Photo: jeanbaptisteparis, CC BY-SA 2.0
As part of my complicated relationship with my gender, I’ve always hated my tendency to cry when I’m frustrated or despairing, because of the way tears are coded as “feminine” and “weak.” In my head, I can confront all obstacles with a stoic grace and witty comment. In reality, I usually shout something cutting before bursting into tears.
I’m not ashamed to say that I cried on Tuesday night. And Wednesday morning. And seeing as it is still Wednesday as I start writing this, I am pretty sure that I am going to cry a lot more before the week is out. Because I’m frustrated and despairing, possibly more than I’ve ever been in my life.
I feel as if Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, is going to join September 11th, 2001 in my mental rolodex of “times that I remember with perfect clarity because they signaled something terrible happening.” I’m not mincing words here. Electing Trump was a national disaster. As I have said before (and will say many, many more times before the next four years are up) Donald Trump is a racist, ableist sexist, Islamophobic, transphobic, homophobic, bigot. He’s a liar. He’s an adulterer. He’s a scammer. He’s an “alleged” sexual predator. He’s facing lawsuits this month. He said he could to grab random women “by the pussy” because he’s rich, that Mexicans are rapists (though some, he’s sure, are good people), that we should disallow Muslim
skittles refugees, and… and… he has really stupid hair and tiny, mini-sausage fingers.1 There is no universe in which he should be president and yet…. Here we are. And again, not mincing words: it isn’t going to be okay. It’s going to be survivable for many of us, but not all of us. Whether it is because he is repealing the Affordable Care Act and depriving people of much-needed healthcare, because he is emboldening neo-Nazis into attacking minorities, or because he’s starting a bombing campaign, people are going to die as a result of his presidency.
It’s viscerally satisfying to play the blame game. Maybe start with the media, who treated Trump’s candidacy like a joke long after it stopped being one, and who gave the man airtime hand over fist in a desperate ratings grab. Not to mention persisting with the ridiculous notion of an “equivalency” between Clinton’s scandals and Trump’s as part of their increasingly bizarre attempts to seem “impartial.” NBC in particular has some blood on their hands for their reluctance to give up their “golden goose” and then hoping that a few jokes by Alec Baldwin and Lin-Manuel Miranda would clear their conscience. Maybe the Republican party, who learned nothing from the rise of the Tea Party and assumed that Trump would wither away without party support. Maybe the Democratic party, which was plagued by scandals that did little to win people over to its side, and that persisted in inter-party name-calling long after it was time to cut our losses and move forward. Maybe third party voters, who have every right to be frustrated by our two-party system, but who only seem to harm the progressive party they are most like when the election rolls around. Maybe it was people like me, who waited too long to publicly endorse Hillary Clinton, who didn’t do enough to fight the “they’re equally bad” narrative, who spoke out against Trump but didn’t do the harder work of making phone calls and knocking on doors. It was definitely, absolutely, racists and sexists who reject the notion of a progressive country if it means that their own privilege is diminished. It was definitely, absolutely people who are leaning hard into the skid when it comes to fear and anger, and who don’t realize that their “outsider” candidate has deeper ties to big business, Wall Street, China, and Russia than Clinton could ever hope to have.
But however satisfying the blame game is, it’s all pointless hindsight for the most part. We are in the situation we are in. The only thing we can do is address some of the problems that happened in this election, and do our best to adjust to our current reality in a way that helps us preserve some dregs of the progress we’ve made. So here, in an attempt at order (but no promises) are the elements in my How to Survive in the Trumpocalypse Tip Guide.
1. Feel Your Feels
As I said before, this is not going to be ok. We have woken up to a country we don’t recognize. All projections were wrong. Trump’s joke of a presidential campaign ended up being a joke on us. We’re all feeling different parts of the stages of grief, and all of them are valid. At some point we’ll have to stand up and shake things off, but it doesn’t have to be today, or tomorrow. Work through what you need to work through, and ignore any of this faux-friendly bullshit about “rallying around Trump.” We owe that man nothing aside from the acknowledgement that the effed up electoral college declared him the winner.
2. Buckle Up/Perform Self-Care
I’m not gonna lie, darlings. It’s going to be a really long four years. And we have to be in it for the long haul. We can’t just be active and passionate right now, with the election fresh in our minds. We have to be active and passionate a year from now. Two years from now. Three years from now. We can’t get tired. We can’t get complacent. We can’t fade away. We have to hold steady for four fucking years. That’s going to be a lot, and I mean a lot, of mental, emotional, and physical energy. We need to pace ourselves. We have to be lanterns, not torches, burning steadily rather than fiercely. And that means we need to take care of ourselves. Please, please, please, perform self-care in whatever mode works best for you. Meditation, yoga, therapy, coloring, video games, hiking, manicures, fixing cars, reading…. Whatever lets you relax and detach, for just a bit. We’re going to need every single person in this fight, and we cannot afford burnout.
3. Form, or Embrace, your Communities
No one can do this alone. There’s too much anger, too much fear, and too much at stake. We’re all going to need communities if we’re going to survive. Multiple friends checked in on me over the last couple days to make sure I was as ok as possible under the circumstances. (Because I’m a wretch and because I was rocking bronchitis, I only paid that favor forward a few times.) With every connection, I felt a bit steadier. We were clasping hands across distances, checking in on and reaffirming one another. I know it hurts. It’s okay that it hurts. I’m scared, too. I’m here for you. I love you. What can we do? Take care of yourself. Ask me for anything you need. And that sense of community, the idea that we are in this together, is going to be vital over the next four years. We have to lend each other strength, support each other, and work together to preserve what rights we have clung to and to resist oppression. Speaking of…
4. Stand Up For/Work For the Rights of Everyone
We got into this mess because people (largely older white men and white women…. damnit white women…) couldn’t see past their own fears and their own desires to consider how they were affecting literally every other demographic in the country. So we have to do the opposite. We have to care about everyone we can care about. We have to stand up for women. We have to stand up for members of the LGBT community. We need to stand up for people with disabilities. We have to stand up for members of the Muslim community. We need to stand up for the poor. We need to stand up for people of color. We need to make this an intersectional, diverse coalition of people who are looking out for one another and fighting for one another. I don’t think I have to quote the poem (you know exactly which one I mean) but remember that letting it slide when other people are oppressed really just gives you a little breather before you get oppressed.
5. Volunteer and Donate
There are so, so many nonprofits doing vital work in this country today. Almost all of them are at risk under a Trump presidency. These nonprofits are going to need your help more than they ever have before. If Trump and the Republican Congress repeal the funding that supports these agencies, a lot of good people are going to be out of work, and a lot of good work is going to go undone. I know that it sucks to have organizations that rely on volunteer and intern labor but in this case… them’s the breaks. Volunteer for them, donate your time, donate your money, donate goods, donate services. Jezebel put together a list of organizations that do work that is particularly under threat in a Trump presidency, and that do really excellent work. Check it out, and do what you can. I know that if you’re reading this you’re probably in what I call the “privileged enough to be worried but not privileged enough to do much” category, and I promise, I understand. I’m there, too. But I know if we’re all willing to shave things a little closer, to sacrifice a little more in favor of the greater good, that we can have an amazing effect. And we will be the ones who are really making America great.
6. Make Your Politicians Accountable, and Hopefully Sane
For a group of people who supposedly want to “shake up” Washington, Trump supporters sure as fuck re-elected a lot of the incumbents that have been obstructing politics for the last few years. Republicans will control the Presidency, both the House and the Senate, and will probably finally conveniently remember that it is their civic duty to appoint Supreme Court Justices. There’s an unobstructed pipeline from crazy to reality. But I have to hope, in whatever small part of my soul still can, that some of the people we have elected to Congress are sane, and know that Trump is a giant orange tyrant, and don’t actually want to repeal the rights that everyone I love depend on. So you know what I’m doing, starting today and going hopefully every day? I’m e-mailing my Senators and my (*sigh*) new Congresswoman, Liz “I saw Wyoming out of a plane window once” Cheney. Sometimes it’ll be the same e-mail. Sometimes I’ll change it up. But every day it will be me reminding them that not everyone in their red state (seriously, they called us for Trump with 0% reporting. That’s just rude) is willing to put up with being considered a second class citizen. The ones best suited to oppose Trump right now are fellow Republicans, and while it’s going to be hard to make them do so (because who wants to diminish the crazy when it’s crazy in your favor?) we do have power. The power to annoy, if nothing else. And it doesn’t stop at writing letters. Call. Attend city council meetings. Attend school board meetings. Hell, think about running yourself for something. Write to your local newspaper about issues. Make sure your voice is heard, over and over and over again.
7. Work towards 2018
The next two years are gonna suck, and suck hard. But that doesn’t mean we’re giving up. We have a chance to do what the Republicans did in 2010, and Shut Shit Down. But again, that means starting to work now, and getting politically involved now. Join your local political party (or if you’re a third party person, start your local political party. Whatever.) Start seeking out and supporting candidates that have a shot at changing the balance in Congress. Find ways to pull our power back.
Stories are already swirling about Trump supporters who voted for Trump because they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but didn’t realize that their own pre-existing conditions wouldn’t be covered without said Act. (Sorry, I can’t find the link, and way too many Facebook stories have been posted for me to find it again.) On the one hand, this could be liberal schadenfreude, not to mention a comforting fiction—it’s actually comforting to think that the only people who would vote for Trump, who would inflict Trump on the rest of us, are uneducated yokels. The reality, that many of Trump’s supporters did quite well in school and lead successful lives but are willing to vote for a bigot, is much more frightening. But on the other hand, there has to be some sort of ignorance going on, Again, stories are already circulating about an uptick in racist crimes and behavior following Trump’s win. In a Brexit-like turn, America’s bigots have been emboldened. After all, if we’d accept this behavior from our president, why wouldn’t we accept this behavior from our average citizens? But all of these attackers, whether adult or child, learned this behavior from somewhere. Somewhere in their home or public lives, they were taught that this behavior is okay. That these attitudes are okay. It is up to all of us to change those lessons. This can be everything from actually confronting your racist great-uncle at Thanksgiving instead of asking someone to pass the potatoes and the spiked eggnog to working with organizations to provide schoolchildren with diversity curricula, to writing to your local paper on a regular basis. Or if you’re me, it means getting into “as-civil-as-I-can-be-while-wanting-to-scream” Facebook debates with Trump supporters. We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves and educate others, because ignorance is not helping anyone. And since Ben Carson is rumored to be one of the front-runners for Secretary of Education, our education system is going to need all the help that it can get.
We all have gifts. Mine (I hope) is writing. But some people draw, some people sing, some people act, some people design D&D campaigns. We all need an outlet to express ourselves, and we’ll need it even more in this environment. The opposite of Trump’s unthinking hatred is creativity, and God, do we have a lot of it. Express yourself, and find creative ways to fight Trump’s hate.
This is the message that we sent, as a nation, by electing Donald Trump: It’s okay to be racist. It’s okay to be sexist. It’s ok to assault women. It’s okay to hate people who are different from you. It’s okay to be violent towards people who are different from you. It’s okay to ignore science. It’s okay to ignore facts. It’s okay to ignore the environment. You don’t need experience, just charisma. We will look over your flaws as long as you tell us a comforting lie. It is better to have an evil, inexperienced man than an occasionally flawed, experienced woman for president. Hard work doesn’t matter. It’s okay to blame others for your problems. It’s okay to mock people with disabilities. It’s okay to solve problems with violence. It’s okay to deprive people of human rights.
Here is the message that we need to work together to send instead: None of this is ok. We should care about one another no matter our background. Education matters. Facts matter. People matter. We will try and we will fight and we will bleed in order to show that we can be better than this. We are sorry this happened, but this isn’t the end. This is a large step backwards on the path to progress, but it is only a step. We will get through this. We will not give up on decency and diversity. We will not let the last gasp of a privileged class ruin us.
Fear is the mind-killer. It’s obviously already destroyed some of us; don’t let it take all of us.
Note: Yes I realize those last two are not actual impediments but I’m angry right now okay?
Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not helping us all cope, she studies gender in popular culture.
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