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Grief and Resistance

A somewhat more personal reflection this time round. Many of the liberal left have been struggling to come to terms with a Trump presidency. Here are this author’s reflections of how we can understand and try to be resilient about this reality, by thinking through the prism of the Kubler-Ross cycle.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross diagnosed the five stage process as a way dealing with death and grief. Grief is an incredibly complex emotion. It is part of what makes us human, a side that speaks to our deep connections with our loved ones. But it can also apply to 45’s win, and our reactions to most of what he’s done since then. Let’s begin with perhaps the most painful step, the one we know only too well, but often cannot recognise, namely denial.

We denied the reality of his win. This writer still denies the substance, and believes that Robert Mueller’s investigation will go on to prove that Russian interference swayed the result. But when the hammer fell last November, Trump opponents simply could not believe that so many people voted for him. The bad guy had won, and this seemed to go against a fundamental sense of fairness that’s inculcated in us since childhood, that a bully should never win. We – democrats with a small ‘d’ – still find the result shocking.

Then anger. Anger that so many Americans could be so stupid, could so wilfully ignore the racism that Trump espoused during his campaign, or even worse, secretly or openly championed it. Anger at the Sanders supporters who would rather let a KKK apologist into the White House, than swallow their pride and vote for Hillary Clinton. Mostly, an anger that you had been let down by your friends, your neighbours, and your family. This defeat seemed deeply personal because in many cases it was. Nothing like finding out that the person you thought you knew all along voted for Donald Trump. It can be a rage so strong that it becomes all consuming.

We come to bargaining. Some, but not all, were tempted along the lines of thinking that surely he wouldn’t be as bad as he was during the campaign? Wouldn’t he pivot away from his base, and discard the hard right as he had dumped everyone else in his self-seeking career? Or there were those who thought that they could work with him on areas of common interest. This attempt at bargaining did not last very long. It was quickly dispelled by Trump’s pre-inauguration tweets, his speech on the day, many of his appointments, and his behaviour since. He cannot be bargained with as he cannot be trusted in anything he says or does.

The depression that came post-November was real and deep. It seems that there would be no way of getting him removed from the Oval Office. His remarks after Charlottesville, his promotion of White Nationalists to the heart of the administration, the refusal of the GOP leadership to condemn him explicitly, all added to the sense of despair, the feeling that nothing was working, the belief that he could ride this out. He thrives on this, on making people feel weak. It was a rational reaction to his deeds, and one that’s part of grieving for what had been normalcy under Obama. All seemed lost, there seemed no way forward.

Yet, somehow, we must drag ourselves through all this, all our feelings, welcome and unwelcome, and we must come to acceptance. That is not accepting his legitimacy, but accepting that there are political and legal strategies to removing him from office. We are where we are. We have come through a lot in a few short months. We can accept what has happened. We now have the option of acquiescing or resisting. Peaceful resistance takes many forms. It means staying woke. It involves being resilient, developing if not an inner toughness, then a sense of realising we will not change the past, but we can work to make the future. If it feels like you’ve been under siege, have faith, reinforcements are coming. There is no guarantee, no certainty, that Trump will be removed. There is probability though, and that probability grows by the day.

There is so much that is dark, and wrong, and nasty about the current usurpers on Pennsylvania Avenue. But the wheels of justice are turning, albeit slower than all of Trump’s opponents would like. His apologists and supporters may not accept Robert Mueller’s findings, but most Americans will. There is a ticking clock marking the time running out on this fake administration. The end may not be soon, but it is coming. And those who want to support Trump after Mueller’s work are welcome to make their case. They will be ridiculed for their folly, and ignorance, and the republic will be restored.

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