It’s almost over!! Haha just kidding! Well, kind of. But that’s not the point of this post. Anyway, this morning, I read a post about how to deal with negative emotions surrounding the election, particularly fear, stress, and anxiety. It made me think about just how much a presidential election matters. No, the president we choose in this one election is not the only thing that will determine our political, social, and economic future. But our president is our head of state, as well as our head of government; part of their job is to represent the people of the United States to the world and to ourselves. Our president reflects who we are as a country and a people (even if that’s an impossible thing to do), and that reflection can have a deeply negative emotional impact on those of us who are unrepresented.
Whenever I talk with my mom, she brings up the election and how anxious she is about it. I talked to my former supervisor from my college, and she said the entire trimester has been emotionally colored by the election. No matter which candidate you support (if any of them), it is hard not to feel despairing about the way that elected officials treat each other and discuss people in the United States, about the amount of money in our political system, about how difficult it is to feel heard, and about the widening of the wealth gap. A lot of people are voting to prevent a candidate from assuming the presidency rather than to get someone they admire and believe in into office. In short, everything feels super shitty.
I’ve been feeling all these negative emotions too. But, inspired by the post I read this morning about being mindful in the face of election-induced anxiety and fear, I want to think about the thing that could be positive about this stupid election: a LOT of people are dissatisfied with “the system.”
People feel that political elites do not care about them. And they are right. Some of these people believe that Donald Trump will be the change that the system need- a way to get jobs back, to regain the economic security they used to have or to which they feel entitled. I disagree. These desires are all linked with racism, misogyny, and xenophobia (as well as a whole host of other oppressive structures, but I think that the three I mentioned are defining the conversation more than others), and I don’t think we’ll ever rid ourselves of economic injustice without also doing away with other, intertwined systems of oppression (and Trump’s rhetoric is also just gross and wrong). But the underlying desires to feel safe, to have a purpose, and to have material needs filled are all things that I can empathize with and that align with my political goals.
I know that just because people are angry with their political and economic status doesn’t mean that they have radical politics; I know that some people who support Trump would be perfectly happy with the current system if they were the ones on the top of the hierarchy; I know that it will never be easy to have conversations with people who have very different experiences and worldviews; and I know that a lot of people will or would think this whole post is naïve and stupid. But I can’t sit with the knowledge of how injustice completely defines our world and not believe that it can change! I obviously have no idea what this election will mean when it’s over, but three times as many people are Googling how to vote as they did in 2012, and there are already powerful and incredible social movements that are leading us to more beautiful worlds. And when I think about the sheer number of people who are pissed off and politicized (even if they’re not always on board with my politics) …well, that’s a lot of power. Our president is meant to represent us, but they don’t have to, and I don’t think we will forget how much more we want and need from our political system. Our politics aren’t limited by presidential elections, and our imaginations are already working beyond this one. As afraid and anxious as this election has made me, that makes me hopeful.
Voting info: https://www.usa.gov/voting
* I don’t mean to invalidate the fear, anxiety, and stress that this election has created. It is scary as fuck. And fears about violence in the face of a Trump loss (or even a victory) are not unfounded. I just feel really exhausted from reading so much about such a toxic dude, and I wanted to find one thing that could sustain me. This is it.