The instinct, when bad things happen, is to normalise them. Years after, the thing I remember most vividly from when I was sexually assaulted is my mind insisting – even as he was muttering in my ear “Keep quiet and you won’t get hurt” – that I should not fight back yet, because there was still a chance I might have misunderstood what was happening. The instinct to try and keep your world as you knew it is a powerful one.
Trump is a bad thing and there are already powerful attempts to normalise him. “He won’t be as bad as you think,” people say. “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead,” said Hillary Clinton herself during her concession speech. Not having the responsibility of helping secure a peaceful transition of power at the head of a global superpower myself, I call bullsh*t on that. We owe him nothing. We owe it to ourselves and our friends – especially the many who fall into one or more of the demographics that Trump’s campaign rhetoric smeared and denounced – to protest and to stand firm against the impulse (common, human, understandable, short-sighted and wrong) to protect ourselves by pretending any of this is normal. And here’s how I propose we do it:
1. Watch the language
Vocal opposition stopped admissions of pussy-grabbing being hidden under the label ‘locker room talk’. Let’s keep at it. Many news organisations, including the BBC, describe Trump’s new chief strategist Steve Bannon as a “conservative firebrand”. He is the former CEO of Breitbart News, a website which became a haven for white supremacists under his leadership. His ex-wife is on record in court saying he did not want their children to go to school with Jewish children. I understand there are libel law constraints, but there is still probably a better name for him.
2. Change your internal dialogue
This, as noted earlier, is probably the hardest thing to do. Who, after all, wants to voluntarily remind herself that things are bad? Denial is an ever-tempting measure that feels like it will protect us, at least in the short-term. But we’re here for the long-term, so we have to acknowledge our sadnesses and problems (the death of Leonard Cohen, Brexit, Trump, or the rise of Farage on the scaly backs of the last two), not ignore them. Say it with me: none of this is normal. We shouldn’t pretend otherwise.
3. Take action
Donations to the ACLU, which fights to protect US civil liberties, have surged since Trump’s election. Many donations were also made to Planned Parenthood in the name of Mike Pence – the new, anti-choice vice-president elect. Or you could buy a newspaper subscription to support a free press, one of the many things The Donald has in his sights. Support with cash or time charities that fight against racism and misogyny: Refugee Action, perhaps. Or Women For Refugee Women, or Hope Not Hate. Support the Repeal The 8th campaign for abortion access in Ireland.
4. Be kind
To yourself, to others.
5. Call out the bullsh*t when you hear it
Family, friends, colleagues, fellow passengers on the bus – if you feel you can challenge something they’re saying (and can be safe doing so), do it. I am very bad at this. The liberal belief that “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion” is strong in me. Only now am I realising this does not equate to “Everyone’s entitled to hold it uncontested.” After all, if everyone keeps quiet, we will all get hurt.