Friday, February 17, 2017

May we be bent but not broken by the grief and despair of a post-Trump world

    Ever since the election of Donald Trump three months ago, it's like I can't get my feet underneath me. I’m not even sure what I mean by that – just that it’s like having firm ground that you’ve always stood on suddenly rocking beneath you, shaking up everything you thought you knew.
    On top of that, my mother died Jan. 7. The impact was something the same. Both things amounted to the painful destruction of fundamental beliefs that I built my life on.
    In the case of Trump, I realized with his election that contrary to what I’d thought, we weren’t getting better as a society - that all the positive social and cultural changes I’ve seen in my lifetime in North American society aren’t real changes at all, because a frightening percentage of the public is just aching to hate somebody as a stand-in for all the things that haven’t gone right in their own lives.
    In the case of my mother, I lost the one person who could always be counted on to show up for me my entire life. Between her and Trump, it ended up being a one-two combination that has really knocked me off my game.
    I think it’s a type of broken heart, this feeling. I feel it like a psychic illness, making me huddle into myself and minimize contact with the outside world. All the things I cared about passionately just three short months ago now feel pointless, because the solid ground that I thought we were building on for social change turned out to be shifting sand.
    I’m aware that I have to get through this slump. Otherwise, I risk becoming one of those people who end up bitter and chronically sad. I don’t yet know what “getting well” will entail, but figure I’ll know it when I feel it. I’m counting on spring.
    I was bound to enter a period of mourning after Mom died, but I’m pretty sure the Trump election has actually been the bigger blow to my psyche. My mother’s death was sad but inevitable, after all, while the ascendancy of Trump is a horrifying development of global magnitude.
    It would be handy at times like this to be able to disconnect from the world and just shut the door on all the bits of news and “alternate facts” contributing to this paralyzing state of low-level despair. Could I just turn away from it all and live in happy ignorance?
    Alas, not only would my inner journalist never tolerate such a thing, I am a mother and grandmother, with an extended family of people I care about. If nothing else, I must find hope again so I can continue the fight and not just crumple to the ground under the weight of all the ugliness. I did not have children so that they could live on a planet in which a man like Donald Trump runs a major civilized nation.
    One of the things I liked best about living and working in Central America is the feeling of being in countries that were on their way up. They’re not there yet, but they’re working on it. There was always such a sense of possibility.
    In the U.S., and at times in Canada, it feels to me like we’ve peaked and are on our way down. Our laws and fancy declarations still make us appear like we’re committed, but a lot of times it feels like we’re devolving. And while people like me have been thinking that the goal was to build an ever more inclusive, tolerant and equal society, it’s clear now that there are a whole lot of people who aren’t like me.
    This is particularly true in the United States, though not exclusively. (We will not soon forget the former Harper government’s promise of a “Barbaric Cultural Practices” hotline.) I do understand the righteous rage that fuelled the U.S. election upset, if not the dangerous clown that the populace wrongly thought would be their saviour. There has been a big price to pay for these last 30 or so years of political drift toward global markets, fewer taxes, and increasingly self-interested governments that aren’t concerned with growing inequality because they’re always the ones on top no matter what.
    Anyway. I have nothing but words at the moment, and we all know now that all the words in the world don’t count for much in the grand scheme of things. These days I feel like I have nothing more to say, and that I’d be better off to just go bird-watching or for long walks with somebody’s dog or small child, talking about nothing more than the seaweed at the shoreline or the snow in the trees. But I think that’s probably just a part of this grief.
    I know there are many other people out there who are as affected by Trump’s election as I am. I feel sure our energies are going to find each other one day soon and lift us out of this ennui. I think I need a good old-fashioned protest – a sign in my hand, a whole lot of people in the street to remind me that yes, we stand up for ourselves when challenged.
    Two things I know: I won’t always be sad; and I am a hopeless optimist, a genetic characteristic that can’t be beaten out of me even by the likes of Trump. This too shall pass.


Finner said...

As the eternal optimist Jody look at all the people this horrid Trump situation has mobilized to disown what he stands for and advocate for those very beliefs we need to maintain for ourselves, children and grandchildren. As for the people who just want to blame someone, perhaps our governments became a little to complacent about listening to their voices when somethjng rationale could have appeased them. With our own provincial election coming up let's stay focussed on what we can influence and remember that starfish story!

Unknown said...

Beautifully written and expressed, Jody!
I am so with you ~ trying to find a way to put my head in the sand re Trump and yet I cannot.
I'm a revolutionary/resistance movement, but on the other hand, I just want to walk in the forest..forever, and listen to the wind:)
And the mom thing is a big one; we're struggling with our mom stuff too right now.

Warm wishes and thank you for your poignant post.

Dana (Barb's sis)

Anonymous said...

I feel for your sadness and despair about the state of our world Jody. It has been depressing to see the fiasco in the US and losing your mom is heartbreaking. I thought about your words and know that when I feel overwhelmed by the negative stuff out there I try to remember that there is also a lot of good going on in the world that never gets celebrated. Wonderful people like you, Paul and many others continue to do great work volunteering and helping make lives better. I used to work in collections and thought the whole world was trying to get out of paying and I was reminded that we only ever heard from a small percentage of folks, most people just paid without having to be called. I think its similar out there in the world amazing things happen without much fanfare or media and that the majority of kind loving people are just livin' their lives and doin' good. This is just the pendulum swing that we are experiencing and it will swing back again as usual. Don't give up hope just yet. We shall overcome!

Maggie Kerr-Southin said...

Thank you for expressing what is in my heart and head. I've had a couple of big losses this year too and combined with Trump I'm desolate. So unlike my usual self, I couldn't leave the house for two weeks without panic attacks. This week, I've forced myself out and am talking to people about what we do to raise a ruckus. I cannot sit back while he strips people of their rights and rounds up immigrants.

So yeah, I hear ya. Self care and healing is number one - you've endured a tremendous loss. Enjoy the forest and grandkids and ocean. The time to fight is anon when you get your strength back.

Dan said...

I also want to thank you for putting "words" to express what I have been feeling. Two thoughts: an interview with Lenard Cohen gave a kind of long view to the world. His poets eye could see that these trends and events take decades to develop. You could see this coming from a long way off. My other thought is that Trump didn't create this world we find ourselves in. The world / we created Trump. I am also a person of words. I write my poetry not expecting to change the world but because I have to.

Deb Nilsen said...

Thank you for your strong words, Jody. I wish I could say I'm dumbfounded by what's happening in the US and the rest of the world. But as you note, this has been building for a long time. I'm afraid that the thin veil of 'humanity' is shredding, and this will continue to expose the base instincts we have to continue fighting against. I am so sorry for your loss of your Mom. When my Mom died, I had the same sensation of being cut adrift, literally, without an anchor. Was it Camus who implied we turn our backs and tend our garden? I'm not sure. I'm something of an optimist too, but it sure is hard right now to get up off the floor and show up.

Anonymous said...

From the film "Antonia's line" (an oldie but wonderful):
'The proverb is wrong; time does not heal all wounds. What it does is to dull the pain and blur the memories.' I lost my wife 17 years ago and that is what happened to me. All who read your blog are feeling sad for you at this time, but we are not promised forever and must make do with the gifts we have been given.

As for Trump, I really think the blame lies with Western governments that have consistently ignored the less fortunate and given the wealthy all they wish for in case the wealthy decide to move their factories, their riches etc. It can happen here if we do not care enough to educate the youth and the dispossessed to the need to vote, to be active politically and to care about each other in material and non-material ways.

Cairine Green said...

Jody, thanks so much for sharing these heartfelt reflections. I have been feeling similarly about the world around us, trying to shake the feelings of foreboding and anxiety about the American election and what electing Trump has unleashed across the world. Perhaps it's because I care a lot about community, about people and about our future. Having been given the gift of a first grandchild nearly two years ago, I also think most often about her and about her future. I don't want her to grow up in a world that seems gripped by fear and hatred and yet, I am hoping that new generations like hers will somehow work collectively to undo the harm that this current state of affairs has unleashed. Like you, I am an optimist and try to see the good in people but it's particularly challenging at this time. Where I do find solace is in the company of my loving family and friends and in volunteer activities that have meaning. Hang in there Jody. The loss of your Mum is a tough one and can easily compound feelings of sorrow about other situations. Grief is a journey of sorts and never easy. Anytime you want to have a coffee or lunch, please get in touch. Take care my friend.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

If it is any consolation the shakiness of your footing is shared by those of us who could see the steady chiseling of our Freedom resulting inevitably in today's Disneyland, D.C. and yesterday's Preston Manning Theme Park in Ottawa. Preparing for an earthquake is one thing, living through one yet another, rebuilding after one a lot of hard work.

Evelyn Samuel said...


You are in our hearts. It is very hard to lose your mother.

Re Trump: I came across an interview of Noam Chomsky, who always has something cogent to say. He sees the big picture. I think you may enjoy this.

He is very optimistic about the young people who will inherit this world.

Evelyn Samuel

e.a.f. said...

so sorry you lost your Mom. Its hard when you love some one and they aren't there in the physical sense anymore. it makes it hard when you want to talk to them. it takes time.

of course loosing your Mom and then having Trump elected, that is a double wammy. I'm still reeling from that. Each day is a crisis. Each day you think it can't get any worse or any funnier and then it does. My solution was become to watch Stephen Corbet and then Trevour Noah, laugh and go to sleep.

The hatred which surfaced hasn't surprised me. It was always there. its just for a time it wasn't socially acceptable to put it into print or say it on t.v. but it was out there amongst many. When Trump, during his campaign started his rants about Mexicans and Muslims I suspected one of the waves of hate would be directed towards Jews also and it has. Many in American need to blame some one for how things deteriorated and for them its easier to blame "outsiders" than themselves. if life didn't turn out the way it was supposed to, its because of how they voted or failed to. Now the lunatics really are in charge. It was only a matter of time. Income inequity in the U.S.A. and in other parts of the world has been grinding on people's minds. They did what they were supposed to do, worked, paid taxes, etc. but there hasn't been a happy ending since the 1970s.

We can only hope things get better, but if Le Pen is elected in France and Christy Clark in B.C. I really will have to re think my attitude.

My question has always been how can you let kids go hungry or let them die or not look after them. Some people apparently can and do. they are the true monsters of this world and sometimes it would be nice to have your Mom around to assure you things were still O.K.

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