For my American friends
If it helps at all, here’s what I learnt from Brexit (and also to some extent from our horrific winter floods).
If you’re an American who didn’t vote for Trump, you’re probably going to feel absolutely dreadful for several days. If you didn’t see it coming, you may feel as though you don’t know your country at all. Even if you did see this coming, you may still be reeling in shock and disbelief.
You may walk around, look at people and wonder if they voted in a way that has upended your reality. If you’re any sort of visible minority, you are likely to feel threatened and unsafe. You will wonder if neighbours, workmates and strangers secretly hate you — of course, sadly this is probably familiar territory for you but it’s likely to be amplified.
Expect to be shell-shocked and have mood swings. You may cycle through anger, despair, depression & moments of pure hatred interspersed with bleak humour that easily shades into hysteria. Random things may make you suddenly cry. That Trump is your president may never stop being unbelievable and ridiculous. You will get very little warning about these mood changes.
And yet the sun will still come up, kids and animals will need to be fed and your work and responsibilities will still exist. Things will look normal on the surface and you’ll wonder if you’re making a fuss about nothing but everything will feel faintly surreal. For what it’s worth, I think we are living through a massive sea change where all the old rules of the game are being thrown out. I hope that I’m wrong but I think we’re entering a very turbulent time.
For what it’s worth, my advice for coping/what to expect is as follows. If it doesn’t resonate with you, feel free to ignore.
Firstly, be as gentle with yourself as you can. Practice good self care. Walk away from things when you have to, especially social media. Eat when you can but be aware that it may be difficult. Remember that any nutrition is better than no nutrition. Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Sleep when you can. Listen to good music, pick up your comfort reading, immerse yourself in a box-set or some comedy. Exercise if you can. Journal, make art, sing, do the things that nourish you. Then do it more. If you’ve got existing mental health issues, be especially careful and practice more self care than you think you need.
Be as gentle with your allies as you can. Not everyone will be in the same phase as you at the same time. If you come across someone who’s filled with righteous organising energy when you need your blanket fort, don’t feel guilty because you Just Can’t Deal. And if you’re in activist mode, don’t try to chivvy the blanket-forters out of where they are. Just let them deal with things in their own way. Not everyone can leap straight into organising and that’s OK. You may find it frustrating but they are not the problem, the people you are organising against are. There are people who are on your side who may never be able to be activists for whatever reason. Let people help in whatever ways they can, no matter how small it seems to you.
From the floods I learnt that no matter how much you do, it won’t feel like enough and you’ll feel guilty that you’re not doing enough to help. But you have to avoid burn-out so go read the self care paragraph again.
Reach out to your fellow travellers when you can, especially if they’re more at the pointy end than you. If you can protect others, you should. POC, religious minorities, disabled people, LGBTQ folk and women are going to be especially at risk. If you’re a white cis hetero male, please listen to what these groups know; they’ve fought and lived with this bullshit for their entire lives and they probably do know more about their needs than you. Offer help but don’t presume you know better than them. Stay humble.
Expect a lot of pushback from some Trump voters — they are likely to be extremely poor winners. It’s not enough that they won, many will want to rub your nose in it.
So you’ll hear things like, ‘you lost, get over it’; ‘stop being hysterical’ and ‘don’t you believe in democracy?’ They will come up with new names for you — I’m a Remoaner apparently. If you can, don’t let it get to you.
If there are bad consequences expect them to deny this utterly. Like anyone, they don’t want to be wrong. If this follows the Brexit model, there’s likely to be an immediate increase in racial attacks. Many of them will claim that it’s all internet rumour and exaggeration or will downplay how serious it is. If there are financial consequences, they’ll say things like, ‘stop talking our country down’ and ‘America, love it or leave it’. I know you already hear the later: expect to hear it more. You’ll probably be called a traitor.
Some Trump supporters will be sympathetic but many won’t want to accept that your hurt, fear and anger is genuine. Remember, they simply don’t see what you see: their reality filter is radically different. If you have the energy and you feel someone can be reached, then you can try for dialogue but don’t be surprised if you fail.
The level of sheer betrayal you feel towards family and friends who voted for Trump may take you aback. You’ll have to make your own choices about what to do about that. I don’t envy you.
At the end of the day, your first and foremost responsibility is to yourself and those you are directly responsible for. Attach that oxygen mask and keep breathing. You are precious.