Szuhaj: The Aftermath

How to cope with a Trump presidency.

by Ben Szuhaj | 11/11/16 12:15am

I’m writing this article on Wednesday, Nov. 9, and let me just say that I don’t want to write it. I’m tired, bitter. Part of me is deeply saddened that I must pen these words. Another part of me is stunned. Another part frightened. Another numb. But this isn’t about me — this is about an election result that would have been the punch line of a joke just six months ago. This is about coping with a result that is at best surprising and at worst terrifying, depending on who you ask. This is about President-elect Donald Trump, and how we should respond.

Firstly, I want to say that you are loved. No matter who you are, there is someone out there who loves you. Trump’s election makes it painfully clear that hate still abounds. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, bigotry — all the things Trump embodies — persist in our country. But hate is not antithetical to love; it does not negate love but, rather, love exists alongside it. It is a disease and a weapon. A cunning sociopath has used it to seize the highest office in the land — but please, no matter how frightened or lonely or angry or scared his mind-bogglingly irresponsible platform of hate has made you feel, do not forget that you are loved.

“Love Trumps Hate.” This is a key message from former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign that holds true despite the outcome of this election. In fact, it holds true now more than ever. In the cold shadow of this monumental election, do not recoil. Do not resign yourself to hatred. Your country needs your love. It needs your strength and your vulnerability, paradoxical as that may seem. Your country needs your love to heal, and even if you do not think your love has been earned, try to give it nonetheless.

Support your friends and family. Be conscious of the fact that, while most of us have something to lose, some of us have more to lose than others. Tragedy breeds compassion if we cope with it correctly. If we avoid becoming bogged down by the ever-increasing levels of hate that have characterized this election, then we can focus our efforts on helping those among us who are affected most. That is the first step. The next is to educate ourselves, to make our voices heard, to protest peacefully and communicate our viewpoints clearly. During this process, we must not surrender to hatred or to fear. Those are the forces of Trump. They corrupt and exploit. Hold onto love.

I want to talk about Trump supporters. They are people. They have hopes and dreams and families and interests and opinions, and there are a lot of them. I can’t believe I actually have to say this, but they are not Nazis. Yes, the Ku Klux Klan has endorsed Trump, and yes, Trump himself has spewed a whole litany of bigoted, harmful lies, but that does not mean all Trump supports are white supremacists. Many of them — the vast majority, in fact — are regular people. We should not assume that the very few, very bad individuals in their group represent all of them. In essence, we should not do what Trump does.

So I return to my fundamental plea: Do not let hatred win. If it must have Nov. 8, 2016, then so be it. But do not concede the next four years to hatred. Bitterness does nothing but fester. It will not change America; it will only change you. The best thing we can do in the coming days is be available, compassionate and honest. We must believe that the progress America has made over the last 50 years will not come undone as easily as we might fear. Change is hard. It takes time. Just because the White House has fallen into the tiny hands of an alleged rapist does not mean there aren’t responsible, qualified politicians in our government ready to stand up and fight the tide that seeks to rollback progress. We must support them. We must not turn our back on America, even if we feel it has turned its back on us.