How to dust yourself off and move forward with hope and compassion

Write a thank you note to Hillary Clinton.

Write a thank you note to Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday was a difficult day. Many of us went to bed too late on Tuesday night, after drinking too much, and woke up to a political reality that we find personally terrifying and morally appalling. One friend told me that her college students, many of whom are minorities, are actively scared. Many friends worried about the state of women’s health care. I personally wonder if my family’s health insurance will be taken away, or become even more expensive if our subsidy is reduced or eliminated. I worry about families who receive food stamps and non-profits who receive government funding. I worry about my son growing up with a president who rates women on looks and compliance alone.

At the same time, we can and must move forward.

Racism, xenophobia and misogyny are factors in how we got here, yes, and we must stand against their enduring legacy in our country, but there is no one answer. As compassionate, curious citizens in a democracy we must also concern ourselves with how to improve life for everyone, yes, including those who just elected Donald Trump as our next president, while upholding the values of inclusivity and diversity.

There are a few smart lists of how to do this circling the internet. This open letter from 100 national leaders who are women of color is a good place to start. Jake Dobkin at Gothamist and Anil Dash both managed to clear their heads yesterday and write reflections and calls to action. If you need permission to step back for a bit, I’m troubled by this Garrison Keillor piece from the Washington Post, but there’s a place for it. And, after staring at my screen, reading everything on the internet until it felt like my eyes were bleeding, I talked to a few kind people in Brooklyn about their advice for this difficult time, compiled below.  I also think step one is taking a media break for a few days–including social media–to eat dinner with people you love, hug your kids and be thankful for all we have and the opportunity to stand up for it. After you read this, of course.

Join a new community

I wasn’t happy when George W. Bush won in 2000, or 2004, but the way I feel about this election has a deep sense of moral crisis for me. I’m not religious, but in search of spiritual guidance, I reached out to Reverend Vince Anderson, who you may know from his Monday night services at Union Pool with his band, The Love Choir. Anderson is serious about music and faith, beauty and art in a way that is expansive, inclusive and profound. Maybe you’re repelled by anything that smacks of religion, or maybe there’s something comforting and positive about connecting to community in a different way than you’re used to–which is something we will all need to embrace in the years to come.

I emailed him yesterday morning to ask his thoughts and this is what he wrote back:

Reverend Vince Anderson appears at Union Pool every Monday night.

Reverend Vince Anderson appears at Union Pool every Monday night.

On November 8th, half of our country, stood on the backs of women, immigrants, people of color, muslims, the LGTBQ community, people with disabilities and so many others. They stood on these backs, feeling forgotten, trying to get a leg up. They were told they could rise above, rather than rise together.

Now is the time for songs, poems, and protests. Now is the time for art, storytelling, and gathering together. Now is the time for lament. 

So now, none of us will rise. At least not yet. I don’t know a single person who didn’t have trouble getting out of bed on November 9th. From our tombs, we peer out in horror to the America that has always been there.

Our collective grief is so vast and so great that it is hard to even get a grasp on it right now. We feel helpless, despondent, and betrayed. Many of us have felt this way far before November 8th, 2016.

So now what do we do? I’m looking for a way back in, for a way out of the tomb and a way into life. In times like these, I look to my faith for answers and guidance. James 4:9 says, “Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter to mourning, and your joy to gloom.” In a time of disillusionment and disorientation, James drew on the Judeo-Christian tradition of the lament. This passionate expression of grief and sorrow is our way back in. We must lament the bigotry, racism, and misogyny of our culture. Now is the time for songs, poems, and protests. Now is the time for art, storytelling, and gathering together. Now is the time for lament.

I’ve been diving into the book of Psalms this morning. Here, I find a structure for my lamentations. In the psalms of lament, we see the psalmist undergo a transformation from anger to hope. I believe that this must be our process as well. Remember that is a process, and we have to grieve before we heal.

So through the walls of my tomb, right now I sit and cry, struggling to hear and follow the words of Jesus as told in Matthew 26:46;

“Get up! Let us get going.”

The operative word there for me is “us.” Find a community you can grieve with. Be it a church, a group of atheists and agnostics, a political community you resonate with, a community board, a bar, or a knitting circle. We can’t handle this alone. The journey of lament, to hope, to action can only happen together.

Every Monday night, my band, and I gather at Union Pool to do this work. I also have the privilege of working with three spiritual communities in the city that are doing this work together. Maybe one of these work for you. Or maybe they don’t. You are welcome, faith or no faith. If this isn’t your cup of tea, there are thousands of communities in NYC that are doing this work. Find one and get to work.

Citylights Community.org | Barstool Tabernacle | Bushwick Abbey

Write Hillary Clinton a thank you note

One of the things I read about Clinton during the campaign is that she is a great writer of thank you notes. I love that. Use your best paper and practice your penmanship and write an old-fashioned thank you note to the woman who tried so very hard to break that glass ceiling. Write a draft first and be slow and careful about it. In terms of how to address the former Secretary of State, it seems that etiquette mavens have different opinions. I’d say go with how you feel–Madame Secretary if you want to be formal, HRC if you’re feeling young and kicky, Ms. Clinton if you so desire.

Here is the address:

Office of Hillary Rodham Clinton
120 West 45th Street
Suite 2700,
New York, NY 10036

Connect, but do not go along to get along

This one is going to be tough, folks. One conversation that I think is so productive that is emerging on Twitter (@polotek is a good starting place for this) is about what makes a strong community. People of color especially are saying that white, liberal America has a tendency to ignore rather than engage with viewpoints that are are steeped in conflict. That ideology alone is not enough to truly make community. That young liberals in New York and San Francisco who grew up in red states simply abandon, or barely tolerate their conservative families, without deep engagement.

We have to commit to having difficult conversations and amass a toolbox to deal with these moments, to normalize empathy and respect alongside conflict, to engage, not block.

All this grapples with the divide that got us here in the first place. It recalls all those people you blocked on Facebook. It’s every uncomfortable moment when someone you love, or work with, or is related to someone you love, uses language that is disrespectful and hurtful, or voices an opinion that you disagree with. We have to commit to having difficult conversations and amass a toolbox to deal with these moments, to normalize empathy and respect alongside conflict, to engage, not block. I wrote this piece what seems like a lifetime ago, about how to talk about difficult issues more productively. You can also read this excellent book, called, Difficult Conversations. It will not be easy, but it will be very, very necessary.

Get your wallet out and tithe

If we can’t rely on the government to protect our civil liberties, our freedom of speech, our reproductive rights and control over our own bodies, and our environment, we will have to take responsibility for them ourselves. Jezebel has compiled an excellent list of places to support. Planned Parenthood is probably the most at risk right now (which is a legitimate women’s health care crisis, just for access to basic annual exams and family planning), along with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Paris climate change accord. We will also need the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund more than ever, Campaign Zero, which works to end police violence, and Lambda Legal, which advocates for the rights of LGBTQA community and for those living with AIDS and HIV.

I  no evidence based in economic theory for this, but it seems like a very good time to take a deep look at our spending habits right now. The food movement has made great strides with the idea that we vote with our dollars and putting our hard-earned cash back into our communities, and embracing frugality just feels right to me in this moment.

Make sure to take care of yourself

For many of us, this feels incredibly personal, and it is. No, Donald Trump was not elected just because of racism or misogyny or xenophobia, but if you are a person of color, if you are a woman, if you are a Muslim, you have heard repeatedly that your neighborhood is hell, you are no good if you are not hot enough to be sexually assaultable, that you you don’t belong here. That’s personal. That’s ugly. You may need a minute to collect yourself. I asked Dr. Diane Stemple, a psychologist with a practice in Williamsburg, for some advice on how care for yourself right now. Here’s what she shared, and you can consider these doctors orders:

Go to your favorite cozy neighborhood restaurant.

Stay in Brooklyn, lay low.

Don’t cancel normal life.

Cook your favorite comfort food.

When you’re ready, plan something (a park clean up, donation, volunteer work, visit and elderly relative,) that will make you feel you can still impact the world in the direction you want it to go in.

Do not neglect yourself in these times of trouble.

Restrict news, social media–take a break!

Defend the truth

The utter disconnect from the truth in the Trumpoverse has been a real crazymaker over the past few months.  No matter how distrustful of outlets like The New York Times, NPR and The New Yorker you may be, they are interested in the truth. They are. They have standards and rules and agreed upon baselines for distinguishing truth from truthiness using time-tested tools like triple verification. Before you tell the mainstream media to fuck off, why don’t we have a civil conversation about its limitations and responsibilities? The social media echo chamber failed us.

Think about how very much we are going to need an organization that can afford the legal bills that will be required of even the most basic critical reporting about the Trump administration. Subscribe to a newspaper today. Support NPR and WNYC. Journalists want to stand and fight and tell the truth, they really do, but that takes time, money and legal representation. Make it better, don’t burn it down. If you can’t stomach that, donate to the American Civil Liberties Union, they’re going to need it.

Organize

Even if you weren’t a part of the “Not My President” protests last night, there are other ways to ensure your voice is heard. Form your own, real-life version of that “secret” Pantsuit Nation Facebook group, and meet with friends (men and women) to figure out a way to get more involved in the political process so that this never, ever happens again. Just being together in a group with common goals–to elect more progressive and sane political representatives at every level, to uphold our rights, protect the environment, and ultimately pave the way for a female president–is the way you begin. Take your cues from Moms Demand Action, #our100 and let’s not forget that before he was our President, Barack Obama was a master community organizer and he surely has plans for what comes after Jan. 20.

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3 Comment

  • Great piece, thank you!

  • Very thoughtful and empowering and just enough to get thinking about how to be the change we want to continue to see in the world around us. Thank you!

  • Thank you for the read. I needed to see that, write some notes and get to feeling better so I can get to work.
    I wish I didn’t feel like my vote didn’t count, Tennessee is Republican and so is everyone around me.
    God Bless the USA