who have made it possible. A measure of the greatness of a country should not be just its gross domestic product, and definitely not the military budget. The measure should be how happy the people of the country are. And although living in a bubble can keep a lot of people happy just fine, education is the only thing that can move the society forward at any measure – if it's successful.
The other day, I had a good discussion about three very different education cultures: South Korea, a top performer in international education tests (1st from 38 countries in the OECD student skill ranking), United States, an average performer in the tests (22nd), and Finland, another top performer (3rd after Korea and Japan). 

In South Korea, the education culture is extremely competitive and stressful for the students. The school days may extend from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and even though the whole time is not instructional hours but often casual chatting with friends, the school causes a huge amount of stress for the students. The most part of the stress is caused by the parents, who only approve the best performance from their children. It is common that if you're not the best student of the school, you will be mocked by your parents. Your parents and grades also decide your future. Despite of your own interests, the best students are expected to become doctors and lawyers. Nobody applies to the secondary level technical schools by choice, but you will end up there if your grades are not good enough for the high school. The colleges and universities are not as expensive as in the USA, but neither are they free. The parents make an effort to save money for your tuitions and thus justify their power to decide which college you should choose. The Asian schools in South Korea, and major cities in China may be the top performers in international tests, but no other system drives as many students to suicides – or in minimum family disputes – as them.

The USA spends the most amount of money per student in the world. The students spend in the school about 1000 instructional hours per year, which is roughly the same as in the East Asian countries, and yet, compared to other developed countries the results are average at best. The teaching targets to good results in the national scholastic assessment tests (SATs), which only measure skills in mathematics and reading/writing English. There are hardly any mandatory classes for handicrafts, or cooking, maybe because schools might be sued if the poor kiddos sting themselves in the finger with a needle or burn their hand at the stove. The schools are funded by local taxes, which causes major diversion in the quality of the schools. Even on the elementary level, the best schools are for the rich, not to mention the colleges and universities, which can cause debts that take decades to pay back. The children are more free to choose their careers than in the East Asian education culture, but several aspects of people's lives are still defined by money, not people themselves.

Finnish students spend roughly 600-800 instructional hours at school (the least in the world), enjoy free education all the way until university (including free lunch until the end of high school), and beat all other western countries in the international tests. Some of the most important factors explaining the excellence are considered to be the quality and appreciation of the teachers and the uniformity of the schools. All the schools receive equal funding (by the number of students) from the state, and the curriculum/minimum requirements are defined by the ministry of education. Also, the final exams are not only about maths and reading/writing but for example high schools require the students to have examination in at least four subjects. The native language is the only mandatory one. Most children choose their careers themselves and receive guidance if needed.

Education is a reflection of the society. Good education systems only arise from well-working societies, and can make them even stronger. Election of a person like Trump was a result of deficits of the society, including education. Masses of people ate lies from the hand of a demagogue just because they didn't know better or weren't happy with the society they live in, and possibly made not only United States but the whole world pay a heavy price. Another president of the past said it well:

"Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education." – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Even though Finland excels in education, something similar happened in Finland a few years ago. A certain political party rose to power by very similar rhetorics to what was heard in the American presidential election. They're against the elite, against the (illegal) immigrants, and "on the side of the working class". After they won enough seats in the government, the refugee crisis emerged and they faced the state debt that needed to be cut. You know or can imagine what happened to their popular support. Globally they didn't do much damage but the same can't necessarily be said about Trump if the tea-party plans for science and education get through. The world is on the edge with the fight against the climate change, if not yet lost, and a creationist as an education minister could damage the following generations even more.

It would be naive to say that education solves all the problems a society can have. People are not wired to always choose the smartest way. Selfishness and greed will still cause pitfalls to any society. And even when education is improved, the benefits take time to show up. However, only good education is able to move society forward. It will prevent unnecessary fears. Understanding will bring freedom.

The primary goal of education should be to make people self-sustaining, responsible citizens. One of the biggest problems that many of the education systems have is the lack of understanding of the society in the mandatory part of the education, and over-concentration on technical details. What use is it to know the year of a peace treaty when you have no idea why was the war fought in the first place, or if it could have been avoided? What use is it to know all the names of the US presidents while at the same time you have no idea what the president of this day actually can or cannot do?

From my point of view, the greatest problem of the American society, and consequently the education system, is the power of money. Trump is an excellent example: just because he is rich, he can get away with a fraud, and the majority of the society accepts that. If the majority of the decision makers (the congress, house of representatives etc.) are also rich, they will not do anything to stop the cycle. And if the people do not understand the process, they will not stand up strong enough either. But as long as the power of money continues on the current level, the true freedom of the people will stay an illusion.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Times of hate, part 3

For the past week we have been reading the news about the increase of hate crimes in the USA (and in some other countries) and how the new president-elect continues making sure the White House will stay as white as possible after his (expected) inauguration.

Racism is once more a hot topic, and I'm glad it is. [Note: I'll use racism here as an example but the same applies to of all forms of acts of hatred.] However, I haven't seen the level of discussion going much deeper than that racism should not be tolerated. At it's worst, it is tweets about how every Trump voter is a racist or wants everyone else dead or deported. To me, they are not in an intellectual sense placed significantly higher than the statements of racists tweeting that every dark-skinned person should be dead or deported. This statement may cause some annoyance in some but please keep reading.

Any hate speech, and much less actions, should not be tolerated and should be called out. However, denouncing masses of people racist is not a solution to any problem. If you witness a racist action, even then calling out racism should be done rather diplomatically than aggressively to minimize further aggression. In most part truly derogatory comments emerge from arrogance or fear. I want to make the terms different because in terms of racism, only in the case of extreme hate or fear the racist actually wants to hurt the person in the other ethnic group. In the case of arrogance, the racist wants to feel superior because of a bad self-esteem or discontent to other issues. And yes, they need to realize it's wrong, but calling racist people racist will not bring all of them back to line.

All people are born arrogant and able to be afraid, but not all to commit acts of hate. Every person can hate. Every person has degraded others to feel more superior. Practically all children do that at some point; some more, some less. Depending on their parents, guardians, or teachers, the children are either raised out of it or not. At a later age also their friends or media will affect their feelings and ideologies. Especially children and the uneducated are easily intimidated by things they don't know about, which can lead to adapting harmful ideologies. It is the sad truth that once people adapt ideologies of hate, fear, or arrogance, it will be hard to snap them out of it. Many of the white ones of us are racist unknowingly. The most significant factor that can help a person to separate harmful ideologies from the good ones, and especially unnecessary fears, is education. For example Trump managed to feed the fears of people who didn't know better.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that economic equality correlates with how happy the citizens are and how much they trust each other. According to the OECD Better Life Index, the income gap between the highest and lowest earning 20 % of the population is 8-fold in the USA and 6-fold in the UK. Compared to the countries that are rated the happiest and the safest (such as the Nordic countries and Switzerland), the difference is approximately 4-fold, which is about as good as it can get. The worst case of the study was South Africa (19-fold), which is also known for racial clashes. The life satisfaction for these countries was rated 7.6 for Norway and Switzerland, 6.9 to the USA, 6.5 to the UK and 4.9 to South Africa. The feeling of safety correlates exactly as you'd expect.

This is why progressive tax system does not only keep the country economically more stable, but it also increases the safety and life-satisfaction rates (worth noting when choosing your political party/presidential candidate). If also education is tightly related to the economic status, as it is in the US and somewhat in the UK, this enhances the social inequality. Funding public schools in the US by local taxes is a cause of debate for a good reason: it feeds inequality, jealousy, and therefore hate. In addition, it's very likely one of the reasons why the US is not doing so well in the international education ratings.

What happened in this election in part was escalation of the social inequality. People knew that one of the candidates is a racist idiot, but voted for him because they wanted retaliation to the "elite". Of course he's elite as well, but the difference was that he was able to speak with the language of the working class. Everyone probably remembers Clinton's term "deplorable" (the word she used to generalize Trump voters). Despite the truth value, it gave "the deplorables" even more cause to hate her. Arrogance feeds hate, hate feeds arrogance, and both are weaknesses. And many people from the lower social class are just waiting to see any sign of weakness from the "elite". Unfortunately these voters mainly shot themselves in the foot by endorsing the candidate who promised to decrease the taxes benefiting mainly the rich, and thus increase the wealth gap.

In conclusion, there is more that you can do than post information about racism/hate/social inequality in the social media or support the different human rights organizations and movements. Concentrating efforts to the new generations could be more effective in the long run. So how about supporting uniform funding to all schools and affecting what will be taught in them? It is not the only solution. It will not bring equality to this world tomorrow or even next year. It will definitely not be as easy as tweeting. But in the long run it will benefit each and everyone of us, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or religion.

If you're bored and want more reading on the subject, here's an old (from ~1990) interview from the author of "Roots – The Saga of an American Family", Alex Haley.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

What is it like to be a bat?

Okay folks, it's time to grab the hottest news topic of the week by the pussy: Why did Donald Trump win the presidential election?

[Note: I've edited the post since publishing, especially the final paragraph as my thoughts on the matter have evolved after discussing the topic with multiple people.]

Well, technically he didn't win yet, Clinton won the popular vote by 0.1 %-units and the electoral college will not vote before December 19th. But it is statistically unlikely that DT would lose the electoral college vote, especially when most states require their electors to vote for the candidate that the state has voted for. So a better question would be why the result turned out the way it did and why are people acting the way they do now after the election?

I'm not claiming the analysis to cover all aspects of how people chose to vote. So please consider this as an analysis among others (see, for example, the blog post by Tobias Stone in the Huffington Post). In large part the analyses on this election apply also to Brexit or any other elections anywhere in the world. Also, I had a side in the election as well (even though I couldn't vote) so I don't claim to be completely objective. But I find it comforting to try to understand the views of both sides. What eats us the most from the inside is hate, and not even trying to understand the other side will keep feeding the hate. And whenever you hate someone, it's you that suffers the most.

To get to the point, to me it seems that many people see the opponents as ignorant idiots who wouldn't understand the other side's decision to vote the way they did even if they tried to explain it in a civilized way (see for example this post by a Trump supporter). The third party who didn't vote are judged lazy or indifferent or wasted their vote to a candidate who couldn't win no matter what. If you would combine the opinions of all people and added "a bit" of contrast, anyone who voted for Clinton would a blind elitist who doesn't understand the life of a common citizen (a clone army of Hillarys) and anyone who voted for Trump is a Trump-like bigot who supports racism, sexism etc. (a clone army of Donalds).

Evidently, even if someone actually saw the opposing candidate(s) this way, most people had their reasons for their vote apart from being racist or elitist and endorsing the candidate who shares these views. One thing that is true in the statements above is that very likely the people endorsing one candidate or the other could not understand the views of the other side.

American philosopher Thomas Nagel published an article "What is it like to be a bat?" in the journal The Philosophical Review in 1974. According to Nagel, no matter how hard a human being tried to imagine what it is like to fly, use sonar, and hang from a ceiling of a cave or a tree branch all day long, they couldn't truly understand what is it like to be a bat. This applies to people as well: No human being can truly understand the life of another human being if you haven't experienced the same environment and social status as they. How hard different people try to understand others is a different, but tightly related question.

For example, take an American citizen who by American definition lives under the poverty line. Every day you have to think if you will be able to buy food the next week or even for today. It's good if you have enough money for the rent to have a home, or medicines if you get sick. All your brain capacity goes to thinking how you will survive, not the problems of other people. That's how our brain is wired to work.

An extreme example? Compare it to the life of for example an African person to whom the poverty line in the USA would be a definition of a really rich person in their country. Hundreds of millions people don't have an opportunity to a regular source of electricity, often not even civil rights. You don't have to go further than the US colony Puerto Rico to have people ripped from their right to vote. But even Puerto Ricans have a fairly stable power grid despite the huge debt (in a big part caused by laws made in the States, not only corruption and economy deficits on the island) that can cause the whole island to go dark.

Another example from a middle-class background: An American citizen representing an ethnic minority of Asian, Hispanic, or African-American people. On a monthly or even weekly basis you have people looking you suspiciously and occasionally throwing racist comments at you. Or you're a woman of any ethnicity who gets sexually harassed as often just because you happened to be born as beautiful as you are, without even bringing it out explicitly. Or you're one of the LGBTQ community, or just a lot more chubbier than most other people. If you have never been bullied or harassed for something you have no power over, you do not truly understand what it feels like. It can become all you can think of. And then you end up finding more than 60 million people endorsing the person behaving like your tormenters.

If you're fundamentally religious and get your brain filled with preaching of religious leaders (what many people do for the sake of feeling to be part of a community or pressure from the family), it is obvious that you will likely choose your candidate based on your own knowledge and ethics, not what science or other communities say.

For the people who are privileged to be highly educated, or for other reasons view the USA as one (significant) part of the world, climate change and the capability to maintain diplomatic relationships to other countries are primary reasons to choose between the candidates. What is it like to be a bat requires ability of critical thinking, but critical thinking is something that for most of us comes through a good education. Not all uneducated people are ignorant of global issues because they are stupid or lazy, but because of the education system and societal reasons. But also not all those who are good at "being bats" should become them, or should it be an excuse for racism, sexism, islam- or homophobias.

Almost half of the American people didn't vote at all. For sure, some were just lazy, for some their right to vote was oppressed in one way or another, but my guess is that many non-voters think that their vote is as good as a lottery ticket as one in hundreds of millions, or that either one of the candidates wouldn't bring the change they want. You could blame them for not thinking "what is it like to be a bat" but your assumption would probably include that you're the bat. Should they have also thought what is it like to be a cat and then evaluated if the cat is more valuable than the bat? What about rats? The fact is that at least one of the groups is currently terrified for their life.

In some countries (like Brazil) voting is mandatory, although the fine for not voting is only some $2 or so. Making a right to a responsibility may be controversial to some, but could bring out the voices of more people, which is what democracy is all about. If you don't want to vote any of the candidates, you could still make a statement by leaving an empty voting sheet.

As the one last point of the analysis (I'm amazed if you made it all the way down here!), a common misconception in presidential elections is the understanding of what a president of the United States can or cannot actually do. Everyone has troubles, everyone wants change for better in their lives. But what the president (or a political party) will have power over, is often a utopia created by the campaigning. Demagogues like Trump are people who specifically excel at feeding those utopias. People believe what they want to believe. And how they think their problems will be solved is often oversimplified, the infamous Mexican wall as an example. Again, many people are lacking the ability of critical thinking, but then again, is it their fault that the education system sucks in that sense? You can't blame one single person for all the faults in a society.

In my opinion voting for Trump was short-sighted and showed the incapability of masses of people seeing through the lies of a conman and whatever bullshit goes around in the internet, and in that sense stupid. At the same time, I think that judging over 60 million people as racist, sexist and/or stupid, that is, putting them in one single category, because they endorsed the racist, sexist conman does not make the judging person any better than the people who voted for him.