President Donald Trump and My Dog’s Poop: A Story of Acceptance and Hope

There’s actually a (somewhat) reasonable explanation for why I have this picture.

As I’m sure was probably the case for many Americans, I had trouble sleeping last night. I couldn’t shake the anxiety and dread that grew part and parcel along with Donald Trump’s Electoral Vote tally.

My wife slept uneasily beside me, unaware of the impending doom but, as it often goes with her — somehow still aware. She tossed and turned and groaned and ground her teeth.

My wife is a Latina and a feminist who exited the polls crying yesterday, out of pride at having voted for a woman for President of The United States. I am a white man, and a fifth or sixth-generation Italian-American. I share her values of equal rights and representation for women and for all the races that make up our democracy.

We both suffer from anxiety and depression, and have dedicated much of the last several years of our life to advocating for a greater dialogue on mental health in America, and greater diversity and more accurate representation in the media.

I am not a Democrat or a Republican — in fact, I have no party affiliation. I am, however, a reasonable, compassionate human being who writes this from a place of deep disappointment with his country and fellow citizens.

When it became clear to me, last night, that Donald Trump was going to be elected as my next President, I stopped obsessively, desperately, checking my phone. I gave into fatigue, and slept.

My alarm went off this morning, as the same time it always does, and the first thing I did was confirm what I already instinctively knew — the worst-case scenario had indeed unfolded. A man whose principle political strategy was comprised of hate-mongering, and the exploitation of racial and sexist fears and biases, will soon take office as the 45th President of the United States.

What I did next might sound surprising — or perhaps not — it surprised me, a bit.

I shut off the alarm, I got up, and I went about my day. As I always do.

I didn’t wallow, and neither did I pretend that nothing had changed. Much has changed. I understand this. I also understand and would like to underscore the fact that, as a straight white male, this quick acceptance might come much easier to me than, say, a woman of color.

But I share all this because I think it’s of supreme importance that we accept this outcome and move forward as best we can.

Perhaps this is naive of me, and again, I think I’m only able to say it due to my privileged position — but I do not believe Donald Trump is going to prove to be the fascist that so many of us are afraid he’s going to turn out to be.

More likely, the next few years will reveal to all of us — his specific electorate included — the extent to which the man will lie and exploit fear in service of his own gain. This is how he has won, but it won’t serve him or us well as we go about the business of governing here and working with other countries around the globe in terms of international affairs.

I believe he will do much harm. I believe he’ll prove largely incompetent as a leader. And I do worry that I’m wrong in my estimation of the level of which he’s capable of pushing the hateful agenda espoused during his campaign — that he actually might have come to believe some of the venomous rhetoric he has co-opted from the far right of the Republican party, and turn it against minority populations in my country.

What Donald Trump will never do, however, is stop me from fighting. Neither will the results of this election distract me, for any longer than today, from my mission of doing what I can to make the world a better, more equitable place for the people whose anger and disillusionment I share — no matter their political affiliation, level of education, or how they might have voted yesterday.

I have expressed before on this site my belief that America is an abusive relationship with its economy. That much was made clear to us when this most recession swept through our population, hurting the average American more than anyone else, with little repercussions to those responsible.

Today, given that we’ve handed our Presidency to Donald Trump, and the remainder of our government to a Republican Party that has done little else but obstruct government for the past decade — I have to admit that this observation was incomplete.

It’s not just our economy. It’s our political system. Our culture. We’re so lost and desperate and confused and angry that we’ve just handed the most powerful position of influence in our country over to a man who cares very little about much more than himself and his own needs.

This is not a reasonable or an effective response to our very real — and shared — needs for identity, safety, clarity and fairness. Capitalism thrives on private interest, but capitalists, as a rule, dehumanize laborers and employees  into power and statistics for their own continued gain, with little regard for the health of the individual worker or the communities to which he or she belongs.

We have witnessed Donald Trump doing this to women. We have watched as he worked to establish his predecessor, President Obama, as an other, by calling his citizenship into question until such time as it no longer benefited himself to do so. It is a supreme, tragic injustice that a man with no real understanding or concern for the everyday American has catapulted himself into the White House by the power of millions of people with real fears and grievances, whose energy and voting power has been transmuted by cunning and misinformation in service of their own continued suffering.

These past few weeks, I have been waking up earlier, and taking longer walks with my dog. It brings me peace. Today, I made sure to stick to this routine.

Except, despite my acceptance and general hopefulness, I’ve been distracted all morning.

This is only natural. I’m worried about the lives that will be destroyed and lost before enough of us finally see the truth of all this for what it is. Forgive the silly example — again, white man of privilege here — but because of this distractedness I made an uncommon mistake this morning, and forgot to take a bag with me for picking up after my dog.

This does happen, sometimes. I always feel guilty when it does. I love my community and I try to do my part to keep it clean.

A few years ago, in this situation, before my own strides in acceptance and before I saw to the improvement of own my mental health, I would have either left my dog’s poop on the ground or attempted to pick it up with a leaf or a piece of trash. Either way I would have castigated myself for my mistake, all the way home.

Nowadays, instead, when this happens I keep an eye out for other dog-walkers. I ask if they have an extra bag. Much of the time, they do, and they’re happy to offer it. In this way, we’re collaborating to keep our neighborhood clean.

This morning, I was just realizing my mistake when I saw a young woman walking a black labrador just ahead of me. She was about the cross the street, moving away in the opposite direction. I asked if she happened to have an extra bag.

The woman stopped. She looked me squarely in the eye, and instead of answering the question she asked me — quite sincerely, in accented English — how I was doing. I got the sense that she was European, and not a citizen.

I told her that I was…distracted.

She expressed sympathy and gave me the bag. It was a simple gesture of solidarity and compassion, and I’m grateful for it.

But I’ve also been wondering at my answer — distracted.

Not terrible. Not hopeless. Not angry.

I feel distracted.

Because I have accepted the reality that Donald Trump is going to be my President. Whether we want to admit this or not, it’s the truth. And, while I am afraid of the damage he’s inevitably going to do — I have hope that not all is lost.

I’m going about my life.

In the process, I continue to feel my feelings. It’s not that I’m not angry, or struggling with sadness and disappointment. But I’m processing these emotions — at my own pace, to be fair to anyone still reeling from the results of the presidential race. To be honest, though, I’m starting to get the sense that this travesty is going to at least provide me with some extra fuel for the coming fights, of which there will likely be many.

As a realist, I never had much invested in this election in the first place. With the exception of a brief moment wherein Bernie Sanders seemed to have a shot, I never had much hope for an optimal result. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care, or that I wasn’t able to identify the clear better candidate when voting.

And yet, that doesn’t matter now, does it?

What matters now is that I  — and we — exercise caution. This mess we’re in has expressed itself numerically, in terms of the results we now have to live with. But, as time goes on and things inevitably get worse for the majority of Americans over the next few years, we must instead turn our attention not to remastering the numbers but the recovery of our collective spirit.

For myself, I plan to continue to work as a mental health advocate, as a resource for practical tactics and results-driven personal growth, and as a champion of diversity and or compassion.

There will be more pain. There will be more hate. We cannot allow it to distract us. There’s work to be done — hard work that we won’t often want to do, or that will seem hopeless. But it’s imperative that we show fortitude and courage.

It’s the only thing that can work.

profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker 
of hopeful stories for complex people. Lately, I have been sharing some reflections and stories every morning. Once per month, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive stories and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this exclusive group here. Thanks for reading.

Regaining Equality by Reaching Out Through The Screen (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of 3 of a mega-post. To read Part 1, click here.

Power is only exchanged through conflict. However, conflict has been sublimated, in domestic terms, in modern America. Those currently in power (essentially, the corporations and special interests whose money powers the politicians who run or fail to run the country) have long been engaged in a sort of silent, backdoor civil war against the rest of us.

There’s really no other way to describe everything the wealthy white establishment within the conservative movement in particular is doing, while in its death throes, to continuously dehumanize minorities and the lower classes in an ongoing attempt to maintain control over the economy and country no matter the cost. They worked for a long time to quietly warp the narrative of what it means to be American, such that they could grow richer and more influential as we absorbed everything through a one-way screen (the television) and ended up simply “missing” what was happening. Once the recession started waking people up, these same manipulative special interests started screaming (or saw to it that their “constituents,” true believers in their messaging, started screaming). They started painting other Americans as enemies.

No, our current civil war has not been waged with weaponry. It has only resulted in actual violence in cases when citizens snap and spasmodically act out in tragic explosions of long-simmering emotional pain, which is itself arguably caused by our failure to treat each other not as ends but fellow humans. No, this war has been waged through suppression, carried out through the propagandizing, via The Screen, of an emotionally Darwinist narrative that depicts America as a place that was built by rugged individualism and unfettered free-market capitalism. All you have to do is read three history books that aren’t written by right wing conformists to realize that this simply isn’t the truth.

While we sit in front of The Screen, battles in this war are decided by lawyers and lawmakers. Plans are laid with the (sometimes even unwitting) goal of bleeding out the spirit and the animus of the average American man or woman in small, incremental steps. Whereas America as we know it was actually built by the partnership between wealthy capitalists and an industrious working class that became a robust and energetic middle class, now it is mostly a place where the rest prop up those at the top, even as they take more and more from us because they need and must retain their power. So now, absent any experience making things or solving problems, because many of them were born fortunate and don’t know how to work or to be creative, they attack the future under the guise of protecting the past.

A man cornered and attacked cries out and fights back. But a man prompted to wait, by the lack of a discernable oncoming blow, even as the air around him is increasingly poisoned by the second, idles almost willingly when faced with essentially the same end result. And who can blame him, when his environment is full of so many invisible threats that are impossible to track and avoid all at once? Except that, in the second case, such a man is robbed of the benefit of the assistance from his fellow man that would surely come in the first, as each eventually realizes that they are under similar assault.

What I’m suggesting is that The Screen has become the corner that we’re backed into. The old guard, exemplified by those in control of certain too-big-and-too-greedy corporations, is the attacker.

So what do we do?

Well, we talk about this shit, first and foremost.

I’m neither an economist or a political scientist, and I acknowledge and understand that even if this combined missive spreads like Bieberfire (it won’t), and we all collectively look up and whisper “no” – that things won’t change over night. But what influence we have, which we do not exercise enough en masse, is our bargaining power as consumers.

As trivial as some of them may seem on the surface, I’ve delighted in recent socially networked movements against backwards or exploitive corporate policies in recent months (the furor and flight over Instagram’s change in their TOS is a recent example). However trivial in comparison to what we should also be doing (increasing our active participation in combating social injustice on the ground) this sort of viral participation represents an easy and tangible way to band together and enact change. Companies can’t ignore shocks to the bottom line, which is something they used to worry about predominantly on our terms, not just the terms of wealthy shareholders. If our relationship with our corporations are going to swing back towards balance, this needs to become the norm once again.