Jay Michaelson

Dear fellow human beings,

If you’re not worried right now, you’re not paying attention.  The two months since the election have confirmed that this American administration will be the most reactionary, racist, and far-right in nearly a century.  

But if you’re only worried right now, that sucks.  Most importantly, for those of us not at immediate physical risk– white folks like me, cisgender folks like me, documented folks like me – our friends and family who are at such risk need us.  But our loved ones also need us to not fall apart.  We need each other.  

We have to be fierce in our public lives but gentle in our private lives; sophisticated, even cynical, in working tactically for justice, but careful to maintain our own fragile humanity, and that of the people we love. We can’t let ourselves burn out, or lash out, or become one of those bitter, mean people who, like Trump himself, seem to have died on the inside. Instead, we must learn the sacred art of segmentation.  

Here are two thoughts to consider – one external, one internal.

First, let’s remember that election results notwithstanding, we are not actually living in Trump’s America. Not only did Hillary Clinton win the popular vote by a record-shattering three million people, but the vast majority of Trump’s own voters don’t support the worst parts of his message. Half were evangelical and other conservative Christians, concerned about the Supreme Court and social issues. A quarter or so wanted an outsider at any cost. Really, only 20% of Trump’s voters — 12 million people, 5% of the U.S. population — believe in the worst he has to offer.

This is not to excuse the 40 million people who were willing to put up with racism, xenophobia, vulgarity, dishonesty, instability, and shocking ties to Russia. It is only to say that the “deplorables” are nowhere near a majority.  And they are doomed. The demographics are what they are, and even mass deportations can’t stop the multiculturalization of America, or cultural globalization (for better or for worse).  We are going to win this in the end, though not for a while.

History is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t waste energy engaging your Trumpist uncle. (I refuse to call these people conservatives; that is an insult to conservatives.) Don’t panic. It will get worse, but the deplorables are an ever-shrinking minority. Pick your battles, fight hard, and fight smart.

Internally, we’ve got to take care of ourselves. The vulnerable need you to be resilient, not clicking every petition or posting every story. Do what helps you recharge, relax, and enjoy life — not as an indulgence but as maintenance. And take a close look inside, even if what you see is hard to behold. We need you in the game, especially if you’re one of the privileged ones who won’t be targeted for deportation, discrimination, or militarized policing.

Several times over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed myself cycling through Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. It’s just like when my mother died a year and a half ago and my father 20 years ago.

Only, this is worse. In a grieving process, your loved one doesn’t die over and over again. There is the knowledge, albeit buried deep within at times, that this too shall pass. Not so in our political moment. We know that things are going to get worse, that each week will bring new bad news: another wilderness despoiled, another black man shot, another college student deported, another swastika, another rape. So in addition to Kubler-Ross’s stages, I’d add dread, fear, despair — all of which are entirely justified. Many of us are hurting, and as soon as we heal, we’re going to be re-injured.

But while the Trumpists are busy laughing at libs like me, I’m proud to be someone who wants to actually feel his feelings and become more compassionate, rather than be like our president – a pathetic child who only grows more vulgar. I’m not going to process my grief in public, but I’m sure planning to do so in private.  Because that’s how I choose to live, and I bet you do too.

Externally, let’s be smart, tactical, fierce, and ruthless.  Internally (which includes in safe spaces with our friends and families of choice), let’s be soft, open, creative, and juicy.  Integration is nice, but segmentation is necessary.  

With love,

Jay