Grief is a luxury we can’t afford right now


I get it. So many of us who wanted things to go a different way on November 8th are grieving right now.

Some of us are in denial. We want to believe that what happened was just politics, business as usual. We tell ourselves, OK, so our guy didn’t win. Let’s trust the system and wish him the best and wait and see what happensLet’s take a break from political news and figure out how to reconnect with the other side. Let’s trust the checks and balances of our system to do its job. We tell ourselves that practicing self-care will make us feel better. We dismiss those who are worried our democracy may not survive intact for four years because of course it will! It can’t not survive. (Yeah, just like Trump could never get elected.)

Some of us are bargaining. We think that maybe, somehow, if we just try to understand why all those people in middle American voted for Trump, we can broker our way to some better place. We think that if we develop empathy for those on the other side and reach out to connect with them, we can find our way back to one another and we’ll move forward together toward a peaceful, accepting, diverse culture. We’re hoping that if we do those things, Trump won’t make good on all those election promises he made.

Some of us are just flat-out angry.

(Righteous anger hurts so good, doesn’t it?)

Some of us are depressed. We can’t seem to move on. We feel powerless. We can’t concentrate or get anything productive done. We’re pretty sure it’s all in our head, and some others would agree. Our days have looked kinda like this:


Well, if you’ve been bouncing around in these various circles of grief hell over the past two weeks, I’ve got a suggestion:

let’s get  ourselves to acceptance as soon as we can, because shit’s getting real, and it’s getting there real fast.

On November 9, I wanted to go along with the folks urging us to wait and see. But when Trump brought in Steve Bannon as a White House advisor, it became clear that we weren’t going to have to wait long. Just in case you aren’t fully up to speed on what the “alt right” (a Newspeak term for white supremacists) is, please listen to this interview with Richard Spencer, who coined the term. (Actually, please listen to it anyway. Even if you think you know what it is, listening to this guy will make your skin crawl. Unless, of course, you think skin color is an OK criteria for determining, well, just about everything.) And if you can stand it after that, go check out Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general.

I, too, in an effort to understand what the hell happened and how to fix it, went looking  for explanations and solutions. I wondered about my bubble. Then I realized that even if I (and so many of us liberal white people) have been in a bubble, we aren’t the only ones. Those struggling midwest white folks are likely in a bubble, too. I wanted to believe that if we all seek empathy and start having hard conversations about race, we’ll get everyone moving in the direction of social justice and we’ll work to dismantle our systemic racism.

I don’t disbelieve that, but it’s clear we don’t have time to wait for that kind of change. And if the person we’re trying to move is a narcissist (like, you know, our President-elect), best just to move on.

So:  Let’s get to acceptance. 

Let’s accept what is and figure out what we’re going to do about it. Let’s stop focusing on who voted for whom and why. While there are plenty of reasons for folks to be angry with those who voted for Trump–and implications about what it means that a majority of white men and women voted for Trump should be wrestled with–the election ship has sailed. It’s over.


Let’s focus on how we’re going to get on board the next one. I’m still really pissed about lots of the reasons people voted for Trump, but like this guy, I care more about what people are going to do now.

And like this guy, I am absolutely on Team Nah. Since election day, Trump has shown us exactly who he is (the same guy he was in the campaign), and as the article linked to above explains, when we’re dealing with narcissists there is no appealing to reason or a sense of what’s right.

Rather than waiting and hoping we can reason Trump and his administration onto some higher road, let’s get to work doing whatever we can to demand that all citizens are treated fairly and that our rules and best practices for governing be followed. And let’s obstruct any attempts by anyone in our government to do otherwise.

Because honestly, what else can we do? I suppose we can keep on denying and bargaining and turning away from the overwhelm of what’s happening, but lots of people don’t have the luxury of that any more than they have the luxury of prolonged grieving. I don’t want to roll over because what this requires of us is hard and feels maybe futile. I’m more realist than idealist; I know I might end up on the losing side of history, but I want to know I went down fighting on the right side of it.

So:  Let’s get our boots on the ground.

(If you want some concrete ideas of things to do, check out the Resources page.)

Did some walking this weekend in Portland.

Literally got our boots on the ground in Portland this weekend.

Statue Photo Credit: Aramisse Flickr via Compfight cc
Boat Photo Credit: serbosca Flickr via Compfight cc

12 thoughts on “Grief is a luxury we can’t afford right now

  1. Kate says:

    I appreciated so many of the links you shared and linked your resources page on my personal FB page for others like me who are interested in staying vigilant. It’s the first thing I’ve shared since returning and maybe the only thing I share as I’m still unofficially on FB holiday.

    I do want to say that the Midwest bubble article you linked to actually highlighted the coastal elite bubble further for me, especially when the author wrote, “Rural people need to travel more.” Many rural people are just as poor as the impoverished of urban areas. They don’t travel because they don’t have the means to and in my area, those who have the means and are rural people are mostly likely farmers – people who don’t travel because their livelihood depends on them being able to care for the crops and animals DAILY. . Do I wish that we had more diversity in our area? Yes. Do I wish that every person had the opportunity to see the Constitution in person? Or meet a Muslim? Absolutely. And I’m grateful that I have the means to go out and provide that for my children, but many in the rural Midwest don’t. And that the coastal elite doesn’t see them or understand that, is part of the reason they feel as angry as they do.
    Kate recently posted…Tuesday Things: I Am GratefulMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Hi Kate,
      I think we’re in agreement that lots of people in our country don’t know/understand much about the lives of lots of other people. And they don’t feel valued or respected by those others. It seems to me that we’ve lost our sense of what binds and connects us. Maybe it’s not there any more? I’m not sure.

      I was listening to a story on NPR this morning while driving to work, and they were interviewing a man in Indiana in a bellweather county, and he said something like, “People here are real. We’re real people. We work hard to make a living…” and the implication all through it was that others are not “real” in that same way. And it made my anger flare–I’m living on the liberal west coast, but I’m real, too. And I work hard, too. Different kind of hard, maybe, but hard all the same. I don’t have a real point here (or not a good one)…maybe just that I wish there was less judgement going around and more compassion.

      • Kate says:

        You bring up a very good point about the rural/urban divide. I think it has always been there. It’s why the electoral college was invented. It doesn’t help that we have a media and political system focused on divisiveness and an economic system that has changed drastically in the last 30-40 years. It’s Maslow’s triangle of needs; people find it hard to be compassionate when their own basic requirements aren’t being met. You can’t afford to put food on your table while hearing someone talk about your white privilege, it’s hard not to feel angry. These rural families are hurting and either unemployed or underemployed and if we’re going to reach them in 2020 (and hopefully midterm), we need to listen and be an ally to them too. My hope is that by reaching out and really listening to both sides (not the racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic stuff, that shit needs to go) we can start to move forward and find middle ground.

        • Rita says:

          I hope so, too. And I hope it goes both ways. There’s a perception that those of us on the west coast are just sailing along in our bubble, but that’s not the case here, either. Half the children in the school district I serve are living in poverty. HALF. They’ve conquered by dividing us. It’s from an old, classic playbook.

  2. Gretchen says:

    I’m trying to feel empowered by the fact that I live in one of the few states where Hillary improved on 2012 numbers and one of the most likely to turn blue soon. My concrete I need a thing to do thing the day after the election was signing up for our county’s Democrats e-mail list. I’ve never lived in a bubble, and right now I live in a relatively red pocket of a very blue county in a purpleish state, and it feels like a place where I might actually do some good in some small ways….now just to make sure I don’t squander the opportunity. We went to church the Sunday after the election and listened to the thinly veiled anti-Trump sermon. The lectionary text from 2 Thessalonians ended with, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” It made me feel much more liturgically inclined than I usually do, and I still have the bulletin in my purse. It’s hard not to be weary.

    • Rita says:

      Oh, it is hard not to be weary. For what it’s worth, though, I think you should feel empowered to live where you do. I live in a place where I feel I’m just preaching to the choir and the real work lies elsewhere. I guess I’m fortunate that my congressional representatives are already voting the way I’d want them to, but I know that my phone calls to their offices aren’t convincing anyone who might change the outcome of something by shifting position. I do it anyway so they’ll know they have support. Keep fighting the good fights! 🙂

  3. Erin says:

    Hello from the Midwest. I would say that 3/4 of my (rural, but educated) family voted for Trump (we did not) and were very vocal about it. There are a few holdouts, but my family, as a whole, strongly vote Republican as a rule…regardless of who is on the ticket. I think it’s a question of value – more conservative people saw the changes that happened in the Obama administration as too forward for their beliefs – and that the changes did not represent who they were. Enough people felt like they didn’t have a say…and they showed up to vote. Personally, I voted based on what I thought Trump would think of my family. We are a dual cultural, dual race family with a child with a disability and I’m sure Trump would love to call me a worthless pig, because of my size. And, my husband’s job works for the state agency supporting Obamacare…You can imagine the dinner conversation that would be…I am sickened over this, even though I can understand why/how it happened. I think many people have underestimated the person/permissive viewpoint they just elected.

    • Rita says:

      Hello Erin! Always great to hear from you. And to hear this perspective. It’s one I don’t understand a whole lot. My dad was conservative for most of my life, both politically and socially. But he parted ways with the Republicans after the election of Obama because of their tactics and obstruction and desire to make others conform to their values. I feel like he is a truer conservative than many who claim that identity. Conservatives say that freedom is one of their primary values, but it feels like they want to deny it to those who don’t use it in ways they deem correct. (Like, why do they care so much if gay people marry each other? It doesn’t change or degrade their own marriages.)

      I hope you feel supported by your family, regardless of who they voted for. And if not by your family, but your community. Sending you good wishes.

  4. Lisa says:

    I feel like everything–literally every single issue I care about–is under attack, and I’m overwhelmed with the thought of what to do first. Where do I put my energies? What issue do I want to focus on? The environment, immigration, civil rights, gay rights, special needs, education, healthcare, hunger, poverty? WHAT DO I DO??

    I have been seriously considering taking the CA bar. The day after the election I sat down and looked up taking the bar (expensive!!) and decided, yup, I’ll do that and then go work for the ACLU. Then I came to my senses–I haaaaated the practice of law (loved teaching, hated practice). But I keep coming back to it. If not me, then who? Why not me? My dislike of the practice of law doesn’t make it any less important or necessary. Maybe I would like it better if I felt I was doing work for a higher cause. (I did personal injury for six months, and while plaintiff side work is important, I worked for a defense firm where I didn’t have a feeling of contributing to the greater good.)

    Of course, we are discussing moving back to the East Coast again, which means taking the CA bar for thousands of dollars (its $1000 to take the test, and another few thousand to take the study course) might not be the best course of action. I could take that money and un-retire myself (and catch up on a few thousand hours of CLEs) in the states where I already have a bar admittance.

    Whatever it is, I need to get moving.

    • Rita says:

      I think many of us are feeling overwhelmed right now, for the same reasons–and struggling to figure out what we can do in response to a situation in which we feel mostly powerless. I’ve been encouraged to see regular people finding ways to organize others and take action and do things that, in concert with others, might make an important difference.

      I’m sure that if you keep exploring options and listening to yourself, you’ll figure out what your right actions will be. I remind myself (a lot) that no one person can fix everything. We all need to find the thing we can do and trust that others will do the same. And that it’s OK if my particular things aren’t ground-breaking or large-scale. I know you’ve got lots of talents. You’ll figure out how to best use them.

      (On a related note–a few weeks before the election I dreamed I was going to go to law school. In the dream, I was aware that the notion made no sense. I’m too old for a whole new career, and it is my children’s education I’m investing in now–but in the dream, it just felt like the right thing to do, and I was so happy to be doing it even though it made no practical sense. Law school was something I considered when I was young, but I decided it wasn’t the thing for me. I wonder now if I made the right choice. For you, I’m wondering if there is some other thing that is like that for you–something you once considered but decided against? I’m wondering what it was that drew you to law school, and if there is some way to do law differently that would make it the right thing for you.)

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