It happened. What seemed implausible months ago is now a reality. My social media feed reveals that I have friends and family from every wave of the political spectrum, and so I scroll from tears to laughter, anger to boasting, fear to hope, wash, rinse, repeat. Now that it’s here, now that we must learn to say the words, “President Donald J. Trump,” what is the process by which we enter into these uncharted waters? What do people need?
People Need to Grieve
Let them. Let people be angry, express fear, say things that they may regret later…let them. This is a new sensation for me. In the past, when my candidate hasn’t won, I was certainly concerned for the direction of our country, as well as the social and moral implications of a given leader’s influence. But this is measured on a different scale. That was Fahrenheit, this is Kelvin. And loss of this magnitude requires expression of grief. The grieving process is just that, a process. How someone feels today is not necessarily how they will feel tomorrow, and since we know that Facebook posts often leapfrog the filter between the initial thought and the mouth, let people grieve it out.
People Need to Hope
Let them. President Donald J. Trump represents strength and safety for many people. Smart people – not caricatures of backwoods hillbillies – voted for him and look forward to his leadership. In recent years they saw their fears unmitigated, and their hopes unrealized, and they chose to effect change. Your answer to the question, “What makes you hopeful?” is different than mine, and if I find your answer confounding, it doesn’t lessen one bit your need for hope. Nor mine. Celebrate hope, foster hope, and express hope. Let them hope. It is woven into the human psyche.
People Need to Be Understood
Understand them. As expressed above, smart people voted for a candidate you find unacceptable, frightening, morally bankrupt, incompetent, etc. A surefire way to foster alienation is to refuse to learn to articulate each other’s views. Think about what disgusts you about the US Congress: toddlers in grown up clothes whining and crying and threatening and bullying and pointing fingers and saying, “They started it.” (See this gem.) Wouldn’t you love to see political opponents sit down and clearly outline each other’s position, setting the table for substantive discussion and real compromise? Let’s show them how. Listen, then articulate back what you heard to the satisfaction of the one to whom you listened, then speak your position. Try it. It’s amazing what keeping human dignity intact can do for progress.
People Need to Create
Yeah, that seems out of left field. But, let them. Let people create art, media, literature, music, and dance to express the depth of human experience, especially during confusing and tumultuous times. Let gifted political minds craft something better than a two-party system, something that increases viable choices for a diverse society. Let cultural visionaries paint with broad, beautiful strokes that inspire us to climb to new heights without ever stepping on others to get there.
People Need Love
Give it. Not the kind of love that is blind and giddy and goes away with the first pimple. Rather, the kind that looks at another human being — no matter how different they appear, no matter how incomprehensible their values seem, no matter who they love — and sees immense worth. The kind that seeks to meet the need in the other. In my life, I have met wealthy businessmen, famous actors, and professional athletes, as well as homeless men and women, orphans, and the marginalized and abused in our society. My conversations with the former groups often revolved around lofty ideas, money, power, and politics. With the latter? Basic human needs, in the context of deep mutual understanding. It was the language of love. They gave it, and they received it.
My thirteen-year-old son quoted Queen to me this morning, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.” He is grieving, and he needs hope, creativity, and love to move on and live in this world as a productive, positive member of society. I do, too. So do you. Let’s give to each other what we need.