Mourn, Then Get Mad, Then Get Busy
One of the ways to combat anxiety, I find, is to do things. To be productive, to engage in routine, to be proactive. And, right now, I expect a number of us are feeling very anxious about this election — I want to be hopeful that President Troll is just trolling all the people who voted for him, but looking at his proposed cabinet and staff, maybe not so much. We mourned the loss, we feel the anger, we’ve got anxiety pouring out of us like a cascade of fire ants, and so for me, at least, it’s helpful to think about what we do next. How do we proceed? What actions can we take to improve this, ourselves, our people?
This is a list, below, designed to help with exactly that.
It is a wildly, woefully incomplete list and so I politely ask that you add to it.
Use the comments. Be polite.
Shitbirds will be drowned in a washtub, their carcasses neatly disposed of in the salt oubliette.
1. Talk to people. Nothing wrong with just talking to people. Vent your frustrations. Grieve together. Talk about stuff that has nothing to do with any of this. It feels cleansing to talk and there is huge value in not feeling alone. Though what we’re dealing with is far from normal, we still want to feel normal, and communication is normal.
2. Help somebody. We feel helped when we help others. Again, help people talk through this. Be there for them in whatever way they need to be. Listen. Express compassion. Right now, every marginalized person and under-served individual is afraid. They saw a vote pass that very cleanly expressed what they are up against. Some kids are afraid of being deported. Some people are afraid their sexuality once again puts them off the roster of human rights. Women are now seeing a president who treats them like sexual objects to be used, discarded, judged, and dismantled. Children see a president whose actions embody the opposite of what they’re taught to be. They need your help. They need your ear.
3. Give money and/or time to vital organizations likely to be harmed or who will be fighting this fight. Planned Parenthod needs your help. The ACLU has promised to fight, and will use your money to do so. Actually, fuck it, here’s a good list to get you started. That list includes but is not limited to: the NAACP, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, RAINN, etc. You can also volunteer on behalf of these organizations.
4. Give money to political candidates. The 2018 race is going to be an essential one to countermand the new administration’s depredations. Right now, they’ve got the run of the table and balance is needed, and that means, it’s time to put money into those Democratic candidates who will be defending their seats and who maybe be running then. (Obviously, we’re not oracles, so I don’t know who will be running, but it’s something to keep an eye on.)
5. Contact your legislators. No matter their political affiliation, it is vital you engage with them and contact your representatives and ask they fight for the things you consider vital. Do not do this once, but regularly. Keep that pressure up. Ask them to fight for the things most Americans want fixed or supported: climate change, gun control, and so forth.
6. Escape. Escape means whatever it means. Maybe it means watching Netflix for a couple days straight. Maybe it means, go take a short trip. Maybe it means moving. I know there is is a real sense here that moving away is tantamount to cowardice, but fuck that — you do what you gotta do. The world is greater than just America — it always has been, it always will be. This sudden political and social shift is an existential threat for some people. Overnight this became a world where some of the worst of us are emboldened to racist or sexist violence, just as it was with Brexit. This is happening and it’s okay to get away. (Note, too, I understand that this level of escape is only available to those of privilege. Most people can’t just fuck off at the snap of their fingers. But some can, and will, and again, you do what you gotta.) Point is, practice self-care however you must, in whatever way feels good and right to do so.
7. Protest. Protests have been epic. They send a message. Alone they don’t do much, but combined with more dedicated and direction action, they create momentum for causes. Dissent is vital, and public displays of that dissent send a message to the world that we are not, as a country, who we just elected.
8. Stop reading and sharing fake news. Everybody is good at building the echo chamber. That’s not unique to progressives. But we do need to start cleaning our own house of blind, bad news sites — USUncut and their ilk who spread fakey headlines without actual news to support them. If we are going to do this thing, we need to do it with clear eyes, and not be deluded. Time to stop huffing our own vapors.
9. Stop eating our own. Progressives, when comfortable, often go after other progressives for not passing the liberal purity tests. We do this with a positive goal of whetting ourselves to a sharper, more elegant point — but sometimes it also serves as letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and the results of this election are a pretty good example of how that looks and what can result from it. That’s not to say we cannot improve one another, can’t help to still sharpen those viewpoints and help each other be better — but you don’t go stomping after mice when there’s a bear trying to break down your door. Stop the bear, get the mice later. The mice are not an existential threat. Unless they have hantavirus, I guess. This metaphor is way out of hand, so let’s just eject from it now.
10. Engage with loved ones. You got family, so engage with them. Be close to loved ones. And by loved ones, I mean the family you choose, not necessarily the family to which you were born. Some of you have cut off family members, and again, you gotta do what you gotta do if they’re poisonous to you or your kids. Life is messy and we have to endure viewpoints not our own, but if there’s a real problem or real damage, pick a different family and hold them close.
11. Make art. Some folks suggested to me that there’s more important shit going on, and that art is, I dunno, some glib luxury, but it’s not. Art can be protest. Stories change the world. Music, theater, visual art, novels, poetry, it can all be subversive, it can all add value. And it has personal value. It can be therapeutic. It can be a way to express your ideas. Make art. Art harder. Art the hardest you ever done arted, motherfuckers.
12. Learn self-defense. I’m not being over-dramatic when I say that attacks against marginalized people are likely to increase, as they did in the wake of Brexit. Even if you believe that every Trump voter is not racist, sexist, whatever — it is the reality that some very bad people feel very empowered by this election, and they are likely to take it out on people. Maybe you, or people you love. Learning self-defense is not a bad idea. That’s in no way saying that if you don’t learn it, you are somehow responsible for what happens to you — the only ones responsible are those who try to hurt you. You are not responsible for harm or hate brought against you. If you can learn how to defend yourself, then do.
13. Learn self-sustainability. I’m not saying it’s time to go full-bore doomsday prepper, but learning how to take care of yourself has value — both therapeutically and practically speaking. Nothing wrong with learning how to grow a garden, or sew clothes, or pickle vegetables. You don’t have to learn how to gut and clean a deer. But also, hey, it’s a skill. I don’t think we’re going to see America turn into The Road or anything, but with climate change likely off the table as an issue we’re going to address in the near-future, hey, it’s not a bad idea to figure out a handful of survival skills, even minor ones. Start composting. Start recycling. Create less waste. It’s good for the soul, good for the society, and should the shit actually hit the fan, nnyeeaaah maybe it’s not the worst idea to be a little tiny bit prepared.
14. Vote with your dollar. In every hellish cyberpunk future, MEGACORPZ RULE THE WORLD. That’s extreme, but it’s fair to say now that companies are able to exert political pressure in ways that you do not. That’s unfortunate and gross but it does mean that you can direct your spending in responsible ways. This isn’t always easy to suss out, but spending your money ethically has value. This can be tricky, because often ethical companies are more expensive. The value is there, though, and can pay you back in larger ways if they exert political pressure. Or, even without political pressure, supporting green energy companies is better than buying into those who create more waste and pollution. You can also exert pressure on companies to do better without money — social media campaigns, protests, so forth.
16. Help improve social media. Not only do we need to report fake news, but we also need to hold our social media accountable for the harassment that goes on there. It will only get worse from here. Twitter needs to handle its shit, or it needs to shut down. True too of any social media. And in general, social media can be a wonderful place, it can be endearing and it can connect us. But also don’t be afraid to escape from it from time to time, for a short while, for a long while, for the next four years.
17. Help improve old-fashioned media, too (and subscribe to an actual newspaper). The TV news media did us no favors, here. They normalized the abnormal candidate and criminalized the upstanding candidate. We criticize “the media” for not having been more on point here, but the newspaper industry was way the fuck on point. Put some dollars toward a newspaper. Old-fashioned, I know, but we need real journalism, not entertainment masked as news.
18. Hold onto hope and love. Hard to do, and not really a meaningful action item, but we’ve done more with a lot less, and even 20 years ago, the mainstream values we hold dear now were considered radical and extreme. We lost ground with this election, but you’re still here, the sun is still up, the sky is still blue, and you’re drawing breath. The game of inches continues. Love will save us if we let it.
19. Eat some ice cream. No, it won’t change the world, but it tastes good, and sometimes we need a taste of something good. And if you can’t eat ice cream, just find something that tastes good figuratively or literally and enjoy it. Savor it.
20. Vote. Vote in 2018. Vote in 2020. Remember what’s happening now, remember what happened the other night, watch what happens, and hold it close. Let that fire burn. If you’re one of the people who didn’t vote because you thought these candidates were equal, this is on you, in part. But come back in 2018 and 2020 to fix what you helped to break.