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The State of Our Nation (and My Heart)

I wanted to come here today to talk to you about the massive restructure I’ve recently undertaken on my work in progress, a move than involves cutting over 100 pages of blood, sweat, and tears and changing the entire feel and goal of the storyline – but, like more than half of American voters, I can’t think about anything today besides the events of last night.

When Britain voted to exit the EU, I was shocked, but not that shocked. “People are scared,” I kept saying. “Never underestimate the power of the terrified, undereducated, manipulable masses.” And when Trump was named the Republican nominee over here, I said the same things, warning my liberal friends not to take for granted that Hillary Clinton would win – no matter how intelligent she is, or how much qualifying experience she has under her belt, or how visibly insane her opponent. I was the voice of caution, of reason, even of cynicism. And yet, last night, as the polls closed and the votes were counted, all my sensible cynicism proved itself a front and I felt increasingly sickened watching the graphic of my country on TV grow ever redder, a reflection of the tide of anger and mistrust that began and has now ended this unbelievable election year.

What can I say? I guess being dark and cynical and pragmatic on the outside while still retaining a devastating core of hope is my M.O. Whatever the case, I went to bed in tears and woke up hoping to be proven wrong – it was all too familiar, and when I checked the news and saw I hadn’t been wrong, that we did elect this maniac with zero leadership experience and an overt animosity toward women and minorities, I felt another familiar feeling.

The best way I can describe what I’m feeling this morning is: a deep, abiding sense of hopelessness, mingled with a paralyzing uncertainty about how to move forward, even just through today. I felt the same way after 9/11; I knew that I and the people I loved would be okay, at least physically, but I knew with just as much certainty that so many others had been and would be forever maimed, and the entire world had changed in an instant. Nothing would ever be the same again, and nothing has been. I felt this way, on a much more personal and yet much more powerful scale, when my engagement ended. I went to sleep every night wishing to wake up and discover that the whole thing had been a horrible nightmare, that the landscape of my life was the same one I’d been building for years and hadn’t in fact been completely razed while I wasn’t looking.

That was my wish when I finally went to bed last night. So many of my friends couldn’t find rest, but I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, almost as if my body knew that the only way we could hope things would be different in the morning was if we let go completely of any control. But when I woke up, the landscape was indeed razed. Everything is different now.

Some friends of mine are publicly admonishing the hopeless among us, telling us that the government can no more make us miserable than it could have made us happy – you have to take responsibility for your own life, they say. And they are right, on a quotidian level, but they are also blind to the effect that a Trump presidency (alongside, importantly, a Republican-controlled house and senate) can have on the daily lives of all of us, first and foremost the vulnerable populations of the world and on a more manageable level on those of us with great privilege. No one is safe, but those who are most unsafe are at extreme risk here.

I want to believe that there is something we can do, and when the shock wears down a bit I will begin to look for ways to help, to start the hard, Sisyphusian work of convincing the rest of the world that #notallamericans, and more importantly to support and fight for our most vulnerable citizens (and non-citizen residents). But for right now, all I can do is sit in stillness, paralyzed, and wish I believed in a benevolent deity so I could have someone to whom to pray.

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  1. Becky Clelland Becky Clelland

    Your feelings are shared by many today and you express them perfectly. In our sadness may we grow stronger, but I am tired of growing stronger only to be batted down again by the narrow-minded bigots who seem now will be completely in control. Guess I have reached the anger step of the 7 steps of grief!

    • Anne Anne

      I’m tired too. There’s a great article in the NYT today by Lindy West that talks about how hard it is to keep getting back up when you’re always getting smacked down – I highly recommend it. But we’ll get each other through it.

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