Today I am reflecting on what life has been like 12 months after the fate of a Trump presidency was sealed. The whole of 2016 moved at breakneck speed. You could just sense that the nation was changing and the magnitude of how important this election would be. I remember being hyper-focused, anticipating the outcome of every primary and caucus leading up to the big event. Anytime something remotely newsworthy was brought to my attention, I was there, watching with bated breath. Election night was no different. There was so much riding on this, but the possibility that what happened, would happen was so ludicrous to me that I didn’t want to overwhelm my mental health with the burden of that possibility.
I had so much hope. And then I didn’t.
Hour after ticking hour trudged on as talking head after talking head went back and forth, analyzing every angle. Soon I was the only one in the house that was still awake. Once the suits on TV started to lose their composure my anxiety hiked up to 11. When Van Jones took the the floor and the graveness washed over his face as he stated his concern to get in contact with friends to make sure they were going to be okay if the worse case scenario played out, the dam was on the brink of breaking.
This can’t happen. This can’t happen. This can’t happen.
I felt like I was cycling through the four Kubler Ross stages of grief from denial to bargaining and back again in rapid succession as midnight approached. I say four steps because acceptance (the fifth step) of this man holding the most powerful office in our nation was absolutely unfathomable to me. I didn’t want it to be true, but ever vigilant I held on past midnight when the fateful concession call came from Hillary Clinton and it was all over. The beginning of the end.
I felt like I had been hit by a truck, believe me, I know . Ever the planner, I began surveying the worse case scenario on every issue that scared us to death. It was at this point that I was so grateful that my husband and I had distanced our family away from the evangelical church 6 months prior to election day. Had we still been holding tightly to the idol of Evangelical Christianity as the core of our identity, this might have destroyed us. The mushroom cloud was forming.
On that Wednesday morning when I awoke after managing a few winks of distraught sleep, everything was about to change. I just didn’t know how much. Reliving the experience of the 2016 campaign season and the outcome of the election takes me to the 1944 classic movie Gaslight starring Charles Boyer as Gregory and Ingrid Bergman as Paula. We see the true motive of Gregory to take advantage of Paula but in order to keep her from realizing his plan, he begins to manipulate her, causing her to question her own sanity and perception of reality. This technique is known as gaslighting and it is one that many families like mine are now feeling they are at the epicenter of.
It starts with voicing serious concern to a Trump supporting friend or relative over a fear that is a rational one to have based upon the platform which Trump’s campaign was hinged upon. This is immediately followed by said friend putting words into their champion’s mouth.
“Oh he didn’t mean it like that!”
“He would never do something like that.”
“Everything is going to be fine.”
It never mattered what type of proof I could garner of the legitimacy of the agenda that this administration was actively seeking. The answer I would get time and time again from my well intentioned, and most apathetic of loved ones were the hollow words, “It will all work out.” I wanted to believe it were true. I really did. I hoped with what little hope I had left in me that the president could give a shred of a damn with his promise to act with “heart”.
As if words like “cut medicaid” or “rescind DACA” or “transgender ban” weren’t written right there in black in white, much less spoken from the horse’s mouth. Now here we are 12 months later and I am so tired. I am so tired of the devil-may-care approach to defend this man who can do no wrong in the eyes of so many. It has cost too much. There are families shattered, communities displaced, lives lost.
But I’m still here.
I’m not the only one. And like Paula, we are being joined by others who are also noticing the gas lights flickering, who help us realize that our perception is just fine. Who assist us in locking up those lies and throwing away the key. Everything is not okay, but everything can be overcome.
How fitting is it that on election day one year later, to have such a display of resistance in our newly elected officials being represented by many “firsts” to their various cities, states, and districts — including the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, and women. I find it so ironic that the Evangelical Christian community makes up such an emormous base of Trump supporters. This display of diversity reminds me of a scripture that I grew up hearing again and again spoken of as if we were the ones being made into a strong nation.
“In that day,” says the Lord,
“I will assemble the lame,
I will gather the outcast
And those whom I have afflicted;
I will make the lame a remnant,
And the outcast a strong nation;
How comforting that such a diverse group of individuals are springing up like wells in this desert we have found ourselves in for the last 12 months. It seems these folks are making our nation into a stronger one. These are small victories, but I’ll take them. I’m pushing through fear. Some of my worst case scenarios are already in motion and somehow I am still standing. I am seeing the evidence that love trumps hate. I’m not giving up, because I’m still here.