Since Mr. D.J. Trump, someone none of us would have guessed year ago, won the election, I’ve heard and witnessed distress, anger, worry and profound depression in my friends all around the globe, and I feel that I have a duty to address the issue. Here I present my consolation.
I will not attempt an analysis of the situation (it is far more complex than anyone in any of the articles, blogs and editorials put forward so far seem to fathom, and I fear no shame in admitting that I do not understand all the causes and all the consequences — all I can say, is to look farther into history well beyond the past few decades before we can even start to understand what is going on). Nor will I tell anyone what they should do. I do not know what is in your power to do, and I have no illusions about it.
I will only present suggestions and perspective, an alternative, and I hope that these will encourage at least one person to overcome their personal anxiety, to become able to do what is in their power to do good in this, let’t face it, unusual situation.
This is what I would do myself (and it also is, more or less, what I did).
First, remind yourself that it is not likely to be the end of the world.
I, myself, meditated on this: Whatever happens, there are microbes that live deep in Earth’s crust, munching slowly on the minerals frozen inside rocks. And they will be there long after we are gone. And they will start the circle of life anew, should we **** things up here on the top of the turf.
I find it helpful to go into extreme with this thought, but you might just remind yourself that nothing is permanent, and in ten years some things will be better and others worse. In other words, prepare your mind for the horrors to come, but (unsurprisingly) keep reminding yourself that those horrors are just challenges to be met. Or, as one profound pragmatist said recently: the Sun will rise tomorrow. To say this as a wafer thin banality: No one can stop you from attempting to do what is in your power to do but yourself — unless it really is the end of the world (and that is unlikely).
Secondly, we should do what is in our power to help to make the world a better place, but remember there is no possibility of changing the fact that what has happened has happened. And we do not know what will come. That is not in our power to say.
Thus, I would recommend doing that good, those virtuous actions that are in your power. There is a lot of good to be done in the world of Trump. And I think it is our duty to think ways to be good and virtuous even in the face of such a challenge. Remind yourself of your power of imagination and all the possibilities there are. You will find more than you think you will.
Thirdly, remember to console those who are in state of panic. For many, the talk and manner of Mr. Trump have at least sounded like a direct threat to their options, their chances of finding peace and happiness or even a moderate livelihood, their security, their prospects. What ever certainties they had before, seem like being ripped apart one after another. (I talk, of course, among others, members of religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, of recently immigrated, of women and young girls with a risk of unwanted, unplanned pregnancies, and of people with physical or mental disabilities, and of ones who are chronically ill, and so forth. All those who had been singled out not as human beings or citizens but as representatives of their groups by not just Mr. Trump — but also and unfortunately by Secretary Clinton as well.)
Even if you are not directly threatened by the situation, remind others that it is not likely to be the end of the world, and that there are things in their life that are in their control. And remind them that you are there to help them in all the ways that are in your control. There are people who are really suffering with anxiety over these matters.
If, on the other hand, you are directly threatened by Trump’s talks and actions, please, hear my consolation and I hope I have provided you some means to overcome your anxiety. And please, help those who are in the same or similar situation as you are. I cannot begin to understand how the situation feels for you, but as a fellow human being I have but highest respect and admiration of your courage to face this challenge.
Fourthly, remind yourself that those who voted for Trump are human beings. They are just like yourself, in almost all respects. They eat, sleep, go to the toilet, and, yes, fart several times during the day — just as you would. They also have fears, anxieties and hopes for the future. They have been sometimes hurt, and sometimes they feel anger over that. Just like you yourself. Same is true of Mr. Trump, his family, his friends, and the members of his administration. They are humans. Mr. Trump is but a man. An old man. He is nothing more and nothing less. There are no monsters. Just cruelty, cleverness and anger, and very human stupidity — that we all share and we all take part in. And only thing we can do, is to try to do the good that is in our power.
And keep reminding yourself that policies of a man can be overturned and counteracted by actions of others equally persistent and equally clever. During the past few centuries, others have faced even greater forces of repression and done the good deeds they could, nonetheless.
Fifthly, remember humour and laughter and company of other people. Things that truly matter. And the fact that in due time things will change. Nothing is permanent. That optimism is only useful when things look dark — as a tool for finding clever ways to do good and be a good person.
Nothing is so bad that there isn’t something comical about it. I think that would be, for instance, the attitude of one of the greatest American thinker of all times, Mel Brooks.
Lastly, I recommend some reading: I derive much of my moral thinking and attitudes from the ancient Roman Stoics. The three following books are easily accessible from the internet. However, I recommend the quite cheap and excellent paperback editions (e.g., by Penguin classics, Oxford classics or Cambridge classics series) available on almost all bookshops (online or physical).
- M. Aurelius: Meditations.
- Seneca: Letters from a Stoic.
- Epictetus: Handbook.
For thinking about the options we have in the world to do good, it is well to remind us what others have done while facing even worse odds. There are many clever ways to be a force of good in this world of ours. Thus I recommend for instance:
- Henry David Thoreau: “The Duty of Civil Disobedience“.
- The Complete site on Mahatma Gandhi
- The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Center
- Kimberley Brownlee: “Civil Disobedience” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
I welcome all comments and suggestions for improvements with joy. (Especially since this is my second language and I’m somewhat dyslexic, please, feel welcome to correct my grammar and spelling, should you find it wanting.)