When Clio was diagnosed with cancer, my body felt it : Dread and fear that clutched my stomach and weighted my limbs and hampered my breath on the way up out of my lungs. Grief that forced tears up through the hollows of my face and cave of my throat and made my heart feel like something bloated and raw.
A narcissistic, possibly unhinged man winning a presidential election, a sense that our nation is divided and broken beyond repair, a feeling that everything I believe in and value has just been brushed aside — these are not nearly as personally traumatic as having my child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. No.
But my body is feeling it all in much the same way. Last Wednesday and Thursday were hell. Friday and Saturday, a little better. Same with Sunday. Worse again Monday and today, following the news that Trump will be appointing (alt-)right-wing media mogul Steve Bannon as his chief strategist. Meanwhile, the news that Trump and his team, um, didn’t realize they had to replace the entire West Wing administrative staff is less than reassuring.
I wake up in the morning feeling sick when I remembered what has happened. The implications, the potential repercussions feel almost too big to bear.
I suspect that any Trump supporters who are reading this won’t understand, or will think I’m being silly or a sore loser. Probably some of my Trump-loathing friends will find it strange, too. (What can I say? I’m a sensitive gal.)
But to me, and to millions of angry, heartbroken others, this is not just about our candidate not winning. Or about a (so-called) Republican winning. This is about something much more elemental and close to the bone.
This is about someone taking the highest office in the land, arguably the world, who embodies basically the opposite of everything I value and hold dear, or would want for our country. It’s not only the racist, xenophobic stuff Trump has spewed, or his attitudes and actions towared women that dismay me. It’s his bullying. His lack of thoughtfulness, self-awareness and intellect. His dishonesty. His unstable, possibly sociopathic personality. His lack of preparedness for the job. His hair. (Just kidding.)
I am scared of the impact Trump and his cronies could have — and already have had — on international events and our country’s standing in the world. I am afraid of the civil and reproductive rights that may get rolled back under his presidency. I’m afraid that environmental protections will backslide when what they need desperately to do is advance. And I am worried that our economy is going to suffer, and the divide between rich and poor will continue to grow. The fact that Trump campaigned on the idea of helping rebuild the middle class and root out corruption in Washington is all well and good — I’m all for it — but as far as I can tell the way he wants to go about it will be completely counterproductive.
I certainly don’t think that everything would have been sunshine and rainbows under Clinton (a flawed candidate, to be sure, as capable and qualified as she is.) There still would be — there always is — much, much work to be done, for job growth, for equality, for education, for poverty, for the environment.
I’ve always tried to aid these causes through where I put my dollars and my time; phone calls and letters to my reps; the personal choices I make in my day-to-day life. But now it’s time to step up and do more.
It’s inspiring to see so many people taking action and fighting back. I hope the momentum lasts.
It has to.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about when I’ve thought about the way forward for me — in a sort of disjointed and not-quite-fully-baked fashion.
You may not agree with these things. That’s cool; if you want to tell me, that’s cool, too. But please go easy. We all need to be gentle with each other.
— First and foremost: I think all of us, and especially white people (and especially especially Trump supporters) need to stand up for and help anyone who feels threatened or unsafe in the wake of Trump’s win, and his future presidency: Muslims, people of color, immigrants, gay and transgender people, people with disabilities, women and in particular women who have been victims of assault and harassment. We need to listen to what they’re feeling, what they want, and take action accordingly. We need to do our homework. People in these groups have suffered discrimination and hatred for years, but the need for all of us to come together and stand up for justice and call people out on discriminatory words and behaviors has never been more urgent.
— I am going to donate more money to organizations that fight for the things I believe in, and that I think will need extra support in the years ahead, including the The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, The Southern Povery Law Center and The Sierra Club.
— We need to keep after our representatives in government. Hold Trump’s feet to the fire. I’ve called my reps frequently over the years, but yesterday I put my senators and congressional rep on speed dial. It’s tempting to just tune out. But it’s not an option.
— I feel like it’s OK to be angry at Trump supporters right now. I certainly am. I really, really struggle to understand how people’s desire for change (which is understandable) outweighed Trump’s words and actions. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to understand or accept it. But if I write all Trump supporters off as irredeemably racist or sexist or hateful or ignorant or whatever else, and refuse to engage, listen, and try to create dialogue and progress, I’m being lazy. I’m not doing the much more difficult work of trying to affect change on a human to human level. I’m not letting love rule. (Sing it, Lenny.)
— This is not about giving a free pass to attitudes I may find unacceptable or ignorant. This is about acknowledging that people are complicated and flawed and, in many cases, in denial about their own blind spots. This is also about trying to understand and accept that there are hundreds of different realities being lived within this one country of ours. Right or wrong, different geographical and socioeconomic realities lead to different assumptions and conclusions. (Here’s an excellent piece on this that I appreciated reading.)
— The book I’m writing is largely about people trying to understand and bridge class differences. I feel like this more relevant than ever. Maybe, in some small way, even helpful.
— Anyone who says they have no prejudices, about class or race or gender or anything else, is full of shit. We all do. We’ve all got progress to make. When I think about how far I’ve come since when I was a kid, growing up in a white, Connecticut suburb, absorbing the prejudices of those around me, not being exposed to or getting to know people who were different from me, I know it’s possible for people to change and grow. I’m still growing. I’m trying, anyway.
— That said, I’m not particularly interested in trying to connect or reason with truly hateful and broken people: white supremacists, virulent anti-semites, misogynists, anti-gay crusaders, etc. There are plenty of stories of even those folks having a change of heart, but I’m going to leave that work to stronger souls than me. I think the best I can do — most people can do — is reach out to people who are receptive to growth, until sheer force of numbers crushes the extremists back into their hidey holes. (Unfortunately, though, the internet has given these people too loud a voice and poisonous a presence; I don’t really know how we get past that.)
— I’m feeling very anti-social media / internet right now. In the abstract, anyway. I’ve been spending plenty of time there of late (too much time, probably) because it’s comforting, and galvanizing in terms of how to take action. But the flip side is that social media keeps us siloed, in our own echo-chambers. Also: Fake news and rumors. All commentary, too little fact. It’s killing us. But I don’t know how to fight it.
— On the other hand, there is some room for actual exchange of ideas on Facebook and Twitter. But it’s urgent that we figure out ways to connect IN REAL LIFE with people who are not like us. Look them in the eyes. I’m not sure what the best way is to make this happen. Not everybody is open to this kind of thing.
— Maybe we need high school exchange programs that bring urban kids to rural areas and vice versa. Bible Belters stay with Northeast Liberals. Northeast Liberals stay with deep south African American families. Cats stay with dogs, dogs stay with cats, mass hysteria.
— Maybe I’ll drop a note off with one of my neighbors with Trump signs in their yard. See if they’d be up for a cup of coffee or a walk. It could go horribly. But maybe it won’t. And even if we don’t get anywhere, maybe at least I won’t feel a shudder of revulsion every time I go past their house. I don’t want to feel that for the next four, eight, twenty years. I don’t want to feel angry at half the country.
— But I’m not ready to do it this week. Not yet.
Please forgive the rambling. Still processing, still fumbling my way forward.
Love and hope to all of you.