Post-Election Coping: What next?

This post is a selfish act, just like many of the online essays or rants that I have read in the last few days (even if they don’t want admit it). It is selfish because I am doing it for myself, because I need to do it, because I don’t know what else to do. The best advice I’ve seen so far is to not judge too quickly anyone else’s social media rants; let them get it out. Everyone is dealing with this in their own way, and these affective responses will be important as we move forward (whenever that may be). We will remember this sadness, this anger, this disappointment, and that will stick with us as we continue fighting.

A few weeks ago, I posted this piece by Tiffany Martínez on my facebook wall, about a Latina scholar feeling alienated from her field. She admits that she had to write the post instead of completing another assignment, that she had to take a day off from her academic work to mentally and affectively process a traumatic experience. This stood out to me because I had never experienced that. In my privileged position as a White, straight, college-educated, able-bodied, cis-gendered man from New England, I had never had to take a day off to process that kind of pain…

Until last Wednesday. With papers to grade and a presentation to prepare, I just couldn’t do it. The pain of remembering who our next president will be made it impossible to focus on schoolwork. In no way am would I compare my situation to what Tiffany went through. That would be insensitive and ignorant of my many privileges. What made me think about her blog is the fact that the pain I feel today is something that others feel every day. What seemed like a shock to me and others around me (what? there are that many racists/misogynists/homophobes/xenophobes in this country?) is something I had previously chosen to ignore, something that so many people cannot avoid.

As someone who studies Latin American-U.S. relations, I should not have been surprised by what happened. This country has long been built on militant racism, sexism, heteronormativity, imperialism, and oppressive capitalism. That is why making America «great» again never made sense to so many of us…When was America great? For whom? The greatness that has emerged from this country is a result of struggles against that system, of resistances against those oppressions, of solidarities against those evils. Those resistances are part of the ongoing battles to freely live, vote, walk, pray, care, teach and love in this country.

I did not do enough. I voted (in a non-swing state). I listened to podcasts and read articles that assured me that everything would be OK. I «liked» articles shared by people that agree with most of my political and social views. I didn’t challenge the broken system. I didn’t stand up for those who needed support. I didn’t fight. And here we are.

Laying blame on myself is not meant to make me feel worse. I needed to put this down in writing so that I can remember next time (next week? tomorrow? right now?) all that I should have done. The only positive thing that could come from this dark moment is the awakening of so many people like me who comfortably let this happen. We didn’t do enough. Let’s not make that mistake again.

My grandfather was lucky to end up in the U.S. after fleeing the same kind of hatred and fascism that is about to officially lead our country. How is this happening again? Did it only take two generations for us to forget? How did I so grossly overestimate the compassion of half of my fellow citizens? (One thing that others have mentioned that it is so important to note: More than half of us voted against him. We cannot forget that as we fight on. We are not alone.)

There have been a few bright moments since the election results were announced: time with my partner, teaching Spanish to medical professionals who want to better connect with their patients, reading poetry in class that challenges neoliberal technologies. Those moments will help, and I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining mental health in order to keep fighting. But it will be more important to stay uncomfortable, to remember this pain, to channel it and to let it fuel our push for something better than what we have now.


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