At this point, the shock has worn off. We’ve crawled out from the rubble of our collective disbelief and disappointment and are regaining our equilibrium, uneasy as it may be. We’re slowly squaring with the ice cold reality that Donald Trump – a deranged, unqualified and dangerously erratic narcissist –is the president elect and, even more chilling, that millions of our fellow Americans wanted this. We all wish this were a horrible dream that we’ll eventually wake up from. But with each creepy cabinet appointment…each ridiculous Twitter rant…each Trump surrogate blathering nonsense, that hopeful fantasy is rapidly eroding. The why of it will be debated for decades. But in the more immediate sense, we are less than two months away from the inauguration, from ushering in what will the biggest clusterfuck in American history.
So now what?
I’ve seen a lot of despair flooding the feeds on Facebook and Twitter. Folks feel despondent and overwhelmed. Others are stricken with fear. Some is fear of the unknown. Will my family be deported? Will I lose my health insurance? Will they really give him access to the nuclear codes? Some of the fear is in real time response to the hate and bigotry that the Trump campaign has unleashed on the United States and the attendant uptick in hate crimes against people of color, women, sexual minorities and Muslims. And of course, many of us – I’d say several million – are pissed off.
I’ve heard a lot of chatter and questioning: What do we do? How can I cope? How do we stay safe? Fight back? Protect ourselves? The house is burning down. And the fire is spreading so fast and in so many directions, we don’t even know how to begin to put it out. We’re freaking out and for a few thousand very good reasons. I don’t profess to have all the answers but I do have some suggestions, many of which seem to be working for me.
- Start where you are. Rather than getting overwhelmed at the enormity of it all, start with what’s right in front of you. For many of us, this is our workplace. Look up the values statement of the organization or business that you work for. Read the employee handbook if there is one. Find out if your place of employment has a zero tolerance policy around discrimination or harassment against people of protected class. If there isn’t one, ask that one be created, implemented and enforced. Don’t be afraid to go to the top level leadership if you have to. It’s just a conversation. Frame it as an opportunity for your organization to take a stand and get ahead of situations that, given the current climate, are sure to come up. Ask also for the formation of an equity committee to stay on top of best practices in social justice and to help assure that your company or organization is always doing the right thing. Be forceful if necessary, but remain articulate. Leverage any company values that have been messaged to spur action.
- Economic boycott. This one is pretty simple. Refuse to pay for goods or services from business that support Trump and/or policies that are out of alignment with your value system. As the saying goes, “Hit ‘em where it hurts.” There are numerous lists of companies that have contributed to the Trump regime. Do a little web surfing. There’s even an app– “Boycott Trump”–that has a database of 250 companies that have supported Trump.
- Educate yourself. Read. Read a lot. But be discriminating. There’s a whole lot of crazy clickbait out there, generated from both sides. Don’t fall down that rabbit hole. Stick with credible sources. Even better, get off the Internet and pick up a book. Right now, I’m reading Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. I would describe it as an in-depth history of systemic racism. It will kick your ass. It will also make you smarter for the battle. That’s just one suggestion. Hit the library. Check out perspectives from the other side, such as Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild. If you can stomach it, listen to conservative talk radio. If we’re going to go the distance here, we’ll have to do our homework, right?
- Donate. Give money to organizations that are on the front lines, fighting for justice, equity and protection or that are serving people and causes that you care about. Of course, there are countless worthy recipients. I recently donated to the Human Rights Campaign, Seattle. A friend gave money to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The American Civil Liberties Union is another worthy entity. Even if you only have five bucks to give, it’s still a way to help.
- Self-care. We’re all carrying around a lot of stress and big emotions right now. When we’re overloaded, these can sink into or bodies and throw us out of whack. Self-care is crucial to our well-being. Stay on top of the basics; get enough sleep, eat healthily and stay hydrated, get to the gym. Refrain from quick-fixes that may feel good in the moment but that ultimately trash our bodies. My downfall, for example, is sugar. For others it may be booze. Don’t let Trump push you to that. Taking care of your spirit is also a key part of self-care. Slow down. Lighten up your to-do list. Hang out with people who make you happy.
- Protest. I believe there has been a protest almost weekly, if not daily, since Trump won the election. For a lot of people, protesting is a way to voice opposition and also strengthen solidarity with others who share our politics, values, concerns and ideals. Marching with your tribe is empowering and energizing. It’s also your right under the First Amendment. Rock it hard.
- Email or call your senators and representatives. Let them know your concerns, be they about climate change or queer rights or health care, and ask them to take appropriate action relative to the issue and situation. Our elected officials work for us. They’re also our only hope in applying the checks and balances that were designed to keep the coming dark madness in check. You can find them here.
- Square with your fear of death. OK, so I’m going to get a little big picture existential for a moment, but bear with me. Since election night, fear has smothered our individual and collective psyches. It’s oozed up from the deepest crevasses of gloom and wrapped itself around us, at times gripping so intensely that we find it hard to breathe or to think. As many of the greatest philosophies have shown us, fear of death is the fundamental root of all fear. When we dig in, unravel and follow the thread; when we drill down and really examine everything we’re afraid of; it ultimately lands at death. It is the mother of all fears. If each of us took just a few minutes a day to really acknowledge our own mortality; to compassionately and unflinchingly remind ourselves of that non-negotiable truth and then let the fuck go, Trump can’t touch us. Nothing he throws our way will scare us. Because we’re free, we’re exquisitely suited for the battle.
As a parting thought, I find it helpful for me to stay angry. It strengthens my determination and bolsters my belief that I can survive this, that we can survive this. Trump has ushered in a new era of ugliness in our country. But as many have said and will continue to say, this is not normal. We’ll never accept this as normal. And it’s time to flip the narrative. Maybe Trump and his bigoted followers need to be afraid of us. He may be in charge soon, but we don’t have to make this easy for him.
One bigot. One injustice. One day at a time.