A brief preface for context: I wrote this on November 14th, 2016, in the immediate wake of the election of Donald Trump, and published it on my Facebook feed where friends and MetaFilter folks would have a good chance to see it. Six weeks later, my feelings haven’t changed. But some of the things I forecasted — the abatement of rawness and immediacy, and the onset in its place of fatigue from accumulated stress and anger and sadness — are now understandably part of where many people are. It’s part of where I am.
And having this morning had a conversation about this piece and about the state of things right now and in the near future, I wanted to rehome this on my blog as part of my effort to use this space more often and more deliberately. And to mark the time a bit, as we find ourselves in this post-election, pre-inauguration limbo. I’d call it a lacuna but everything is still far too noisy for that; we’re in a busy and worrying wayfinding place between more concrete checkpoints. But wherever and whenever we are, we need to keep taking care of each other.
It’s been an overwhelming few days, and there’s a lot more hard ones coming. I don’t post much on FB but I feel like I should try and put something coherent up here about where I am and where we all are in the aftermath of Trump’s election, for folks I know who may not follow me on other platforms.
First and foremost: this is not normal. This situation isn’t normal. It’s a dangerous error to convince yourself otherwise, to believe that all the grief and anger and worry that has been visible on the news and in social media is just the usual post-election blues and folks unhappy their team didn’t win.
Elections are always fractious, someone always loses, yes. It’s tempting to say that’s all that’s going on here.
But this election wasn’t normal *long* before election day, and had the electoral vote margins broken narrowly for Clinton instead of narrowly for Trump we’d be in far better shape in the short term but we’d still have a problem.
Even if Trump had lost, we’d have still had a deeply unqualified man running for high office by trumpeting racist and xenophobic policies, by lying about and dismissing a well-documented history of sexism and misogyny and sexual assault, by in turns tolerating and outright embracing brazen anti-semites and racists like Steve Bannon and David Duke, by locking arms with one of the most aggressively and maliciously anti-LGBTQ politicians in the country in his VP pick of Mike Pence.
It’s a problem that that was a major party candidacy. It’s a bigger problem that it was a competitive one, that everything in that previous paragraph and the mountains of additional nastiness and bigotry and outright anti-American rhetoric of the Trump campaign didn’t render it a toothless, hopeless fringe platform. Even if Clinton had gotten the win, that is a horrifying portrait of the state of things in the US.
But Trump won, and that means we have to deal with not just the question of how in the long term to move the country in a healthy direction, but with how to start to fight immediately against it moving in scarier, more harmful directions under the direction of this incoming administration and its regressive docket.
This isn’t a normal situation. It wasn’t normal before the election, and Trump crossing that finish line resets nothing, excuses nothing, justifies no renewed sense of generosity or restoration of the benefit of the doubt. He campaigned on awfulness; that he won is a tragedy, not a vindication or a justification of that awfulness. It’s still awful. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s normal. Don’t try to tell yourself that.
But, and this is one of the hard parts: this is new right now, and the anger and the sadness and grief that so many people are feeling is still raw. But that will fade. You’ll get tired. Fatigue will set in. Life will need to go on. And so that rawness will fade away. It happens, it’s understandable. It’s even healthy and necessary to some degree. But don’t let that break down the sense that this is a problem, that this is not normal.
Take care of yourself and get back to work and keep your life moving along, but don’t let yourself believe that this is normal. Carry that with you, the understanding that we are living through an extraordinary situation and that it’s not okay, it’s not just something to get used to. Cope but don’t acclimate. Keep your chin up but keep your eyes open. And when you see other folks trying to normalize this, confront it. Push back. Don’t cede the point.
Be the voice that keeps insisting on the reality that this is not normal.
Be the voice that encourages others to speak up as well.
Be the voice that reassures every vulnerable person out there, every American facing this reality as something even starker and more personally dangerous to their person than it is for you, that you are here and you see it to and you refuse to let it go, that you refuse to let them suffer in silence and fear.
There is so much to say about this awful situation, and there are many other people who are saying it better than I can and have been saying it for longer. Read, listen, share. Try to do some good. Try to be there for others who need it. Try, and keep trying. Don’t let it become normal.