Why We Need To Breathe…And Then Push…When It Comes To Another Election With Trump In It

As I watch the primaries unfold, I suspect I’m not the only one having flashbacks. Not only am I flashing back to the utter horror of 2016, when the gloves came off and all the sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic Americans got full permission to stop pretending to care about equal human rights for all and just got outright abusive. I’m flashing back to feeling like I don’t belong in my own country anymore, that I might need to become a political refugee and escape to a safer country. I’m flashing back to the awareness that as I am feeling that way, I’m also nearly at the top of the privilege chain, while my BIPOC sister is feeling scared of being lynched by angry mobs of people who dehumanize people like her.

I’m flashing back to the Women’s March, where I saw all the pink-pussy-hat-wearing 80+ year old hippies carrying signs that said “Are We Really Still Protesting This Shit?” I’m flashing back to the fear I felt in my own body of being a woman in a Trump-led country and the fear I had of raising a queer girl in a country where half the people here are willing to overlook Trump’s egregious morals in order to maintain their unearned privileges or benefit financially.

Then I’m flashing back to 2020, when we were already traumatized by the pandemic and the idea of four more years of that kind of dehumanizing hell, of being oppressed by my own President and feeling unsafe in my own country, loomed large. I didn’t realize how severely traumatized I was until Biden finally won- and I realized I felt like a domestic abuse survivor who had finally gotten free from the stronghold of a violent partner- free, but cautiously so, because it’s never just one dangerous person who oppresses women. The threat of violence is always in the rivers underneath our daily lives.

I’m flashing back to January 6- which is my daughter’s birthday, now forever tainted- and how terrifying it was, not only to see footage of the foaming at the mouth, blood-thirsty insurrectionists threatening to kill senators and string up our Vice President, but also to see “spiritual white people” on my Facebook feed certain that what was happening was God’s will and that Trump was some kind of lightworker. The gaslighting was not only confusing; it was terrifying. That someone who claims to be “spiritual” would endorse racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, homophobia, separating children from their parents at the border, and other crimes against humanity just didn’t make any sense to me. Any spirituality that doesn’t stand 100% for human rights for all is not spirituality; it’s brainwashing.

And so now I watch our former Abuser-In-Chief threaten to do treasonous things, even in the wake of an $83 million judgment against him for defaming a woman he raped, even in the wake of countless lawsuits pending, I shudder to imagine what life will be like a year from now. I have ostrich parts that just want to leave the country, hole up in some village with no internet, and wait until the whole thing is over, when I can decide whether to come back or not. 

And yet, even that is a mark of my unearned privilege. Instead, I will stay with my country and do what I can to leverage my influence in any way I can to get people to vote. Our very democracy is under siege, and although I hate that half my country still is in denial about the racism, genocide, and corruption that underlies our country’s origin story, I still believe in the experiment of at least an attempt at democracy. 

So I have parts bracing myself. Here we go again. I’m trying not to hate half of my country, because I know they’re just human beings like the other half. I like to believe they’re brainwashed, and not just bad people, but I don’t know at this point.

I’m tired of hearing people call for depolarization, because I think it’s unrealistic. There was no way to depolarize our country before the Civil War. There would have been no way to depolarize Nazi Germany. Sometimes, there’s only one right side of history, and there’s no way to meet in the middle, because the other side is simply wrong when it comes to human rights- and if they double down on their wrongness, we’re just never going to find a way to make peace.

So we are in a cold war now- and the cold-heartedness is what I resist most. We have to keep our hearts warm for each other, even as we take firm and uncompromising stands for human rights for all. Sure, some people do not want human rights for all, and they will leverage their power and privilege to fight to the end to maintain their power and privilege. But we are all still human beings, and it doesn’t help to dehumanize those who dehumanize.

I keep coming back to the quote of the late Paul Farmer, MD from Harvard:

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”

I simply don’t want to debate with anyone who doesn’t agree with that statement. So I’ll close this with a wish for nervous system regulation- as best you can muster- in the upcoming months. For those of us who have been oppressed by narcissistic abusers in the past, these months will be brutal. The PTSD flashbacks are real. So do what you can…not as a bypass of our political reality, but as a temporary respite when you can find it.

As Civil Rights activist and Yale lawyer Valarie Kaur says, political resistance is like labor- “Breathe, then push.”

May we all take a breath.
Walk in nature.
Cherish beauty.
Read poetry.
Sit in meditation.
Listen to the wind.
Do a yoga pose.
Sing and dance and beat drums and enjoy music.
Make art and write about your feelings.

Part of me feels like it’s cowardly to do so, but I’ve said yes to the invitation to teach an IFS & Memoir writing retreat on a beautiful island in Malta just before the election. It won’t be a political workshop, but it will be a safe, brave space to process whatever might be coming up for you. If you’re privileged enough to be able to afford to do so and you feel called to join us, applications are being accepted for a very limited number of spots. 

Apply for the IFS & Memoir Malta retreat here.

Until then, breathe…And then…push.

Apply for the IFS & Memoir Malta retreat here.