One important lesson that I got from cancer is that the healing process isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. When trying to recover from something that serious, there’s going to be some unpleasantness along the way. The chemo wasn’t fun, but I’m alive now. The surgery wasn’t fun, but I’m alive and I have a really cool scar.
In fact, some of the most important steps in healing from a traumatic event can be almost as painful as the trauma itself. If healing from trauma were easy, there would be significantly less need for therapy and PTSD would be a lot less common that it is.
Just so we’re clear, this is NOT an attempt to shame you for celebrating the most powerful country on the earth rejecting Lord Dampnut. If you feel like celebrating, do it! That’s important too, and goodness knows we’ve earned it.
But assuming that the orange turd is successfully flushed in January (More on that in a bit) there’s still the lasting trauma. And the healing that needs to happen for all of us.
Certainly not ALL healing is an uphill battle. Bubble baths and chocolate have their place. And life should be enjoyed, after all. But in order to move forward and heal as a nation (and as individuals) we will have to have some difficult conversations with ourselves and others.
And we have to hold people accountable.
In the delightful wave of memes and videos that has followed this historic election, there have been no shortage of “reach out to the other side!” takes. And I get it. It’s a nice thought. We can’t all be boiling with rage for the rest of our lives anyway. It gets very tiring, and we are very tired already from reminding our friends and family that crime is illegal and evil is bad while a steady stream of bots promise to reveal the true nature of the demonic rituals happening in Nancy Pelosi’s freezer.
But here’s the thing: Remember that when Trump won the electoral college back in 2016, we (meaning democrats, 3rd parties, moderate Republicans, non-partisans, anyone with functioning empathy ect.) got the same lecture. That we just needed to understand The Trump Voters. Why, they were innocent victims! It wasn’t wealthy businessmen, nay! We coastal elites needed to get off of our high horses and humble ourselves!
So now that it’s become uncomfortably clear that Lord Dampnut is NOT what the bulk of this country wants, why are we getting the same lecture? Why is it our responsibility to reach out to Trump country, but never their responsibility to reach out to us?
As someone who has spent Too Much Time on the internet for most of her life, I am depressingly familiar with how destructive bad faith arguments can be. Debates only work if all parties are willing to change their minds in light of new information. If one or more party is unwilling to consider the possibility that they are wrong, then the “debate” isn’t really a debate at all. It might be an amusing spectacle for anyone who happens to wander through that corner of the internet at the appropriate time, but it’s unlikely that anyone will be learning anything new.
To make matters worse, some participants might walk away from the experience thinking that they “won” even if all they did was tell someone else to eat shit. If you lack the self awareness to question your own ideas when they are challenged with solid evidence, you probably aren’t ready to actually change your mind about anything.
After all, changing your mind about a deeply held conviction is hard. It doesn’t come naturally for most people. Goodness knows I struggle with it, and I’m actually interested in this stuff. I can only imagine what it must be like for someone who spends all of their time looking for Satanic imagery in pop music videos when they finally attempt to decipher real scans of legal documents for the first time.
And there’s another important angle that’s getting lost in all of the pearl clutching and both-sidesing- to permit a delusional extremist group to drive national policy isn’t just bad for us, it’s bad for them too. Sometimes having compassion for your fellow humans means refusing to enable them.
If the driving force behind one’s politics is based on a racist fever dream (white supremacy, for example) then said person is already in dangerous territory in terms of mental health and rational thinking. They have already accepted things that are not true in order to justify their bigotry, and so no amount of cruelty or extremism will ever be enough for them.
And no amount of reason or logic can reach them.
The kindest thing we (Americans with empathy) can do for them is to work around them. Arrest them and charge them when they behave like domestic terrorists, while at the same time ensuring that public education has the resources to teach young people the truth about slavery and it’s aftermath. I’m guessing a lot more people would be sympathetic to Black Lives Matter if they understood the sheer volume of racist shittiness that African Americans have endured in the century and a half since the civil war. Plus, white supremacy-related attacks continue to this day.
And that last part is really important, because it’s not over yet. While there’s no harm in celebrating and being joyful, the reality is that we’ve still got a couple more months before treason weasel is out of office completely. I don’t want to frighten anyone, but I think a little bit of extra vigilance now will make everything easier later. I’d much rather poke fun at some proud boys and and crush their delicate egos now than fight in a civil war in three months.
So please take care to call out bullshit when you see it. Don’t tolerate revisions of the awfulness we all just saw. Vote in local elections, and please do whatever you can to help with the senate runoffs in Georgia. I really don’t want to have to eat my present words as I am forced to build a monument to Qanon out of plastic straws and cheap red ties in 2021.
Now, having spent some time writing about the dark and painful side of healing, I’d like to take a minute to reflect of the softer and fluffier side. Because that matters too.
As I’ve said before, the reason to get involved in politics is not to become so angry that you spontaneously combust into a shower of Southern Poverty Law Center mailers and back issues of Mother Jones. The point of participating in politics is to help government structures run smoothly and fairly so that we can live our fucking lives.
When was the last time you read a book for pleasure? Do it. If you’re having a hard time focusing, then go for some simple poetry, or a light novel or romance if that’s your thing.
Is there a safe area near where you live where you can go for a walk? Do it, if you can. We’re all getting a bit stir crazy, and this helps.
Is there a window in your home or a nearby place where you can star gaze? Do it. If not, there are many free and premium apps available for smart phones that can show you the constellations currently in the sky, even if it’s too cloudy to see them.
Is there a video game you liked to play when you’re a kid? Try playing it again. It might be fun and nostalgic. It might be frustrating. But chances are that it will activate old memories that you thought you’d lost, and that can be very pleasurable in times like this.
If you have the time and means, try a new recipe. If not, try spicing one of your favorite dishes a little differently. Best case scenario, you learn a new flavor that you like. Worst case scenario, you get a better appreciation for something you already love.
None of these things will fix the many crises that the U.S. is currently facing. But they will help you heal.
And all of us will need some healing in the days to come.