It is not only impossible not to talk about Trump - since we keep getting reminded of dark episodes in history - I think that it is also irresponsible not to talk about the outcome of the U.S. election.
On Election Day
That week, on Wednesday Japan time, my husband and I watched the morning news before we left the house to run some errands and then go to Ikea. At that point things were still in the open. During lunch, when I checked my phone, a reporter on BBC Asia was trying to explain why there was a lot of republican red on the U.S. map while assuring that Hillary Clinton still had a fair chance to win.
It was grey and cloudy outside and the hot dog I had just finished felt like a handful of pebbles wrapped in old newspaper resting heavily on my stomach.
By the time we were done at Ikea we found out that Donald Trip was elected President of the United States.
I was staring at the windshield. "It really happened", I was thinking to myself.
It had started raining. Drops landed against the window with a whipping sound. The windshield wipers moved in their rhythm as if it was the most important thing to do on earth: wiping away raindrops.
My husband and I were in shock. Like so many others, not just in the States but everywhere around the world, we couldn’t wrap our heads around how America had let it come so far that this racist and sexist man, who is so unpredictable that he himself probably doesn’t know what’s going to come out of his mouth, was going to be the leader of the most powerful country in this world.
A list to clarify my emotions
Shock is a foggy state of mind. You feel mentally or physically frozen. You feel different emotions rising to the surface. You feel them as physical reactions in your intestines, your skin, your hair long before your brain is able to form them into words and translates them into ideas. I was in shock but I wasn’t quite sure about what exactly. That’s why I sat down and tried to list them up.
- I was born and raised in Germany. I majored in History and had taken many seminars about how Germany could let Hitler happen. All I can say is: People do let history repeat itself. All it needs is a good amount of issues in a society and in economics, minorities to blame for everything, a person, who craves for attention and voices immediate complaints, and a bunch of powerful and rich grey men, who are eager to support that person in order to exploit the weak points of a society. Add plenty of fear in it and stir it all well, and voila: Fascism with all its terrors is ready to rule the country or the world. So, I was shocked to see that it really doesn’t take much to use this recipe.
- On the other hand though, convincing people of existing facts, of possible and horrible consequences, of seeing the whole picture and doing the right thing as a decent human being, takes a ridiculous amount of effort.
- We truly live in a white man’s world and as long as we don’t accept that that’s the case, we will never reach a time in which all of us are colorblind.
- We also live in a man’s world and as long as we don’t set the right tone in education and in families at home to teach that women and men are equal, that women deserve respect and aren’t sexual objects, then we’ll have fathers, judges, business men and presidents with that sickening mindset ruling our daily lives and countries for the longest time.
- It’s not just the USA dealing with a Trump phenomena; it’s Europe and other parts of the world being shaken by different versions of Trumps. Let’s not point fingers. There is a lot to clean up, avoid and prevent in our own countries. It’s so annoyingly sad when people shake their heads about Trump in Japan, not noticing that their elected Prime Minister Abe is slowly eliminating the rights of media. Or when you look at Europe, which is letting Turkey's President Erdogan imprison all liberal-minded opponents of his policy and bombing Kurdish towns because rather than dealing with the consequences of Syria it wants Turkey to deal with the immigrants.
- Media is a bitch and most of us don’t know how to use it in a smart and healthy way. There is no doubt that media is manipulative and does especially well with people, who look for easy solutions and insist on patriotism (e.g. claiming at Southern U.S. borders that America belongs to Americans and that Mexicans need to leave while wearing sombreros and eating tortillas, thinking those are traditional elements of U.S. culture).
- Trump is convinced that climate change is a hoax but we all know that that's not true. As long as powerful and greedy industries conduct world politics and economics, and as long as money is the compass that countries choose to follow, we will not be able to tackle this problem that faces all humanity.
“Aha!”, I thought. “So, this is the contents of all my shock?”
Though the defeated feeling stays, at least now I know what is going on inside of me.
The next few days
In the days to follow we could read and hear people expressing their disbelief on social media, TV, in newspapers and in public. We saw Clinton and Obama asking the nation to stand united and to give Trump a chance. Not long after that another wave kicked in, in which critics voiced their anger about politicians not standing up against the president-elect.
Overall, I felt confused, angry, overwhelmed, deeply sad, at the mercy of things, scared, worried, and hopeless! Those were all negative feelings and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to push ALL of them away from my chest in order to breathe normally again.
I sometimes have that “end of the world”- feeling: It’s like standing in a long line with other dreary looking fellows, and we are all waiting to meeting the great Nostradamus in his tiny room, in which we know we’ll be told our gloomy future. And though you could turn around and leave, somehow your legs feel heavy like lead, and you just stay and wait for your turn.
Dealing with gloomy moods
I have to say that I’m fairly shitty at pulling my head out of the sand and looking at things from a different perspective. On the other hand though I’m proud to say that I’m getting so much better at allowing thoughts and people enter my life that do a wonderful job at showing me other, much more positive options for how to perceive things that happen around me.
I always believe that the universe is always there for us. It’s always busy sending us messages. But it's totally up to us whether we want to see them or choose to ignore them or even keep missing them.
A different perspective
Last week after the election, the universe had let me start reading a new book, which I had received from a dear friend only three weeks earlier. In this book called Big Magic there is a section in which Elizabeth Gilbert writes about an episode in her life that is about Perspectives.
She writes about how one of the worst scenarios you can imagine for a writer had happened to her: a friend of hers, another writer, talked to her about her recent work and the storyline turned out to be the exact storyline Elizabeth Gilbert had planned on writing years ago but never came around to do it. In this chapter she explains how many destructive conclusions she COULD have drawn from this shocking news.
- She could have chosen to hate the other writer believing she had stolen her idea.
- She could have chosen to blame herself for letting an idea slip out of her hands.
- Or she could have put the hate on destiny itself.
But she didn’t do any of those slowly life-poisoning paths. Instead she actively chose to think of it as proof for her theory that ideas have a conscious will and visit people they actively pick. And only if the chosen ones welcome and embrace them, they stay. They leave the ones who don’t have time for them or don’t value them enough. In that sense, Elizabeth Gilbert looked at this story, that had the power to haunt her for a long time, as a miracle. For her the idea had found its righteous owner and that was an enchanting thought.
A different perspective leads to a different impact
Had I not read this book at that specific time, I’m not sure if Hillary Clinton’s concession speech would have had the same effect on me. Without Big Magic I might have listened to the speech without giving it much thought. This way though, I believe that the universe was trying to help me get my head out of the sand and look at the events in a different way.
I thought that Clinton's speech came from the bottom of her heart and reflected her true nature - namely being a fighter. She has failed and fallen many times but she always gets up and she never loses her focus. To me her words were empowering. The message I drew from it for myself was that things can look really bad and you feel outraged or devastated or hopeless about an outcome. But a defeat can also mean a better future timing, a chance to make things different, to clean up, to work even harder on something. In the end it’s always about how you choose to look at something that makes or breaks things - in this case: you.
Hillary’s speech, Gilbert’s book, hints from the universe … They all helped me take some lead off of my legs and walk away from Nostradamus' door.