How Do I Cope After the Election?

The fallout from this election is causing personal emotions similar to those I felt when the family rallied to support a sexual predator and to turn me out. Any advice?

– Triggered

*

I have neighbors in my very rural, agricultural little neck of the woods, who work on farms and who are Hispanic. I’m not totally sure where they’re from. I’ve heard Guatemala, but not from any reliable source, and it’s not that relevant anyway.I’ve met one of the families. Mom doesn’t speak any English, but Dad does. They have a daughter my son’s age and a newborn son.

I have no idea what their status is, or what the status is of the other family on my street. I am worried that they may be undocumented. But I also don’t want to make any obnoxious assumptions. So I’m trying to figure out the best thing to do for/say to them. I want to see if they’re ok and let them know they have my support. But since there’s going to be a huge language barrier if I ever actually get the guts to talk to them, my chances of saying the exact wrong thing are multiplied. We live in a very Trumpy area. I just want them to know they have my family’s support.

So I guess my question is, what can I say that won’t make offensive assumptions (or, more accurately I suppose, belie my offensive suspicions) that will show them I am an ally?

– Wants to help

*

How do I explain these election results to my kids? I feel like the schoolyard bully has just been made principal.

– Worried Mom

*

How do I fix the world?

– Wondering

Dear Fellow Citizens,

For the majority of us who are not white supremacists eager to keep this country safe for the white man but absolutely no one else, this election has brought up a lot of old trauma.

Our country is rallying around a sexual predator, ‘Triggered.’ Of course this is going to remind you of that dynamic. And we DID elect (or, the electoral college system, engineered to protect slavery, is going to elect) a schoolyard bully to rule over us all.

His appointment of a white supremacist as his chief strategist as well as the rest of his horrifying cabinet of bullies, haters, hypocrites, fascists and liars quite rightly fills all of us with fear, as do many of his stated goals: which quite correctly put your neighbors in danger from him, ‘Wants to help,’ regardless of their status as documented or undocumented.

I’m sorry to state all of this so baldly, but I want to first tell you all that your worries and your trauma, your anxieties and your fears, are extremely well-founded. Let’s not all add the sneaking suspicion that your right-wing coworker is right when he says we’re all paranoid about what is likely to come.

We are right. A bully has won, and will continue to bully us. What we are facing is extremely distressing. For many of us it’s also completely shocking that nearly half of the voting populace didn’t find abject misogyny, repellent racism, horrifying xenophobia, and a complete disregard for the constitution a dealbreaker in voting for this man.

It is easy to feel that we are surrounded by bullies and monsters.

But we are not.

And the way we fix the world, ‘Wondering,’ and the way we help, ‘Wants to help,’ and the way we explain this inexplicable thing to our kids, ‘Worried Mom,’ and the way we handle the trauma, ‘Triggered,’ is all the same: honor yourself for who you are and what you need, and reach out.

Triggered, take some time to think about and discuss these parallels with a competent therapist (my therapist has been talking All Trump All The Time, she says), or find a support group for survivors of sexual assault to share stories and solidarity. After you have taken care of your own re-traumatization, perhaps you can move on to other things. Anyone else reading this, this goes for you, too: take the time you need to do what you need to do before you do anything else. Drink a little too much, or zonk out in front of the TV, or curl up into a ball under the covers and call in sick, or cry, or hug someone you love, or pet a dog, or have some hot tea. Spend some time taking care of yourself and do not feel bad about doing so. Do it. It matters. As Audre Lorde says: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” She spoke for herself as a black woman, but this applies to the rest of us Trump would have die or go away or simply be subjugated: Queers. Immigrants. Any People of Color. Women of all races. Trans people. Muslims. Jews. Care for yourself. Stick it to the man and take a long shower and take a deep breath and take some time and hug your kids.

At some point, though, it’s an act of will to get up and stretch and take a deep breath and ask your neighbor or coworker if they are doing okay. To do the dishes and go for a walk and make a donation to Planned Parenthood or the Anti-Defamation League or the Arab American Institute or your local Black Lives Matter branch or the ACLU or the Southern Poverty Law Center, Standing Rock Legal Defense Fund, or the Trans Lifeline.

If you have money, that is one way to help fix the world, ‘Wondering.’ If you have neighbors you know might feel targeted by others in your community, ‘Wanting to Help,’ reach out. Bring them some cookies and a smile. Whether they are documented or not means nothing to Trump and his supporters — tell them you are glad they are your neighbors and that you are always happy to see them.

But it’s always the same: reach out. Smile at someone who looks unhappy or alone on the bus. Step in when you see someone bullying someone else, no matter what the reason. Find people like you in support groups and political causes and advocacy groups and create solidarity for yourself to help yourself feel less alone and to help further your rights and acceptance in the community. Reach out to your elected officials and let them know how you feel about these things. (Phone calls are the best way to get counted.) Create art that Trump would hate, or support it. Dance. Enjoy life. Refuse to be cowed into stillness and silence.

And, Worried Mom, you tell your kids that sometimes the bullies win. Sometimes they hurt people. But that we will get together and we will get them out of there in four years. And then take steps to do it, show them what you are doing, and let them join you.

There are so many ways to fight the good fight, in our own hearts and homes and out in the greater world. This is a scary time, my friends. It is scary as fuck. But with each connection forged, I think you will feel less and less frightened, more and more powerful, and far more joyful — even in the face of bullies and assholes and clowns.

Take time for yourself. Fight. Connect. Be real. You are not alone.

This letter originally ran in bitterempire.com on November 17, 2016.

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