I’m not sure if this a recent photo; the fashions seem to be from the early 1970s. But I like the photo and it still fits the spirit of this post, so I’m using it anyway.
It’s hard, I know. The bad news just keeps coming faster than we can process. Some days I just want to forget it all, give up, and shut out a world that seems to get meaner and more chaotic by the day. Some days I feel so drained and hopeless I just want to crawl into bed and sleep until things change back to normal (if they ever do).
But we can’t give up. Sliding into despair, cynicism, hopelessness, and apathy is not an option for us, because it’s exactly what our opposition wants. It will give them even more power over us than they already have.
We are a nation at war: it’s not a war fought with weapons (although they have been used in isolated incidents); it’s a “cold” war between those who want authoritarian rule and complete destruction of American democracy as we always knew it, and those who believe in decency and truth and progressive, democratic values. It’s not even a war between left and right, or between Republicans and Democrats. It’s literally a war between good and evil, truth and lies.
America is having an identity crisis. We are so polarized now there seems no way we can find common ground, the way we have been able to do before. For example, when 9/11 happened, Americans stood together as one nation. It didn’t matter if we were liberal or conservative, rich or poor, or black or white. We recognized that we were all Americans and helped each other through a terrible time and the trauma that followed the attacks.
But this time, the enemy is not coming from the outside (in spite of what some people believe and will tell you). No, the enemy is inside our borders, and many Americans no longer seem capable of recognizing that groups of people that are not like them are their fellow Americans, not enemies. The war they wage is against Truth, and the empathy and compassion for others that is only possible when the truth is upheld and valued, especially by our leaders. When the truth itself is said to be a lie, there can be no justice, no goodness, no love, and no compassion. There can only be chaos, trauma, injustice, divisiveness, dehumanization, hatred, and death.
All this sounds very dire, and it is. But at the same time our leaders appear to be dismantling our democratic institutions and making a mockery of truth and justice, people are waking up. The political apathy that was a hallmark of this nation for so long (and was a factor in helping to elect a malignant narcissist for president) is disappearing, and it’s disappearing fast.
Of course, on the far right, there are people who want to wage war against anyone who feels traumatized by or dislikes this president or the things he and his sycophants and lackeys are doing. But at the same time, there are many, many more people who are finally speaking out, fighting back — and voting! The blue sweep across several states a couple of weeks ago proves that most of us know that sitting home is no longer an option. More proof that the tides are turning is all the women suddenly speaking out against their sexual abusers, even after decades of remaining silent. Think of America as a teenager, who is experiencing the turmoil and changes of adolescence. If we do things right and keep fighting the good fight, America will pass this turbulent phase and move into peaceful adulthood.
We can’t give up now, however tempting it might be. But it’s possible to resist without driving yourself insane. Here are 12 ways to do that.
1. Take breaks.
If you spend 24/7 ruminating about the political situation, reading upsetting news, begging your representatives to save your healthcare (or any number of other things that are in danger under this regime), or ranting on social media, you are going to get burned out. This is heavy, serious stuff, and you need to replenish your energy and give yourself time to emotionally decompress. You may need to stay off the Internet or turn off the news channels for a day or two. Because the reality-show nature of the news can be so addicting though, it’s not as easy as it sounds. But it’s necessary for your mental health and stamina. Take walks, exercise, cook a scrumptious meal, paint, read a novel (not a political book), listen to music, watch a movie, GO to a movie, spend time with a friend or loved one.
This can be a way to both take a break from all the chaos and still be doing something about it at the same time. Volunteer at an animal shelter, a food pantry, a botanical garden, a nursing home, or a homeless shelter. Run errands for the disabled or spend time with lonely veterans. Join the campaign of a local political candidate you really like. Tutor kids in math or English, or if you are bilingual, teach English as a Second Language. If you’re religious, volunteer at your place of worship or give Bible lessons. Spend time getting to know vulnerable people and learn their stories. You may not feel like volunteering is making a big difference, but it’s really making a huge difference, and you might even make some new friends.
3. Realize we are watching history unfold.
It might not feel very comforting (a famous Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times“), but we are at a point of history that will be written about in books and taught to students hundreds or even a thousand years from now. There will be villains and heroes who will be vilified or exalted by history for years to come. It’s entirely possible that the Resistance might be as well remembered by history as the American or French Revolution. No positive change in any society has ever come about through passive contentment, boredom, and complacency. There’s always been bloodshed, struggle, conflict, and often war. These are the labor pains of history, and we are going through them right now. They are a necessary part of history unfolding.
4. Tyrants always fall.
History has shown that tyrants and dictators such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and many others always fall into disgrace or die at some point during their reigns. Without exception, these men have been power addicted sociopathic narcissists whose own malignant narcissism leads to their own downfall. They are essentially self destructive. It’s true that thousands or even millions may suffer and die under their tyrannic rule, but such a regime is by nature unsustainable, and won’t last forever. Right now, Trump is desperately trying to hold onto the presidency in the face of growing resistance, which now includes members of his own party. His approval ratings sink lower and lower. He seems (and is) more dangerous because he’s so desperate. When narcissists feel threatened, they are prone to impulsive decisions and violence. While yes, he is very dangerous right now, and more likely than ever to something terrible to maintain his power, remember that the irony here is that it’s because he feels like he’s losing his grip on power (and in fact, he is). If we can keep him from doing anything drastic, we win. No matter what happens, this time in history is only temporary. Things won’t always be like this.
5. Make new friends.
If you protest online (like I do), attend actual protests, are involved in environmental or other activist groups, attend Town Hall or Indivisible group meetings, you are going to meet a great many people who feel the same way you do about the political situation. Chances are, you are going to find you have other things in common with the people you meet as well. People with similar political views tend to have similar interests too. Talk to people, and find out more about them. Ask them what books, movies, or music they like. Arrange to do things with them outside a political setting. This can also be a great way to take the breaks you need, and nurture new friendships at the same time.
6. Resist with love.
It may be tempting to hate the people who like this president or what he is doing. It’s natural to feel this way, when we are so divided and when our opposition seems so full of hatred. But vitriol and name-calling accomplish nothing. If you are up to it and feel like you’re gifted at persuasion (I’m not), you can try to empathize with them and then present your case as to why Trump will not solve their problems, but usually this doesn’t work. You can still try to empathize with them though. Realize that many Trump supporters, especially working class whites, feel like they’ve been ignored and looked down on by the left. They are not incorrect in their feelings, since many establishment Democrats do seem to care more about Muslims, immigrants, or Black Lives Matter more than they care about blue collar or rural whites. They feel unvalued and left behind. Trump promised them jobs and pretended to care about them and they still want to believe him. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but try to see things from their point of view and keep on resisting even if they’re not buying the fact that the change you want to see is going to help them too.
7. Violence never works.
Not only is violence unproductive and can get you thrown in jail, it also makes our side look bad. Worse, in a society that’s declining into fascism and authoritarianism, instigating violence can be an excuse for the Powers That Be to enact martial law or restrict our First Amendment (freedom of speech) rights or our freedom to peaceably assemble.
8. Protesting is fun.
I’ve only been to two actual protests, but I had a blast at both. Protest events are a great opportunity to meet like-minded people, see creative signs, slogans and even costumes, or make your own. Chanting and marching as a group (sometimes with a drumbeat) is an almost spiritual experience, and it’s hard to explain the solidarity you feel marching and chanting with complete strangers. See and be seen! There’s lots of opportunities for photo taking, and you might even get interviewed or get your picture in the paper.
Here are my posts about the two protests I attended (with photos).
Rally for the ACA (February 25, 2017)
Earth Day (April 23, 2017): March For Science
9. Pray for your enemies.
Even if you’re not religious, praying for the opposition can certainly do no harm. At the very least, send them your good thoughts. In my personal life, I’ve found that prayer works. Since it works for me and my loved ones, who’s to say it won’t also work on some Trump supporter and get them to re-evaluate or even change their beliefs? I really believe it can. I pray for them every day. It was hard to do that at first, but with practice, it gets easier.
Hate won the battle, but love will win the war.
10. Educate yourself about history, civics and government.
In high school, I used to fall asleep in civics class (I hear most high schools no longer offer it, which is a shame). I couldn’t tell you the difference between a filibuster or a gerrymander. I couldn’t even name the three branches of government (except maybe to pass a test). It all seemed so dry and boring and irrelevant! I’d stare at the clock and try not to fall asleep. But now that our government no longer works (and the news is no longer boring), I’m learning all about how government is supposed to work, and it’s actually fascinating. It’s also far from irrelevant. As members of the resistance, we can make so much more of a difference when we actually know what our government is supposed to be doing and the ways they are breaking laws and undermining the Constitution. An added bonus to all this civics education is the history lessons you get. This year, I’ve learned all about past presidents and even their cabinet members, as well as other turbulent times in American history that have important lessons to tell us about events happening right now.
11. Avoid fake news.
Back in the days before the Internet, there were a limited number of outlets for the news. You had cable news, local news, and network news, and then there were the major newspapers and news magazines. And that was about it. In 1987, Reagan dismantled the Fairness Doctrine, a useful FCC regulation that kept news from becoming too biased by requiring networks to include opinions from the opposite viewpoint. The disappearance of the Fairness Doctrine led to increasing polarization and eventually, the advent of extremely partisan news outlets like Fox News. Since then, the news has become so polarized that the stories you hear on Fox News (and other far right news outlets) bear no resemblance to stories you hear on other news outlets. They might as well be coming from an alternate universe.
Things have continued to grow worse. With the growth of the Internet, news websites have proliferated like wildfire. Some of these sites are honest and try to report the news factually and include sources. Others are less reputable, and a good many report fake news stories (some of which may even be written by Russian bots or foreign fake news mills). Fake news isn’t something only the far right is guilty of; it exists as well on the far left. How can you tell what news is fake and what isn’t? Well, it can be tricky. But a good rule of thumb is to avoid articles with sensational or emotionally manipulative sounding titles or clickbaity titles, and “factual” (as opposed to opinion) articles that cite no sources and don’t fact check their their information. Stay with trusted and well known news sites that use actual experts in their fields and use citations and references. Ignore what Trump and his supporters tell you is fake news. They are wrong.
12. Share your concerns and worries with trusted friends or family, or join a support group.
Unfortunately, even longtime friends and family members have become estranged and even sometimes no longer speak to each other because of Donald Trump. I have had to block Facebook friends because I could not abide all the pro-Trump propaganda they were posting. I’ve never had to do such a thing until this year. It makes me sad but I know so many other people who’ve admitted they had to do the same thing. Even marriages have broken up over this.
While a liberal who voted for John Kerry could still be friends with a conservative who voted for George W. Bush, things have become so polarized and Trump is so threatening and traumatizing to so many of us, that it’s become almost impossible for say, a Hillary supporter and a Trump supporter to maintain a friendship. Even if the subject of politics is avoided, the tension is still palpable and it’s hard to maintain a friendship with that kind of tension present. But we still need to be able to talk to trusted friends and family members when we are feeling discouraged, scared, or depressed about the political situation. Obviously, you are going to want to turn to people you trust who also share your views. Talking it out with trusted friends who sympathize with your views can help a lot.
Even talking to friends on social media can help. As an introvert, I don’t have many IRL friends, but I do have online friends, and in February, I even started a Facebook group (Post-Trump Trauma Support Group — click the link if you’d like to join) which now has 143 members. It’s been very helpful to me, and others have said it helps them too, and that’s a good feeling. If you can’t find a Facebook group you like, you can always start your own! My friends on Twitter are a godsend too.
There are also therapists who are actually treating people for Trump Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although it’s not an official diagnosis and isn’t listed in the DSM, most therapists recognize it as an actual trauma related problem similar to PTSD that many people (including the therapists themselves, who tend to be liberal) are facing.