On the evening of November 8, 2016, I’d planned to stay awake for as long as it took to watch what was widely predicted to be the first woman in history win the race for President of the United States. But it had been a long day. I’d been up since 5 a.m. to teach early-morning classes, and, later in the afternoon, had ridden my bike hard on the trails. So, despite my best efforts, I fell asleep early, glasses still on my face, phone on the bed beside me. I slept soundly, “the sleep of a child,” as they say, with no doubt about the outcome of the election.
A few hours later, my cranky Beagle growled at me for rolling into his space and woke me. I immediately grabbed my phone and saw it: “Donald Trump Elected 45th President of the United States.” Like many of my fellow citizens who had fallen asleep that night, my immediate reaction was - Wait, WHAT? How could that be? I was stunned.
As with the majority of people who did not vote for Trump, along with those who did not vote at all, I went about the next few days confused: How did this happen? What were the motivations of those who voted for Trump?
It seems to me that, while the majority of the voting public did not vote for candidate Trump, many of those who did were expressing their strong desire for changes. Some want to return to a time when life was “simpler," while others want a return of blue collar jobs that are lost to technology and globalization. Still others may have some hope of achieving a strike-it-rich-quick version of the “American dream” – a dream that candidate Trump peddled in his campaigning (and previously in his ghost-written books, failed for-profit university, TV reality show, and his now bankrupt casinos.)
As a natural-born citizen, white, middle class, and straight, I was concerned about the rhetoric used in the campaign and I could only begin to imagine the fears of my friends, students, and clients who could not check off those first four boxes: white, middle class, straight, and US-born. More than two months later, those concerns have multiplied. Each day, new headlines confirm the effects of the campaign rhetoric. In addition, the cabinet nominations of the new administration are concerning, as they include people who question well-established climate science, are open to dismantling public education as we know it, and are prepared to roll back health care coverage for millions of people.
Despite my own sense of deep concern, one of my main roles as a therapist is in helping individuals regenerate hope. I take this role seriously and know that I can pull myself up off the floor and get to work. I will encourage my clients to take good care of themselves—eat right, exercise, get enough sleep—and stay strong for the work ahead. We can create space for emotional healing through meditation and mindfulness, and through the activities that bring us joy. We can’t allow ourselves to sink into hopelessness and despair, because those emotions never conquered anything. And in addition to self-care, we can show our love to those around us, be a safe place that they can count on. We can profess personally and professionally that we will not tolerate discrimination or injustice.
But my code of ethics also call for me to be involved in social justice. So what can I do to help? What small things can I do with great love? What can WE do—those of us want to continue to move forward with a sense of personal power and hope?
Here are a few suggestions: On the political side of things, we can make calls and write letters to our Representatives. Instead of (in addition to?) grumbling on Facebook, we can contact those who carry our messages directly to the target. If you don’t know who your Representative is, you can find out here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find.
We can join groups that promote a progressive vision for our country or work for organizations that support human rights and equality. A great source for finding such opportunities is here: http://www.startguide.org. We can do our part to ensure that the Free Press keeps its freedom to publish the truth by subscribing to news sources that are coming under fire, such as The New York Times, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Washington Post, Mother Jones, and The Nation, and public broadcasting, the links to which can be found below:
For as Franklin D. Roosevelt said:
“In these days of difficulty,
we Americans everywhere
must and shall choose
the path of social justice…,
the path of faith,
the path of hope,
and the path of love
toward our fellow man.”