On Wednesday of last week, the day after the election I went to the ladies’ room during a break at all day marketing conference. I had been crying off and on all morning, and I still had a pit in my stomach early in the afternoon. I did my business quickly, and as I put my hands under the auto faucet, warm water magically ran over my hands. Usually my hands are invisible to automatic faucets, but on the first try, it worked, and I smiled at the small triumph.
“That’s what I need to concentrate on now,” I thought to myself, “the simple joys in life. The ‘raindrops on roses’ and ‘whiskers on kittens’ of life. The ‘doorbells and sleigh bells’ and ‘schnitzel with noodles’ of life.” When we were little, the Sound of Music taught us that when we’re feeling sad, we could simply remember our favorite things. As adults, we are taught that a gratitude practice can make us happier. Focus on the good, you’ll feel better.
So that’s what I tried to do. I tried to concentrate on the simple pleasures in life: the smell of a freshly opened package of coffee, the “sky candy” of a beautiful sunset, the smell and crackles of a roaring fire in the fireplace, the taste of freshly baked bread, the bright colored leaves falling outside my kitchen window, and best of all– the feeling of finally taking off my surgical bra and throwing it in the garbage.
But it didn’t work.
And no matter how many people tell me that “it will be all right,” I am hard pressed to believe them. Because it may be all right, but indications are that it very well may not be.
Aaron Sorkin, who wrote an open letter to his wife and daughter the day after the election, explains in large part how I feel:
it wasn’t just Donald Trump who won last night—it was his supporters too. The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry young white men who think rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a threat to their way of life (or are the reason for their way of life) have been given cause to celebrate. Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads everywhere. Hate was given hope. Abject dumbness was glamorized as being “the fresh voice of an outsider” who’s going to “shake things up.”
I agree with every word, and no amount of raindrops on roses is going to fix it. I feel like I did in the days after 9/11. Or the days after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I only want to spend time with people who can comfort me—who are equally upset—who are gravely concerned about climate change, misogyny, and the normalization of white supremacy. Who are gravely concerned that it appears that the highest office of this country will be occupied by bombastic narcissist without any core values.
Recently, my brother and I discussed the fact that all of our lives, while we have been monetarily supportive of those causes we believed in, both of us have taken a very easy road. I have sat by idly while others protested against oppression. I did not miss work to hold a sign. I did not lift a finger to protect the rights of minorities. I let others fight the women’s lib movement. I did not write about politics, bigotry, or misogyny.
I am willing to take a breath and give President-elect Trump the chance to show he is not Donald Trump the nominee, that he does in fact have core values, and that he does value women, minorities, the state of the earth. But the recent announcement that Steve Bannon- a man with outwardly racist, misogynist and anti Semitic views will be his senior advisor doesn’t do much to ease my concerns. And neither does his appointment of one of the best known climate change skeptics (not a scientist, by the way) to lead the EPA transition team. I am not willing to let my guard down, or accept any of this as normal.
The day after the election, my 23 year old daughter woke up and wrote out the biggest check she could afford to Planned Parenthood. She knew exactly what to do. She, and other young people like her, have begun protesting, and standing up for what she believes.
But the burden cannot just be on the youth. Trump needs to know from us– young and old, that we are concerned, we are watching his every move, and that we will hold him accountable. This election should usher in a new age of activism, and I hope to be part of it, because I can no longer sit idly by.
When the dog bites, when the bee stings…we’ve got to act.
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