UPDATED AGAIN, 1/15/16, 5:05 P.M. MST
AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN, see below.
How are you? To be honest, I’m not good. 2016 look like it’s ending as it began for me. It’s grief and fear, full stop. (At least last winter when I was grieving the deaths of friends, I wasn’t fearful of the future, just really sad they’d no longer be with us to enjoy it.) I keep bursting into tears randomly through the day. What a schmuck I am!
My undergraduate students last week wrote me sweet emails wishing that I felt better after I bawled in class right in front of them. I asked them to look out for members of our community who may be feeling vulnerable. I was lecturing about women and the American revolution, and ended on a slide quoting the Declaration of Sentiments (“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal. . . “), which ordinarily I would read out loud to let the class hear clearly that ringing Jeffersonian language, but instead last Wednesday I just dissolved into tears. My students told me they liked my honesty–as though it were a strategy! As though I had any self-control.
I’m busy and tired too, so here’s an interesting roundup of opinions from (mostly) smart people. Caveat: too many white ppl. in these commentaries. I’ll revise and expand as I find commentaries like this that expand the pool. Also, please note that in this roundup it’s only women (except for David Frum! Go figure!) who talk about gender or misogyny and their influence on the results last week:
- How Historians of Tomorrow Will Interpret the Human Stain’s Election (watch out for Lynn Hunt’s stemwinder. She is pi$$ed!)
- We Are Witnessing the Politics of Humiliation–American women reflect on the election. (Spoiler alert: in this round-up, Maya Jasanoff says what I said last February in my post on women and political leadership in the longue durée.)
- David Frum, “Let’s have a fresh start. . . “
- UPDATE: Marie Henein, “Thank you, Hillary. Now women know retreat is not an option,” from the Toronto Globe & Mail. Sent to me by a friend over the border–
- ANOTHER UPDATE, 11/14/16 12:43 P.M. MST: Kurt Eichenwald: “A certain kind of liberal makes me sick. These people traffic in false equivalencies, always pretending that both nominees are the same, justifying their apathy and not voting or preening about their narcissistic purity as they cast their ballot for a person they know cannot win. I have no problem with anyone who voted for Trump, because they wanted a Trump presidency. I have an enormous problem with anyone who voted for Trump or Stein or Johnson—or who didn’t vote at all—and who now expresses horror about the outcome of this election. If you don’t like the consequences of your own actions, shut the hell up.”
- MORE: Jamelle Bouie, one of my favorite political reporters, at Slate: “There is No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter.” Especially this part, white people: “To face [the fact of the Human Stain’s nakedly racist rhetoric and policy positions] and then demand empathy for the people who made them a reality—who backed racist demagoguery, whatever their reasons—is to declare Trump’s victims less worthy of attention than his enablers. To insist Trump’s backers are good people is to treat their inner lives with more weight than the actual lives on the line under a Trump administration. At best, it’s myopic and solipsistic. At worst, it’s morally grotesque.“
- I’m going to paraphrase Margaret Atwood here and say this: Trump voters are afraid Clinton voters might criticize their language or their Halloween costumes; Clinton voters are afraid that Trump voters will hurt or kill them.
Look out for your neighbors and community members. Sometimes the most important work we can do is to take care of the people right there in front of us and to help keep the peace. Think: what kind of a person are you? How do you want to be remembered–or remember yourself–in these momentous days we’re living through?
I don’t have any answers. I’m just trying to come up with some useful questions. As always–your suggestions and ideas are most welcome!
ANOTHER UPDATE, 11/16/16 9:50 A.M. MST:
29 thoughts on “Busy, tired, sad, and fearful. And you?”
Amazing how the human reaction of profound grief isn’t just about the death of people. Know many of us are in the same place, if that helps… Deb Harkness has suggested 30 days of giving, for those who can afford it, @DebHarkness. https://africandiasporaphd.com/2016/11/12/editors-note-adphd-is-at-your-service/ is collecting comments/writings/historically relevant documents.
I’m going to go volunteer at the Global Refugee Center. I can’t teach ESL, at least not yet, but I can read books in English to the little kids while their parents are in class.
In addition to giving to more to charities, I’ve resolved to spend more on good journalism wherever I can find it: upping my contribution to my excellent local NPR station, paying for an electronic subscription to the Washington Post and maybe the Wall Street Journal and/or the Economist (already have the NYT, which is already under attack by the president-elect). We are going to have to keep careful track of what is going on. I think good blogging will also be important, so I hope Historiann and others will keep up the good work!
Hang tough, Ann. We’re thinking of you. “Stronger Together” continues to pull away in the still-important, if much derided (by the pundits) “popular vote.” I wouldn’t rule out an elector-al revolt on December 19, although its far from likely. Some must be gauging the temperature. The persistence of the protesters is impressive, though I think they are keeping on partly for fear of the stillness of going separate ways. I feel better during much of the day than very early in the morning, though I’m focusing on small things, and only occasionally thinking about four long years from January. If you could find a video clip of that CA congressman who took on Blitzer the other day, unflinchingly, that would be a good one, albeit not expand the pool. Giulianni is pissing me off even more than Trump, if that’s possible.
I’m impressed by the crowds in the streets. I think that’s important to show the world–that most of us aren’t behind the Human Stain.
Someone on Twitter said this, and it’s the smartest thing I’ve seen (in a Tweet! Low bar, I know): 2016 was the year America could choose between a woman and a monster, and America chose the monster.
Re the E. College (and if you could defend the electoral college–even by passive reference to its likely inevitability of continuing–it would be like defending the 3/5ths clause, or the continuance of the slave trade until at least 1808, or the runaway slave laws), it does seem like conceivably a world historical moment. Everybody thought things were going along pretty much within ordinary parameters of stasis and change in France until about September 30, 1789, give or take a Bastille or two. Then things began to pick up speed later in the week. We’ll see. Pieces of the ancient regime, like some parts of the human skeleton, give way with little warning sometimes.
Indyanna, interesting that you use corpse imagery. That’s what hit me. It was like one of those sci-fi shifts in the fabric of space-time, where everything only seems the same but is another universe. Something died that day. Now we’re the living cells still carrying on, making the fingernails grow, but whatever the country’s central disease is, it’s flatlined.
And on that cheerful thought….
Another comparison cropping up among Europeanists is the Reichstag fire, which brought the initial period of calm to an abrupt end.
I am finding it very disorienting to be a historian in this moment. The scifi comparison seems very apt—much of the last week has felt like an out of body experience. My physical self is keeping everyday functions going (in between spates of tears) and talking to friends and colleagues about how to make a meaningful difference, while my mind looks down at my own actions through future historians’ eyes, asking at each step “Is this the moment they will see as the point of no return [on the path to ??]” “Is this the choice—to feed the kid, to walk the dog, to do the shopping, to keep up with my job, to seek momentary relief at the movies—they will identify as the one that made [whatever is to come] possible?”
Thanks for asking. As 🇨🇦’s we have been watching the election process from acoss the Western border. We didnt have to be rocket scientists to see that it was going to be a difficult choice for America. The night of the election we watched and waited with you. It was a somber quiet time, a few tears trickled down my cheeks as the votes were tallied, though I had not chosen a particular candidate. I sensed a historic shift for the Americas. (us included). This reaffirmed to me that my faith must rest in my heavenly father, as trials will continue to rock our world. P.S. I loved how your students embraced your tears. We all have fears, and that is okay. 😊🇨🇦
Thanks, Linda. It was a close election–either way it went, it would have further exposed our divisions. And remember: Clinton won the popular vote. By a bare majority, we didn’t vote for the narcissistic sociopath, but somehow that’s not that much of a comfort!
A measure of my mood: I actually watched that Big Eyes movie last night. I don’t have the energy for anything outside of work that requires thought. I can’t listen to NPR. And I don’t feel like I have any words of wisdom or optimism for my students.
It’s the not-having-optimism part that’s killing me.
And I’m a naturally glass half full kind of person!
Yes, me, too.
And what was the name of that big-eye painting–I never saw it! Now I want to.
Here’s the movie. I watched it on Netflix. It’s called “Big Eyes.” I remember seeing these kinds of prints around when I was a child.
Some questions to ponder from someone who had the ?advantage? of going through the stages of Trump grief half a year ago. Are we willing to do more than march and speak out? Are we willing to disrupt rather than keep the peace? Are we willing to salt the lion’s tail? Are we willing to passively and actively disrupt deportations? Are we willing to deliberately break any unconstitutional laws that are passed on the same day that they are signed into law? Are we willing to stand up by sitting down in the street? Are we willing to get arrested? Are we willing to get beat up? Are we willing to have our character demeaned by performing any of those activities?
That’s the crucial question, isn’t it? Are we willing…..
I’ve been thinking this too — what are the forms of resistance that we can and should take.
As you know I share your grief and fear. I’ve been shocked by how emotionally I have reacted to this election. Other than a nice break this weekend for a family wedding, I’ve been on the brink of tears since Tuesday. At first I looked to the media for explanations and possibly even reassurance, but its not helping. No one wants to state the obvious-this is in no small part a reaction to the progressive, inclusive, policies of the last 8 years, with strong racist and sexist undertones-or should I say overtones?
I fear for my kids, I fear for my friends, I fear for so many people I have never met who fear for their own safety. I wish the media could for once acknowledge that so much of the reaction to last Tuesday stems from our fears, which, given the hateful rhetoric and promises of the campaign, cannot be dismissed as unfounded. I do wonder about all those folks who voted for Trump in spite of Trump because they wanted to remain loyal to their party. My fear has prevented me from sleeping at night. I wonder how they are sleeping…
It’s been an odd week, because I flew to Washington (!) for a conference on Wednesday morning, so haven’t been home or with my students. Our students are vulnerable — maybe 5% are DACA, but many more have family members who are undocumented. So I’m hoping in the week ahead to figure out how we resist. What can we do for the kids? (OTOH, the conference was a way to see people from across the country where the conversation was “How are you” “As good as can be expected”.)
On Saturday, my conference had a session at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time in the galleries, but we did have some. I went down in the elevator (and it’s designed so that you feel the weight of history), and looking at the first panel of the slave trade, just started weeping. There was a young Black woman there, taking pictures for the event, but taking advantage of access. And we just talked about the legacy of racism and sexism — and its toxic mix — that we have to address.
And this week has convinced me that my intellectual work has to in some ways address these issues. Planning the next big project…
I’m by nature an optimist, and some of my more pollyanna-ish predictions have already come true. (Thursday I said they would tweak some small part of ACA, call it Trumpcare, and it would be great.) But right now, pollyanna moments are few and far between, and I see little hope for the most vulnerable. My response to these things is to get very practical, and I haven’t yet got the practical strategies I know we’ll need. It’s not demonstrations — I’m not going to DC for a Million Woman March — or book of the face groups, though those make us feel connected. A safety pin without action is meaningless. So — underground networks for abortion access? Protecting the undocumented? Trying to find what I can DO (beyond give money, which is also important).
You could work to get your institution to declare itself a Sanctuary campus? We have an estimated 600 DACA students and this is already on the agenda for the next dean/provost meeting.
I don’t know if we’re a sanctuary campus, but will check with provost the next time we talk…
I’m in a slough of despond today, but trying to focus on local actions. The question is, what will be productive? This march on Washington sounds cathartic for those who can cope with the logistics of it, but it’s too soon — Trump will just laugh it off. I consider sending angry e-mails to Paul Ryan or my congress-people about appointing an open racist to the White House, but then think 1) my senators (Schumer and Gillebrand) are all over this without me, and 2) my new House rep is a Tea Party nut with a reputation for pissing off absolutely everybody who works with her, so the best thing to do is wait for her to self-destruct. Except what happens in the mean time? I feel helpless, which is depressing.
Write to Schumer and Gillebrand, AND make phone calls! Every congressperson & senator counts & tracks the number of voter contacts on an issue they get, and even sympathetic senators need to know that there’s a critical mass of New Yorkers who are outraged and distraught about what this says about our country!
I’d say the same for your new Tea Partier–in fact, sowing divison and discord among Republicans is a very worthwhile endeavor. (And perhaps in the short run even more effective at gumming up the gears of Republican one-party rule.)
I did all three — my out-going representative is one of the last truly moderate Republicans in the House, and is retiring because he can’t get anything done. I’ll get the new person once she has a contact site set up. It does feel a bit better!
What we need from our professors is the calm voice of reason, the circumspection of understanding over time, not the emotional panic of the news feed. Save the strong words for later, when we might actually need them. If people are crying holocaust and genocide now, when nothing much has happened, what words are they going to be able to use later, if, god forbid, we need that language? Take a deep breath, have faith that the Founders knew what they were doing, and act with wisdom and circumspection, working to persuade with reason those you don’t agree with. I promise that things are not as bad as they seem, and even if they are, we need our history professors to be reasonable, logical, at least intending to be objective and clear-viewed, and as unbiased by panic as possible.
So I spent Thanksgiving weekend with a large group of white, highly educated, intellectually honest, middle class to upper middle people, none of whom were Clinton voters. There were a smattering who, like me, voted for Johnson, or spoiled their ballots, but the majority were Trump voters:
All struggled between the options of ballot spoilage, third party candidates, and Trump.
None saw their vote as an implicit or explicit endorsement of racism and sexism.
All had serious reservations about voting for Trump as a consequence of his racism and sexism.
All were offended by the idea that a vote for Trump was immoral.
Some felt that Constitutional checks and balances were robust enough that Trump worst impulses would be kept in check.
Some felt that it would not be an issue on the rationale that Trump’s public comments were tactical distractions/pandering.
Some saw their votes as a rejection of identity politics, especially women who felt pressured to vote for Clinton.
Some saw their vote as an ironic endorsement of identity politics. “So I am being stereotyped since I am white. I might as well vote for the ‘white candidate.'”
Some were turned off by a perceived sense of entitlement on the part of Clinton.
All felt that Clinton represented the “nanny state”.
All felt that Clinton represented corporatism.
All felt that Clinton represented dishonest government.
All felt that Clinton represented the status quo.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
These people are morally responsible for Trump and the damage he will do. But they probably won’t care much, because they’re not the ones who will pay the price for empowering him.