What I keep hearing over and over again (post-election) is how this is the end of the world.
How it’s the end of America. How Donald Trump is Adolf Hitler. And I’m not going to say that the parallels cannot be drawn. I’m not going to say that there isn’t validity in drawing these connections. And I’m not going to say that it isn’t important to be concerned, angry or even hyper-aware. But the emotional state of the American consciousness that I interact with goes beyond these states.
What I see cascading and spreading is much more intense. What I see is a pervading anxiety, overwhelming generalizations and fear-mongering. I see the ability to step outside of oneself diminishing. I see the ability to stay grounded and pragmatic diminishing. And the ability to analyze our political state with complexity diminishing. Narrowing. I see emotionalism running rampant and I see fear. Everywhere I turn.
We, collectively, must stop terrorizing ourselves with our own rhetoric. We must stop, in turn, letting the “other side” bare the brunt of our blame and alarmism. We have to stop elevating the situation. Because the more that we do—the more hatred and division we spread between our two sides—the more we are responsible for the heightened reality we are living in.
The more we elevate the situation, the more we create a platform for a self-fulfilling prophesy with the intensity of our own rhetoric. We have to remain level-headed and (as difficult as it may be) optimistic. We have to stay fighting but we have to stop fighting with neighbor and friend and brother in a way that seeks solely to alienate and reprimand. We have to stop the cycle of “Winning Culture” that seeks binary and one-dimensional, oversimplified conversations and conclusions which dangerously ignore nuance, compassion and critical thinking.
We have to acknowledge our emotions, but not give our intellects over to them. This is crucial right now. Feel it all. Let it come. Let it exist. Don’t hold back whatever you’re feeling—but don’t let it spin you up in self-congratulatory or narrow-minded circles that only feed hate. Let the emotion fuel a small, fiery star inside yourself that will glow and grow and feed you when in the darkest of times. In times like these. In times when the only thing that feels right is to kick and scream and give up.
Let this emotion fuel a spinning star inside you that will point north—that will guide you only towards those goals that are worth truly fighting for. Values, issues and meaningful change. Let it ignite power inside of you. Let it direct you and focus you—toward meaningful ways in which you can get involved. Ways that you can enact change. Ways that you can use your voice to educate and inform—not to tear down. Let this emotion fuel you and do not let it rule you.
Articulate yourself carefully. Do not let alarmist rhetoric or this horrible sway of sickening feelings twist your language into a knife. Seek to build bridges rather than become what it is you disdain in the other. Again—go high, not low.
One thing Trump has done is gotten it all out in the open. Unmasked the conflict that was brewing under the surface of America and made us aware of it. This awareness is, at least, a place from which we can deal with it. And this is why we must not escalate as well. Because his movement not only puts it on the table, but fuels it and escalates it.
So don’t give it voice. Don’t fuel the fire. Don’t let it escalate your fear, your hatred or your rhetoric. Stay calm. Stay clear. Stay coherent. Face it—and speak out against it. Speak out clearly and passionately. March in the streets, sure. Protest, sure. But stay peaceful. Stay on the higher ground. Do not give in to fear. Do not give in to hatred. Do not escalate the rhetoric. Get it out in the open where you can address it. And address it in a way you never have before.
Do not let the fire that is brewing right now turn into vague sentiment. Do not let this be a New Year’s resolution that fades after the emotion of this election day has passed. Plant this inside of your bones and let it grow. Plant this inside of your chest cavity and do not let go of the desire for what is right. Do not fall into complacency. This is the only true fight we have.
Move forward with your life, but stay awake. Do not over consume negativity or swaths of media, but stay informed. Stay thinking. Stay fighting. Stay awake. Do not fall into complacency. Do not fall in line. Look and look and research and march and protest and organize and keep looking. Keep your eyes open. Keep your mind open. Keep your heart open. Keep trying to find the things that unite us—not the things that separate us. This is your task.
Keep trying to find the humanity. Do not give in to the rhetoric that leads to more hate. Do not give into more hate. Do not add one more name to the list of Americans who operate from hate. That let their actions be guided by hate. Let your actions be guided by love and a desire for justice. Real justice. Let your life be a testament to the good work. To the good work of good people that move us towards a good nation. Do not give into more hate. Do not fall into complacency.
Do not bear the weight of the world on your shoulders. Do not take this on yourself for one moment. For this is too heavy. Own what you need to own. Look yourself in the mirror and reflect. But do not bear the weight of this world on your shoulders. You need to remain light. You need to remain a light in this world that is getting far too heavy. In a world that is beginning to outweigh itself—remain light. Remain a light.
Look at the larger picture. No—even larger than that. Look at the great span and sweeps of history and try to place this within it. Look at the larger swells of forces and purges. Look at the way a fire burns out the forest and prepares the soil with rich minerals. Look at the way the earth gives and takes. Look at the way this is psychologically preparing us to get to where we need to be so that in four years (hopefully) we will be in a place to accept what America is apparently not ready to accept now.
Look at the way the collective experience of George W. Bush prepared America to accept the progressive hope of change in our first black president. Look at the larger swells under the surface. How this will rise up and awaken a generation of people that now have something to fight for. Look at how having something to fight for can create. Can lead. Can move and inspire real change.
Look at how putting your baggage on the table—shaking it all out and looking at it all is the only way to address it. A toxic purge. A detox. But we have to look at it all. We have to put our fears on the table. Our misconceptions. Our racism. Or deepest, darkest thoughts. Our sexisms. Our systematic complacencies which let misogyny and cruelty walk unscathed. Get it out in the open.
One of my favorite children’s books, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, has it just right:
A big dark forest.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!
A narrow gloomy cave.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!”
This is not an obstacle on the path. This is the path. This is not the antithesis of reality. This is reality. This is how we purge our toxic sludge. And no, it’s not so simple. These things will never go away. But the conversation will change. The complacency will change. The perception will change. We will unite. We will speak up and out more bravely and with more drive than ever before. We will be directed and we will be focused.
This did not start here—but this ends here. Racism, sexism, xenophobia. This did not start here. But this is an opportunity to take it off the shelf. To address it. To dismantle the systematic conceptions which prey on our collective consciousness. By getting them out of the shadows.
America, let’s go to therapy. Let’s dig it all up. Let’s look hard and deep. Let’s go to the origins. Let’s root out the real causes. Let’s figure it out. Let’s address our real issues.
America, let’s do the hard work. The deep, good, hard work of therapy. Let’s address these things. Let’s face our demons. Do not let them terrorize us or fall into fear. But confront them. And dismantle the destructive conceptions that let them live and breathe.
Author: Lauren Suchenski
Image: Instagram @_laurel_hill
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina