How I learned to stop feeling powerless after Trump’s election

Written by | Opinion

Image: Washington Post

Image: Washington Post

I am still not used to the words “President Donald Trump”. I sincerely hope that one day I will but I do not foresee it happening. I feel that the election of Donald Trump is a national tragedy. It has made me feel the same way I did after the September 11th attacks. I feel as if a coup has taken place. And how appropriate it is that the result was called on November 9 (11/9) because it kind of did feel like an inversion of the September 11th attacks. This was not an outside force coming in to do harm but an insidious evil movement that somehow rose through the ranks without anyone realizing it to achieve the highest power in the land. I hope I am not causing offense with the comparison to 9/11 but, for many people of color, women, LGBTQ people, those with disabilities, and anyone else who is not a rich white straight ablel-bodied male, this is one of the most terrifying times in recent memory. As I watched Trump’s rise through election night, the only images on my mind were of the kids who were watching in horror as they saw an entire country tell them to get the hell out because they don’t fit the Trumpian ideal of “Make America Great Again”.

I am seriously terrified of what is about to happen. All of the progress made during the Obama administration is about to be wiped clean. Millions of people are about to lose their health insurance. Millions of families are about to be torn apart. Abortion could become outlawed. Marriage equality is under attack. I am horrified. I have never felt more powerless. I am scared for my friends and their families. I am scared for the rights that are about to be curtailed. And, more than anything, I am completely afraid of the fact that the US election has now legitimized Fear of the Other.

I have been shaking as I read these reports of white Trump supporters attacking people of color in the street. They are emboldened by the fact that we elected a candidate endorsed by the KKK and Kim Jong Un. The alt-right movement, which rose out of the anonymity afforded by the internet to closet racists, has now been legitimized. No matter what a Trump presidency actually accomplishes, the alt-right movement is not going anywhere and will likely get stronger.
It is not normal that the Ku Klux Klan plans to have a victory parade in honor of Trump’s win.

I am in disbelief as I watch the first black President of the United States meet with the President-elect who is endorsed by the Klan. Reading the stories of Day 1 in Trump’s America of incidents of racial hatred all over the country ramping up is breaking my heart. Is this how it’s going to be? I may be a straight white male with a lot of privilege, but I am also Jewish. This means that, in most public situations, I am usually the only Jew in the room. Despite my privilege, I am still a minority in some sense. Trump’s talk of “a global conspiracy” tied to Jewish CEOs and bankers is making me very, very nervous.

I’ve been writing this over several hours. I have gone through a huge swath of emotions. When the victory was final, my immediate thought was that the world would end in nuclear war or a massive terrorist attack. Do you really trust Trump with the nuclear codes? I felt like I was on a plane with a kamikaze pilot who didn’t know how to fly. I suddenly had the terrifying thought that I, at age 29, may not be able to live out a full life. Whether it’s Trump using the nuclear codes in a fit of blind rage at three in the morning or defunding climate change research, I feel as if my right to live in a healthy environment is being stripped.

I have gone from complete despair to anger to optimism that movements can form and activism will thrive and I am now in a place of cynicism as I finish this piece. I feel now that having hope is useless. Americans elected Trump after months and months of overwhelming evidence that he would be incredibly unqualified and dangerous. Why do I think that a rebellion can happen? Ok, I’m not cynical anymore. I think what is giving me hope is focusing on the things that I can control. I can control how I treat other people. I can control the people I associate with and call friends and family. I can stand up and defend those facing injustice and bullying. And I can stay involved and engaged. That is, pretty much, all I can do.

I am heartened, though, by the amount of activism currently happening. Under the Bush administration, we did not have the capabilities to form movements on social media. We did not have Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street. I am also heartened by the fact that progressives in power, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are vowing to fight against bigotry and hatred. Also, the amount of alternative media sources are now more plentiful than ever, so now we are not completely dependent on the monolithic corporations for our information. If you need a reason at all to watch Democracy Now!, just realize that the head of CBS, Les Moonves, once said, “Donald Trump may not be good for America but he will be good for us.”

Every American citizen should stop trusting corporate media immediately.

I finished this piece three days after the election. I am still in a state of shock, anger, and sadness but I refuse to despair. I know that, if I were to give up, Trump, Pence, and the rest of his horrible cronies will then truly win. I want to use this dark moment as a way of reaching out to my friends and strangers and recommit myself to fight against oppression, bullying, and prejudice of all kinds. I want to be more aware of my surroundings and do everything I can to help others who are in danger.

And hey, here’s another wacky thought. I already consider Donald Trump to be the worst president ever, and he has not even taken office yet. Perhaps he could surprise us. He’s certainly been doing that for the past eighteen months. For all of my incredible hatred of him (and I really don’t think I have ever despised a public figure more, which the exception, perhaps, of Ted Cruz), I am willing to have faith that he wants to unite a divided country. That is certainly what he called for in his surprisingly humble victory speech.

Ah, but you know what? As he was calling for unity, someone in his audience yelled out “Kill Obama” and he did nothing so…yeah…he is going to be monumentally shitty.

Well, you know what, I think I still believe that Trump can bring about unity. I have faith that all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations and political stripes can come together. To fight against him. Let’s do this, guys. We may have let Donald Trump win the presidency, but we cannot allow him to win history.

Last modified: November 23, 2016

  • lfrohling

    Hello special snowflake

  • Fish Jones

    “I suddenly had the terrifying thought that I, at age 29, may not be able to live out a full life.” This. So much yes.