There is no denying that the state of our (US) nation is quite bleak when you consider all the terrible events taking place at the hands of a president, presidential Cabinet, and Republican-controlled Senate that seem to be intent on tearing our country apart. Millions of people are afraid of the effects of the current regime, as access to health care, civil rights, employment, and safety are under constant attack.
Needless to say, this political climate has created an era of nationwide stress, especially as some folks who voted for this president are realizing they, too, are at risk of losing rights they thought were protected.
While it would be perfect if we could all take a collective chill pill and speak about the tomfoolery of this political climate in a calm, collected manner, it will never be that easy. No matter how easy we — those more concerned with social justice and civil rights than guns and protecting millionaires — wish it was to tell the regime we’d really just like to be heard, respected, and protected, we have to find other ways to move through this political climate without succumbing to the stress.
There are many ways for us to work on handling the stresses of this terrible regime. I have put together 7 of those ways here in hopes that they may help you continue to survive and continue to work toward radical self love. Think of this as the “5 Stages of Grief” or the “12 Steps to Recovery” for the current presidential era.
Laughing (with community)
One of the more common and more positive ways to deal with the stress of this political climate is by finding ways to laugh about it, or at least in spite of it. While it may seem obvious, there have been many studies that show just how important laughter—and the positive emotions that go along with it—is at relieving stress. It is not the perfect solution for all political ailments, but laughter can be one of the best medicines when wading through the negativity of this regime.
The effects of finding the funny in the terrible are only greater when you can laugh with other folks in your communities. Finding common ground in the comedic value of this terrible situation can bring allies from various communities together and create a stronger sense of solidarity. Whether it is on Twitter with #AlternativeFacts or the backfired #ThankYouTrump, on Saturday Night Live with impeccable impersonations of Sean Spicer or the President himself, or elsewhere on the Internet with the endless jokes and memes about #45, there is a place for us all to laugh a little bit and understand that, despite this political climate, we can ridicule the regime more than it already ridicules itself.
Crying (with friends)
Sometimes, the stresses of our nation’s political climate are a bit too much to handle, so much so that laughter doesn’t work and we get caught in an emotional rut because of the reality of our situation. While it may seem counterintuitive, acknowledging and letting yourself feel the sadness that comes with the stress can be an important part of eventually overcoming it. Crying and feeling those emotions are a part of what makes us human, and it is what helps us connect with others on a deeper level that laughter might not hit.
If you are crying, then it is for a reason, and you need to understand that reason in order to look at yourself with radical self love. You need to know why the stresses of our political climate are bringing you to tears in order to stand up for yourself and what you believe in, and being able to cry and share those emotions with your friends and comrades can help make the bonds of our solidarity stronger. Crying is not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it is a sign of emotional development and empathy for the state of our nation that can be turned into strength against oppression moving forward.
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Raging (through art)
Similar to crying, anger and rage are seen as negative attributes of our emotional selves—something I have directly disputed in previous articles. Anger and rage have a similar purpose in our lives as crying does, in that anger and rage in this political climate are often direct responses to the stresses and oppressions we are facing. Writer and activist Audre Lorde was a proponent in understanding not only why we feel anger, but also the ways we use anger to respond to oppression. Speaking directly on the topic of women responding to racism, Lorde noted that Black women’s anger should never be seen as the promotion of hopelessness or negativity. That anger, Lorde says, is the very important and basic response to decades of oppression on multiple fronts that has been denied by the perpetrators of said oppression—e.g. the white women who constantly put their needs and anger at the forefront of the feminist conversation with little to no regard for the needs and anger of women of color.
While the contexts of oppression different among various subjugated groups in the United States, anger and rage as a response to said oppression is important for people at the raw end of this political nightmare to understand and make known. This is especially necessary for people of color, women, trans and nonbinary folks, disabled folks, and other highly targeted populations. One of the most productive ways to harness your anger and rage is through art. Whether it is through music, drawings and illustrations, street art, or otherwise, there are plenty of ways to turn rage and anger against the current regime into relatable, powerful, and useful art for folks to know that there are other people just as angry as they are. This art lets those folks know that they can still practice radical self love even when that anger seems to take over.
Fighting (in protest)
When laughing, crying, and art are not quite the right way for you to take on the stress of our political climate, then it might be time to join in on the various protests that take place across the country (and even internationally) in response to the state of the United States. Whether it is at a massive rally in the public eye, individually at work or in school, or online through petitions, hacking and discourse, protesting is one of the most powerful forms of sending a message to those in power that you will not sit idly by and allow you and your comrades to be taken advantage of or killed.
Fighting against the state of our political climate is essential to ensuring that civil rights and human rights issues do not fall by the wayside as opposition to them seems to be growing daily. Fighting and protesting for your rights can in itself be stressful—not knowing the outcome of a rally, not knowing if you will be arrested, etc.—but so long as you are fighting for what you believe in, you are directly impacting your and your comrades’ ability to survive through this regime. Even just the act of loving yourself and your identities despite opposition and oppression—the very essence of radical self love—can be a powerful form of protest against the current political nightmare.
Researching (the facts)
In a regime plagued with the aforementioned “alternative facts” that seem to get much more traction than they ever deserve, it is up to us to do the research the actual facts in order to combat the constant barrage of lies. It has been lies about trans folks, immigrants, black men, and others that have led us to be so stressed, which has somewhat less to do with any direct policies about those populations—although that is also a great concern—and has more to do with the ongoing public opinion of already negatively viewed people. Consistent lies about already vulnerable populations are something everyone with any sense of social awareness should not only be paying attention to, but also directly fighting against with facts.
This also means that fact-finding and research should keep in mind the most important and dire of topics. While we can focus our attention on the President’s taxes from a decade ago and how little they actually show about his potential financial blunders, our attention is more effectively used when focused on looking at the facts at hand that prove he is a bad President and that the lies he and his administration tell will not be tolerated. The stresses of this political climate are bad enough that we should not be wasting efforts on intangible possibilities when we have plenty of material in front of us to take him down and rise above the hate and body terrorism.
Meeting (with supporters)
One of the hardest things to do in this political climate is even think about meeting the President’s supporters in the middle and try to understand their points of view. Sure, a large amount of his supporters have bigoted opinions against the people who voted opposite of him, but many of the President’s supporters are family members, coworkers, friends, etc. This means that there is a possibility of having a meaningful conversation with someone who does not agree with everything the President says but feels that they might have been forgotten by previous administrations, Democrat or Republican.
At the same time, though, the more people we can talk to and try to understand their points of view, we open up the diplomatic possibility of having those people understand why we dislike our current situation so much. Many of the President’s supporters are quickly realizing that voting for him was a mistake, as their own access to health care, for example, is being threated. This means there is a prime opportunity to show the people who voted for him why this administration needs to be dismantled, and why they should be more empathetic to the lives of those who have been the most adversely or violently affected by this regime.
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Last, but certainly not least, one of the best ways of fighting the stress of our political climate is knowing when to shut yourself off from it as much as possible. Of course, it is important to be aware of what is happening with the administration, especially as more and more executive orders are signed or bills are being proposed in Congress; however, it is also important for everyone to take a step back from the political discourse from time to time to focus on protecting themselves and healing from the prolonged emotional and political trauma. Living a life in the realm of radical self loves means practices acts of radical self care, which means you have to understand when enough is enough and you just need to block out the news, turn off the TV, get off of social media, and protect yourself. It can be hard, and in some ways it is the hardest task on this list, but it is necessary to have that time of healing in order to be prepared for the inevitable moment where you find yourself back in the thick of it all.
By learning to laugh at the mess, cry when you need to cry, rage in your art, fight against tyranny in protest, research the facts, meet with those with an open ear, and protect yourself from time to time, you are setting yourself up to effectively work through the stress of this political nightmare.
If you can effectively fight off that stress, you are better set up to not only fight off the body and mental terrorism this regime will try to force upon you, but also to live a life truly focused on radical self love in spite of what they will throw at you.
[Featured Image: A dark skin individual stands outdoors looking to the left wearing a fedora, button-up and sweater.]