Thursday, November 17, 2016

More Global Therapy from My Mother

I asked my mother for more election-based therapy, because frankly I continue to need it. I've been letting myself get baited into self-destructive fights (and picking them)--mostly online--with old friends and acquaintances. I've been intentionally avoiding in-person contact with Known Trumpites, but my rage and upset keeps spilling over everywhere.

For example, I got into a stupid Facebook messenger argument late at night about protests with an old friend who works in law enforcement. I know he didn't vote for Trump, but he was criticizing misbehaving protesters, since that's his professional perspective. I told him I was more concerned about a Neo-Nazi in the White House, and lashed out that this clearly wasn't a concern for him as a Christian white man. He accused me of playing the "victim" and "the race card" and I guess some other cards. 

I was upset and began to despair about how much this election has already frayed my interpersonal relationships, mostly by my own doing. I realize that I have a lot of anger and frustration. I'm having trouble relating to and interacting with people who don't see what just happened as totally calamitous, which I realize remains to be seen. 

I also know that ultimately this is a self-destructive, divisive way to feel and behave: getting into arguments online with trolls and close friends alike--instead of putting my phone down and taking action in real life. 

So I asked my 71 year-old mom for more advice. Here's what she said, reprinted with permission:
Despair and depression about Trump's election is conceding victory to him not only for the next four years, but even beyond that. Fighting makes much more sense to me, and that's why I feel angry and activated rather than despairing. I don't know if the structures of our democracy can withstand the assault, but I want to be part of the effort to withstand it. 
Since a majority of people in the U.S. did not vote for Trump, I think that over time we have a chance to move beyond this outcome, and even if we don't succeed, it will feel better to resist than to become immobilized or self-destructive. 
Human nature contains incredible ugliness. We have engaged in murderous behavior all over the world and since the beginning of recorded history. Working in South Africa shortly after the end of Apartheid and in Rwanda 15 years post genocide has shown me that, nonetheless, it is also possible to rise up above the horrible acts we have committed and focus on healing. Our greatest heroes have shown us that this is what we must strive for even when it looks like the odds are against us. 
I'm also affected by my childhood experience. I was so numb and lost by the time I entered foster care. I realized my very survival depended on strangers who had no real connection to me. It was so important to hold onto whatever energy I could muster to forge on and hope that somewhere down the road it would be better for me. That's why I fight against paralysis and giving up. 
Also, I admired my mother for her drive to do her best even as she was slowly dying. I'm certainly not a Pollyanna, so I'm not minimizing your concerns. I'm only arguing against throwing your hands up and accepting that all there is to do is accept that we are totally doomed. Evil needs to be fought against, whether it's in one's own family (like my very own aunts and uncles) or in a large and powerful government, like the situation we face right now. 
If I believed I was at risk of being killed, I would move somewhere else. But right now I live in a well-armed city that mostly hates Donald Trump. The residents of Trump Towers along the fancy west side of Manhattan have voted to have his name removed and that's what will happen since he doesn't own the buildings.  
Yay for tiny victories, and I'm going to do my best to be a part of more important struggles.

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