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Coping with America

November 14, 2016

I’m one of that slightly more than half of American voters who isn’t happy with the outcome of last week’s presidential election. I tell myself that it’ll all be OK, that the nation has always had ups and downs, and that we’ll survive this down no matter how low it goes. I try and tell myself that maybe this won’t even be a down because the president elect Mr. Trump sounds, so far, different than the Republican candidate Mr. Trump, and that helps me feel a little better. But then I hear stories about racist graffiti in two Minnesota high schools, and on colleges in Pennsylvania and San Diego, and in other cities around the nation and I see president-elect Trump on 60 Minutes claim that he’s not aware of any violence this past week against African Americans, Latinos and gays and my anxiety and sadness returns and I don’t feel a little better anymore.

When I sit and assess my reactions to this past week I think about what I can do to make myself more at ease and one of the things I come back to is Facebook. Facebook can be great fun: writing groups, TV groups, baseball groups, reconnecting with old friends and meeting new friends, chatting with different people, and a never-ending supply of animal videos to break up the most stressful of days. But Facebook has become, for me, a very depressing playground. The language, rhetoric, misinformation, disrespect and name-calling by that slightly less than half of American voters who are happy with the outcome of last week’s president election is on a par with what we heard and saw from the candidate himself during the campaign. And so I keep coming back to the thought that it’s maybe in my best interest to deactivate my account for a time.

When I sit I also try and figure out how I can best survive in a world that seems to be more and more prone to hate and fear and bullying and intolerance and I came up with some ideas that I’m going to work on incorporating into my life in the hope that it’ll make me, and hopefully others, feel better.

  • When I see people – especially a person of color or someone who looks like they may not be native to the US – I can make eye contact and smile. And if I get the chance, I can say, “Hello”. Maybe this isn’t a big thing but maybe it’ll make the other person feel more at ease and less fearful that every person they see (especially white men) walking down the street dislikes them or mistrusts them because of the color of their skin or their style of dress.
  • I can remember that everyone I come in contact with is just like me. They have the same hopes and desires and feelings that I have. They have the same blood that I have. They have fears and they laugh when they’re happy and they cry when they’re sad. I can know that if I hold the door for someone who doesn’t acknowledge the gesture, rather than becoming angry, I can remember that maybe that other person is distracted, or anxious, or their back hurts or they’re stressed. This doesn’t mean I have to justify rude behavior, it just means that I can try and understand it.
  • I can keep my eyes on the road and not speed and stay away from cracks and potholes. This one doesn’t really have as much to do with me as it does with my car. Of course a smoothly running car is a good thing for me. And it gives me something to concentrate on that doesn’t involve other drivers.
  • I can give to charity. If I don’t live in a country where I can rely on the government to help the hungry and the poor, the homeless, veterans, the elderly and the disabled, then it’s up to me to be a part of the solution and to pick up the slack. Pick a charity or a cause and give to it.
  • I won’t step on ants. Ants are so small that they appear to be insignificant. And for the most part, with the exception of some species that most of us are never going to encounter in our lives, they’re nothing more than a pest. But because they’re so small as to appear to be insignificant that makes it easy to step on them without a thought. Step on and kill an ant without giving it a thought makes it that much easier to step on something else (like someone’s rights or their feelings?) without giving it a thought. So while I give thought to the people I encounter, I’ll give thought to the ants I encounter as well and acknowledge their place on the planet. (Hoping on this one I don’t encounter them in my home!)
  • Rather than become annoyed with children I see in public I can pay attention to how they react when they’re enthused about something and try and copy that enthusiasm.
  • I can pick my news sources. Mainstream media makes money by the number of viewers they gather so it’s in their interest to present the most sensational stories possible. If there’s no hair-raising or lurid story to report on they’ll create one. Do I want manufactured, or “massaged”, news stories or do I want simple and factual reporting?
  • I can make it a point to meditate and stretch every day, not just when I remember.
  • I can continue to eat fewer animals.
  • I can accept the result of the election with the same dignity that Secretary Clinton and President Obama did.
  • I can surround myself with other people who maybe feel the same way I do.
  • And finally I can listen to more Warren Zevon.

I’m not really sure where this leaves me but it gives me things, good things, positive things, to think about as opposed to thinking about the person we just elected to lead and guide our nation, and how we chose to follow a demagogue down the path of racism and xenophobia while thumbing our noses at social conscience and health care and equal rights, and the people who are OK with that.

As for Facebook – I don’t know. There are a lot of people and things I’ll miss, but the negativity is brutal and it’s something I can’t be around.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 14, 2016 12:15 pm

    Wise words. There is great power in a simple smile and hello. Although, sometimes I say, “good morning.” And I’ve had your thoughts about FB. I still haven’t decided, but for now I am trying to post things that change the conversation. Don’t know if I can, but I live a land of hope.


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