It’s been one week since Donald Trump was announced as the next President of the United States. I don’t know about everyone else, but to me it feels like it’s been a long ass week. I don’t think I have gone a day without reading at least three articles analyzing how it happened; why it happened; what will happen next or everyone’s personal favorite, that it is officially the end of the world. Having a blog, especially while living in the U.S, I feel like its practically blasphemy not to write about it, so I am going to. However, I am not going to bother trying to out-do the New Yorker or the Huffington Post, I am simply going to explain what this week has been like for me.
Obviously the irony of my situation struck me immediately. While I am anxiously nail-biting, awaiting my fiancé visa to get approved, the Immigration Canada website crashed. Americans everywhere are looking to the Great White North and our hot, young, left leaning leader while I am trying to start my new life in Trump’s America. This election has spurred a whole roller-coaster of emotions for myself, and humans all over the globe. When Alan and I were sitting on the couch watching his country turn red, realizing what was about to happen, we had very different reactions. Alan became immediately frustrated. He was furious with the voting system and the undereducated voters who fell victim to Trump rhetoric. I was beside him, balled up in the corner of the couch, giggling uncontrollably. Complete shock and disbelief, denial even? I can’t completely characterize the feeling, but like most people in the world, we were contemplating how this would change the face of the future.
The next three days were stressful and full of conflict. There was no avoiding reading or hearing about the election. I walked downtown on Mission Street the day after the election, and even with my headphones in I could hear the two guys behind me talking about it. “He won’t really build a wall,” they mused. “Yeah,” I thought, “he won’t really build a wall… and he won’t really put Hillary Clinton in jail and maybe he won’t follow through with any of his promises and maybe things just won’t change much at all.” This was one side of my thinking that pacified me. Maybe Trump is all talk and the only thing that will drastically change is the hairpiece of America’s leader.
Hours later, after reading several more incendiary articles focused around the emerging racism and discontent boiling over in middle America, I found myself on the opposite side of the emotional spectrum. “He’s going to deport millions of innocent people, ruin families, and endorse racism all the while pouring money into the hands of the elitist rich bastards already feeding on the wealth divide!” I felt like punching someone in the face. I was daring the world to throw some ignorant, racist fool at me who I could stand up to.
When I met up with Alan that night I was vibrating with anger and adrenaline. Every one of my sentences ended with an exclamation mark until finally I settled down. Once the excitement had subsided I was left with a dark feeling of despair. All the emotional tumult of the day left me with questions rattling in my head. What does the future hold for us? Will he take equal rights and freedoms back decades? How can I help and what role will I play as this all unfolds? It has kept me up at night and plagued me through waking hours. As the long days drew on there was one hopeful event on our horizon: the weekend camping trip to Sonoma Lake.
I was very much looking forward to the camping trip. I was excited to get away from the city and the Trump sensationalism; away from the Internet and its speculative, fearful articles and away from the anger emanating from all sides of the country. I knew that. What I did not know was what the real revelations of camping would be for me.
We set up our camp in the late afternoon as the sun was slowly making silhouettes of the westward mountains. We had found the perfect campsite sitting right on the edge of a steep drop-off, overlooking a small section of the lake and a long, meandering valley. Tents were staked, coolers and chairs were set up, the fire was slowly stoked and beers were opened. True contentment washed over and I felt the tension of the week leaving me. It wasn’t till the next morning that I could put my finger on what felt so much better about being out camping rather than in the city. It was the completeness of living in the moment. Each moment had a singular purpose: set up the tents, build a fire, cook dinner, enjoy being with friends. I wasn’t questioning the future of America and the world, I wasn’t trying to find my place in a hazy unknown, I just was and just being felt good.
What I came to realize after camping was two fold. First, I have come to realize that both my initial reactions to the election results were made in error. My first reaction, thinking that maybe nothing would change and we could all just keep on living life as usual is what led us to this situation in the first place. There is obviously something very wrong in many communities of this country and ignoring this call for help would be tragic. Besides this, Trump has proved by appointing Steve Bannon, a hateful and discriminatory human, as his Strategist, that the status quo will change. Racism and division have a new bold face and we need to prove that it has no place in this country, nor the world as a whole.
However, fighting the people who voted for Trump is not going to help anyone either. As this article points out, the people who voted for Trump are mostly just humans looking for a brighter future for themselves and their families. Misguided though they may be we should not fault them nor hate them for finding, what they think, is the only way out of an unhappy status quo. Further division is the enemy of the solution to this problem.
Secondly, I realized that the true solution is in living in the moment. Fearing the unknown future and imagining terrible possibilities that haven’t come to pass often only leads to despair. Despair can turn to anger; anger to hate. Right now our global cup overfloweth with these emotions and it is only encouraging more division. No one can know what will happen, and a lot of the speculation is actually be more damaging than helpful. This way of living is not productive. Instead I suggest stop thinking about what the next four years could be and look at this moment right now. What do you want to change about it? How can you affect your immediate environment in a constructive way? The benefit of living in the moment is that we can make decisions about what to do right now. We can decide how to use this moment to benefit ourselves and those around us to make the world a happier, less fearful place. By acting immediately we gain a sense of satisfaction and completion that begets happiness. It is happiness and cooperation that will bring us towards a brighter future.
In my next post I will suggest some ways to use the present proactively.