As so many of us who do social justice work are rapidly cycling through the stages of grief, prioritizing what needs to be done feels nearly impossible.
Usually it’s the president who goes prematurely gray. Over the next four years, I expect that it will be those of us with marginalized, targeted identities who will watch as our gray and white hairs multiply exponentially.
I’m not yet ready to be the resistance. I’m still grieving, still pulling myself together. My mind comes and goes—coherent and full of resolve one minute, distant and foggy the next. I can work only in fits and starts.
Unconsciously, I had only prepared to be the left flank, pushing the first woman president to achieve bold, long-overdue change—real, practical, pro-active policy that saves lives. While I know that my country is deeply racist and misogynistic—full of white people who are not taught history or tolerance or civics—I had counted on enough of the ignorant middle disliking him enough to stay home.
I didn’t expect record turn out for Hillary or a mass realization that a hateful man with no qualifications or real desire to lead and unify should be kept out of office at all costs. I was banking on reality show fans—who made him famous by hate-watching him angrily firing people—gagging at the idea that his face would be on their televisions, in the newspaper, on every website, on the radio, on the daily, should he win. Tuning in an hour a week to roll your eyes and talk shit about The Donald is one thing; wanting him to be EVERYWHERE for four years is quite another. I don’t know many reality TV fans who’d want even their favorite star running the country.
It feels like I’m sitting on a precipice—two months or so away from a “V for Vendetta” world where our Republican overlords dictate the terms of our lives and script our media to preclude mass revolt. It feels like we should be scrambling to organize before that can happen, but as so many of us who do social justice work are rapidly cycling through the stages of grief, prioritizing what needs to be done feels nearly impossible.
I feel dread. I didn’t know it was possible to be more exhausted than I was a week ago, but I am. Realizing that we are now forced to be reactionary—fighting against things instead of for them—sent me to my therapist’s office for a last-minute session. I am accustomed to quickly reassessing and picking myself up off the floor following unexpected life events thanks to a rather rocky childhood followed by 20 years of weathering poverty, illness, and family rejection.
But I’m not bouncing back like I usually do. I’m trying to be kind to myself, to give myself space to pull it together while surrounded by the love and support of a wonderful network of friends and family-by-choice who are all checking in on each other.
But I still haven’t figured out what to do.
Maybe you haven’t either. Maybe you’re still in shock. Maybe you’re in a healthy temporary denial until you can get to a safe place to process. Maybe you’re angry. Maybe all you can think about is how you’re going to survive Thanksgiving at a table with people you know voted for someone who thinks you shouldn’t have healthcare or access to food and water or even to exist at all.
I don’t know what we do next. I don’t know how much of the impending storm we can even brace against. But I’m sure there aren’t enough sandbags or boards for our windows to keep what’s coming from bursting into our homes.
While I have an indescribable amount of faith in our youth-led movements, my heart is heavy for them and those of us who have pledged to support their efforts to make this country a just, humane place. We were already at war, with people dying in our streets for resisting state violence or for just existing as Black, Latinx, Muslim, transgender, poor, disabled, or mentally ill.
I’m not here for people who want community with Trump voters, who want us to understand their pain or try and win them over. I was told that I don’t matter because I’m a woman. I was told that I don’t matter because I’m queer. I was told that I don’t matter because I live with mental illness. I was told that I don’t matter because I’m poor. I was told that I don’t matter because I’m a rape survivor. I was told that I don’t deserve rights or healthcare or a seat at the table. Your vote for Trump tells me what you think of me.
So, no. I won’t try to understand or empathize with Trump voters—not even with those declaring to the high heavens that they just wanted “change” and that they aren’t racist or bigoted. What I will do, after I’ve allowed myself this time to recover (again), is get back to work fighting for my rights and theirs.
Being reactionary is so much harder than working for positive change. We must prepare to take better care of ourselves and each other starting right now. We will need more resources, more support, more love, more understanding and care for ourselves as well as each other. Start the practice of letting yourself off the hook for what you cannot muster now. Having an abuser in the White House means there will be ongoing trauma and we must decide now to be easy on ourselves and each other on the days where we simply cannot engage, cannot fight, cannot face what we’re up against.
Survival is a radical act for many of us right now. Those whose identities were used to scare conservative voters during the campaign, those being told their president-elect would require them to register because of their faith, and those calling suicide hotlines in record numbers are fighting for their very right to breathe the air in this country. The fear is real and it can be immobilizing.
The trauma is piling up as people shout Kumbaya in the faces of those raising concerns about their futures; families are terrified they’ll be torn apart by state violence. They’re just trying to get through today and hopefully tomorrow.
So that’s where I’m going to start: survival. That’s enough for today. Then, tomorrow I’ll pull myself up and join the fight—taking care that I keep surviving.
Katie Klabusich is a culture change schemer, whiskey enthusiast, gif hoarder, and member of the #BlackCatClub. When she’s not writing for The Establishment, her commentary on reproductive justice, non-monogamy, poverty stigma, and more can be read at such outlets as Rolling Stone, Bitch Magazine, Truthout and The Frisky; heard on The Katie Speak Show on Netroots Radio; and bandied about on Twitter.
This originally appeared on The Establishment. Republished here with permission.