Jane Roper

Writer. Blogger. Hater of Olives.

Grieving, committing, hoping

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.

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22 Comments

  1. Jane, this is a brilliant and heartfelt piece and I would like to share it. You have captured and voiced the pain, disappointment and terror that non-trump supporters are feeling right now! Well done my daughter!

  2. I’m impressed you were able to write something so soon. I didn’t trust myself to blog about the election right afterward, and I’m still processing. Thanks for adding your fine thoughts to my collection of things to ponder.

  3. Well said Jane. You really captured what I think, a lot of people are thinking, but haven’t said yet. I’m happy to rise and make phone calls to our senators and representatives, and will stand as an activist with you, for causes we believe in.. Great job.

  4. You are amazing speak the truth and from the heart! I feel numb like this is not true , trump was elected
    As a country we have a lot of work to do together , peaceful and progressive

  5. This was beautifully written. It spoke to what I’m and so many others are feeling right now, and I’m thankful that you were able to put it into words. I’ll keep fumbling my way forward along side you!

  6. Thank you Jane. I have to say—when I saw this post I was first worried something had happened to Clio. My heart started racing, and I had the biggest sigh of relief when I realized “Oh, it was Trump!” Not that I don’t think what has happened is horrifying. I do. But it is not Clio.

    Thank you for giving a list of action items, and putting it in perspective. For people who are still struggling, I will tell you why. Trump is an abusive person. He is surrounding himself with abusive people. He now has additional power than he had, which means he can be more abusive. And what are people saying about this? They are saying the classic lines that people say to abuse victims “It’s not that bad.” “Just relax.” “I don’t believe you.” “But she was asking for it (she was flawed).” And Trump is giving just enough concessions in just the same way an abuser would: “Look honey, it’s OK. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Heck, I’ll make it up for you. I’ll give you Obamacare back.” There’s no wonder we’re all feeling the strain. America has just entered into an abusive relationship with it’s leader.

    But in spite of all that, I learned a new phrase yesterday and I am hanging onto it. “Radical hope” —we all know hope, but what makes it radical is that it is “directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.”

    And I think posts like yours can help bring us there.

    So fight for the things you can fight for. Take the actions you need to take. Protect yourself. Connect. Keep writing (thank you and thank you again!) And above all—love your children and your family and friends and colleagues as much as you always have done so. And please give Clio a hug for me.

    • Wow, great point — an extremely apt (if terribly sad) analogy. It totally *does* feel like we’re suddenly trapped in a relationship – at least for a little while — with an abuser.

      Here’s to radical hope.

  7. Thanks, Jane, for a thoughtful, balanced and honest piece of writing. I, too, am continuing to process though I have promised myself that I will never normalize the dysfunctional behavior Mr. T. has demonstrated.

    My husband and I co-founded a nonprofit (The Dignity Institute) nearly three years ago because we wanted to empower underserved youth and families. With the direction of the new administration getting clearer–and more destructive–we are even more committed to helping.

    How can I encourage a child to “dream big” if they feel even less safe than prior to the election?

    In addition to making financial gifts, which is crucial to orgs like ours, all of us are always looking for volunteers. Thanks for spreading the word.

    PS I actually learned about you via your husband’s music. I hope your family is continuing to thrive. You are one courageous mom (and dad).

  8. Jane – thank you, your words are magic!

  9. Thanks Jane for sharing

  10. Yes. All of this. Thank you for putting into words how I’ve been feeling in a much more gracious way than I ever could have.

  11. Hi! I donated to your music one time as a whim to support music for kids, so I haven’t heard a concert or anything and can assume I am very separated from the life where you live. I live in Bible-totin Nashville TN, and am a Trump voter. I really think what you wrote was very calming and I appreciated it. I do think it is time to surround those that feel very scared at this time, Muslims, refugees & others and I pray I find ways to do that. I’m dreaming about reaching out to Muslim woman at night literally!

    I just wanted to give the perspective of the friends I have here in the south. I am white, go to a mostly white church, but almost all the black friends I have (and I have many) and all the Hispanic friends I have who are all heavily involved in the community with the arts and music community didn’t seem scared of Trump, and most likely voted for him. It just didn’t come up in our relationships. And several of them have devoted their lives to carry food to the inner city every other week. So there is love transpiring, and I just wanted to report on it. I wish you all the best!!!! Keep up the connections between us all in love. And I am truly sorry for your pain. Thank you for your kind words!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and perspective, Melissa! I love hearing about the generosity and love and commitment — yours and that of those around you. Regardless of who is in the White House, that’s what really matters. I’d love to hear more about what motivated you to vote for Trump, if you feel like corresponding privately, or chatting on the phone sometime, but I also understand if that would feel strange. In any case, you can reach me at jane@janeroper.com All the best to you and yours.

  12. Real, respectful, generous, honest. Just beautifully expressed. Thank you!

  13. Thanks for your words and perspective on things. This has changed our lives and made a lot of us fear for our futures. I am becoming …who am I kidding… I am now an older American and am seeing these names moving around in the Trump world who won’t care if I am taken care of as an equal human being, medically or in any way. I watched when news of Clio came onto FB carefully, and she is still in my thoughts. It is going to be a process for all of us who see what we see going on in this country.
    Hope Alastair, you and the girls are doing great!

  14. I loathe Trump and everything he stands for. I was stunned that he has received support of people at every stage of his campaign. I am incredulous that anyone would want what he represents. I was disillusioned by the election results and am still reeling with disappointment. What you’ve written is a reasoned approach to accepting the horrible reality of a Trump presidency. Thank you, Jane Roper. Give Clio a hug for us.

  15. Jane, thank you so much. You’ve helped me see a way to step back from what I imagine as an approaching tsunami of fear and despair. You have reminded me that my action to call out and stand up for those who may be targets in the coming months can weaken and even stop the wave. Radical hope!

  16. Oh, Jane. Right there with you. So far, I’ve not gone spelunking for my black armbands from the Viet Nam War, but it’s a near thing some days. More than anything else, I worry about the non-action around the lies and illegalities… immoralities anyway… no blind trust, conflicts of interest hell, west and crooked, the kids advertising their wares for free in the slipstream of the President-elect’s publicity. Nothing we wouldn’t expect, but we’d surely hope for better.

  17. Jane, I was passed your blog from my sister. I found your thoughts and perspective spot on. I think you covered all the bases, except concerns on gun control, health care and climate change. I can see that as another chapter. I am constantly, being told by friends that are Trump supporters that the President-elect will come around and be more pragmatic. However, as I see his cabinet forming and potential supreme court choices materializing, I question his ability to become more of a moderate and act Presidential. It seems he is surrounding himself with like minded people based on his rhetoric during the campaign. I hope, he comes to the realization that he needs to represent all Americans not just those that reflect his values. I will stand with the rights to practice all religions, or be an atheist as one chooses, support women’s reproductive rights, ensure diversity is not a weakness but a strength, embrace all races and ethnicities, as well as life choices such as the LGBT community. This is America and we should be leaders of freedom where government ensures the rights of the people are protected.

  18. Very well said. Between the wildfires down here and Trump being elected, it’s been feeling a bit like the end times lately. I’m online a lot too, probably in some of the same places you are, and struggling with where I really need to put my energy. I am committed to trying to understand Trump supporters (who surround and outnumber HRC supporters here by far) and to be honest getting them to understand me. In addition to continuing my Facebook dialogues with my Trump supporting friends, I’ve joined an online group of HRC supporters who come from different backgrounds and have opposing viewpoints on lots of issues. We are going to have dialogues and practice listening and discussing hard topics with each other. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and putting into words what I believe a lot of us have been thinking and feeling.

  19. Hi Jane,

    I am with you on this one. I hate to compare it to grief; when there are so many people mourning the loss of a loved one that seems insensitive, so I’ve more been comparing it to a breakup. Sure, there are happy times and times that I can forget about what’s happening, but there is always this looming sense of doom.

    When catching up with people I don’t talk to every day, I am almost flabbergasted by people’s audacity to ask something like “how are you!?”…I must stare at them like they have 3 heads, and almost always have to preclude my answer with “well, besides the fact that everything is falling to pieces, my personal life is great.” Was thinking about this today, and my mind returned to this post that I read a few months back.

    Besides the fact that everything is falling to pieces, I hope all is well with the Moock family.

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