I woke up early, checking my phone for the results overnight, hoping that the sea of red in middle America had somehow dissolved into blue. It hadn’t. I was in shock, trying to figure out what had happened and how we got to this point. I wasn’t believing that my fellow Americans could be so angry, so narrow minded, so filled with hate and ignorance, so troubled that they could cast their vote for this megalomaniac. Then a text came in from a friend: BWAAHAAA. HAAHAA. BWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It was the morning after the election and this friend was goading me. I was confused and forlorn, awash with grief, and only on my second cup of coffee. I was thinking about the future, the next four years, the change of direction and ideology (what I considered a complete 180) and where that would leave us. I thought about the text message. I unfriended my friend, sat at the kitchen table and wept. The only thing I could think to do was to try to focus, stay in the present, so I watched a video and read a few articles on Mindfulness and Grief trying to figure out how to cope.
People were angry and they voted for someone not of the establishment. Personally I can’t figure out how they could have made the selection they did, how they could shrug off the braggadocio and fearmongering; the vile comments about immigrants, women, people with disabilities; the intimidation and threats; the childish taunts and Tweets; the censorship and the outright lies. I know that not all those who voted against my beliefs and my moral code are racist or misogynistic but rather they intentionally overlooked many aspects of their candidate because they felt strongly about only one or two issues that left them with no other option. Many others just wanted to go backwards in time.
The dust has been settling these intervening weeks. I don’t want to conjure up the image that the dust is like that from nuclear fallout, from an Armageddon or Holocaust, as I originally wanted to think it was. I’m visualizing more a volcanic eruption now, thick ash darkening the sky, blanketing the landscape. It’s dirty, it’s offensive, it’s choking. Something may go extinct.
Part of me wants to simply sit back and watch the train wreck I’m sure will come. Then I can smugly gloat. But I have done that already, throughout the months leading up to this election. Each morning I would scan the local paper and read the editorials and pundits on-line. I would read about the hate-filled rants at rallies, the early morning Twitter attacks on the press and anyone else bold enough to publicly criticize, and I’d watch the enthusiasm and adoration for this political burlesque grow. I’d snicker at the brazen lies I heard told (how can anyone seriously believe that drivel?), shudder at the bald-faced bigotry and hatred displayed by supporters (wait, isn’t this 2016?), and I couldn’t imagine that this vile clown could possibly be taken seriously. I’d shake my head, pour another cup of coffee and pick up my pencil for the daily Suduko.
After the election I’m reading about the uptick in overt bigotry across the nation. I’m seeing images of college students in black-face, of alt-right swastikas and Confederate flags proudly marking territory, boasting white nationalism, slapping their hatred and fear across our faces. I’m hearing of emboldened suburbanites telling people of color to go back to where they came from. It’s okay now, just look at the map.
No, it is not okay. My BwaaHaaaHaaa friend (I couldn’t stay unfriended long) tried to assure me that I will be only marginally impacted by this new regime because I live comfortably in the blue of New York State. But I’m not afraid for myself so much as I’m afraid for those who get bullied because they are different, because they are not male, or not white, or not straight, or not Christian. I’m one of those people that believe in the power and beauty of diversity. I believe that climate change is real. I believe that a woman should have the right to make one of the hardest and most personal choices she should ever have to make. I’m afraid that Sarah Palin will be in charge of all Federal Lands and, using her personal email account, hand them over to Big Oil with a wink and a nod (Frack Baby Frack, this land is your land).
Many of us woke up angry the morning after the election. I know I did. I could not think straight and I wandered throughout the day in a fog. I cannot think or act logically, or compassionately, when I am angry. No one can. The articles and the video on Mindfulness and Grief all supported the fact that I am not alone; we are not alone in our grief. The millions of us who awoke to shock and an overwhelming feeling of doom the day after the election can get our strength back and refocus. We can bond together stronger and with greater purpose. We must tend to our emotions, acknowledge our anger and face our fears. We need to ask ourselves why we’re angry, why we’re fearful. In principle we are taking a moral inventory of ourselves. By doing that we can begin to understand. We can find compassion, focus our own passion and begin to heal.
I understand this, but ofttimes have a difficult time practicing it. What do you do when the other person, the other aisle, the other half of the country doesn’t listen back? I’m still angry but I’ve calmed down. I’m willing to show civility. I’m willing to show respect but feel I am getting none in return. An anti-Semite is placed here, corporate nabobs are placed there (foxes guarding the henhouse), a tyrant and blowhard is suddenly our international voice of reason, nationalism cements isolation and a thousand-mile wall, and capitalism trumps the environment because that’s good business. The dust, this volcanic ash, is settling and some of it is quickly enriching the soil and cultivating a stronger, healthier opposition. The press, at least the press I read, is not pandering to the elected and his selected and the bad actors feeling vindicated.
I will not leave this country now that it needs me more than ever. I will not angrily march proclaiming that this President is hashtag Not My President. I may not agree with him or his politics, but he is a product of this democracy that we revere and encourage.
What can I do? I can face my fears through mindfulness. If I am angry I can be angry without being hateful. I can corral that anger and harness my passion and I can use my voice to take a stand, to write my legislators and those in power. (I will have pre-printed envelopes ready for Mr. Schumer, Ms. Gillibrand, Ms. Warren, and Mr. Sanders). I can stand up for my beliefs. I can encourage my friends and like-minded others to speak up as well, to act. I can stop being complacent. I can be my true blue self.