One of the key reasons that most of us feel so uneasy about the Trump victory, supporters and haters alike, is that none of us could have predicted the outcome, given the pathetic performance of the Mainstream Media (New York Times, CNN, NPR, CNBC), who uncritically supported Hillary and saw her victory as inevitable–no less a coronation– and equally uncritically vilified Trump (as if he needed any help) as a helpless, hapless, buffoon, who was always and continues to be characterized as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. The failure of the media to provided balanced coverage, to give voters real information about how the campaigns were really doing, to reflexively react to competing narratives–“lock her up” “Trump is unfit”–leaves us all anxious and confused, all the more so because the so-called “wrong person” won.
We have all been taught that the hallmarks of a strong democracy are free speech and a free and critical press, whose job is to tell voters the “truth”, so that we can make informed decisions about who and how we should be governed. When our fundamental confidence in our governing institutions and processes is shaken, we are left lost and adrift. And very angry.
Make no mistake. The anger is real but misplaced. It is looking for a target to vent and blame. Like a spurned lover, it lashes out, in a blind rage, impervious to logic or consequence. But eventually the tears must stop, the broken dishes swept up, and life moves on. But how do you do it, when you feel so crushed, alone, and forlorn.
Step 1: Don’t wallow. Keep moving. Get busy with other things. The world has not ended.
Step 2: Give up catastrophic thinking. Things are never as bad or as great as they seem
Step 3: Be selective in how you listen to the media. Interpret with caution. They exist primarily as infotainment and to manipulate you to buy things. Use your “eyes and ears” to see what is going on for yourself.
Step 4: Try to be open-minded to the other side. The issues that we all face are bipartisan–health, jobs, immigration, free speech. And the issues that seem to be intractable: women’s and LGBTQ rights, religious freedom, race relations–can all be resolved when we start from a point of common respect for each other’s humanity, an idea which the founding fathers enshrined in the Constitution. We may not agree, but we need to understand that so long as we characterize our opponents as “deplorables” or “rapists” we have lost any chance of persuading them to consider our own point of view. So rather than violently protest or boycott Trump, or threaten to impeach him, consider how you might be able to work with or around him to achieve your goals. We all want to make America great again, even if we don’t agree on methods or issues. Such is the messiness and beauty of democracy, and like a bear on skates, it is not so much how well it skates, but that it can get down the ice at all.
Remember, the world is not a Super Bowl match, where we are forced to choose sides, and the winner is decided in rare overtime play. Rather, we are the stadium that has to hold everybody without collapsing in the process.