On Grief, Trauma, Loss, & Shock
“The intentional use of threatened or actual social power against a group or community, that has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”
The World Health Organization, a body tasked with a global understanding of human health, comprised of the worldwide experts in their field, determined what violence is. The statement above is an adaptation of that determination, written to specifically describe what we, in the US, on the progressive, Liberal, moderate, & radical side of things (which starts on the right, not in the middle) are feeling right now.
In short, we are dealing with psychological harm and deprivation. Abuse. Trauma. And, in the midst of all of that, we are grieving — with all the attendant issues that are associated with such.
I see this, on social media. In the faces and expressions of people who are just buying coffee and donuts at a 7-11. In the fatigue, anger, and fear that underlies the minds of pretty much everyone on the liberal side over the age of 25.
The traditional stages of grief are experienced by different people in different ways and at different speeds. And this is one of the biggest disconnects between the insulated leadership of the Dem and Green parties and the people who make up those parties.
I asked folks if they still thought there wasn’t a difference between the Regressive and Democratic party, and white folks widely still think there isn’t such, whereas minorities tend to be split, but recognize that Dems are better overall than Regressives.
Essentially, since the leadership is protected by their wealth from the realities of everyday people’s lives, insulated and therefore able to look at things with a broader view than those of us who are not so fortunate, a view that does not see the real suffering going on now as important as the possibilities in the future.
Primarily for personal power.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are all part of our lives now, even as we deal with sense of loss that isn’t about a political fight, but about the loss of the hope and the chance that we all felt that even though it was going slower than we liked, it was moving forward in our desires to see the world a truly better place, a place that was equitable and equal and, in the words of the human rights abusing people who stole it away from us, “politically correct”.
Which, really, means a place where people were decent, and where human rights were paramount.
We feel that loss, and we grieve for it, and we sense the social violence being done to us – a violence being done to us factually, not metaphorically. The abuse that is piling up before our very eyes, and we can see that abuse, even as those who are supposed to be actively combating it do not see that abuse — or what comes of that abuse, that violence.
What comes of it is Trauma.
People of color know this deeply. The cycle of it. Native Americans, African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans — racism is one of the two best known, best studied, most useful aspects of this. Women know this — and women of color know it better, because this isn’t about spousal abuse or interpersonal assault. LGB people know this, and those who are women of color know it better, as do men of color, than their white counterparts, because they know the intersections and they know that each weight on you is exponentially weighted, making the impact of that abuse, that trauma, that violence, worse since it is compounded.
Which is not to say that any single one is greater than any other one. It is to say that the number of them increases the weight and impact and harm of each individually.
Yet all minority populations are dealing with this. Some folks still think minority has something to do with the number of people — it doesn’t. It has to do with power — social power — and the multitude of groups we see that are being affected by the ideas, the subtext, the underlying objectives of this new group in power as they seek to dismantle everything that has made life tolerable and that we have fought, bled, and died for over the last 150 years.
So we are traumatized by this election, which is why we find ourselves desperately trying to limit our intake of news, trimming our follower and friend lists, avoiding interacting with people in real life — withdrawing as we begin to deal with the rage and the denial and the horror of what has been done to the foundations of what we have built our hopes and dreams and goals on.
I have been a devoted advocate and activist for Trans rights for a long time now. I still am, and if you ever doubt that, well, you are in for a pretty wild ride when I get into the ideas I last publicly revealed over three years ago (and, thankfully, many have caught up to me since then).
While I grounded my approach through the science around all this, I also based it in the existing frameworks of defense of our human rights — frameworks which are legal and social and have already begun to be disassembled and threatened by the people that have been nominated for — and are likely to achieve — the cabinet positions that enforce and secure those very things.
So much of my goals, much of my work, and not just my work but the work of all the organizations and non profits that rely, at least in part, on federal money, are all suddenly trapped in a limbo and threatened.
We are looking at someone who has a history of bullying his way through business treating the government as that same sort of tool. Who thinks of foreign policy as a hostile takeover — and even admitted he was thinking about exactly that.
The omparisons to World War 2 Germany are apt, accurate, and utterly useless, because, as we should note gravely, Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor was based in his popularity at the time, as a result of his populist, racist, and misogynist ideas.
He used negotiation and intimidation to gain favor, made promises to play nice, and then came the Reichstag Fire. An unemployed bricklayer who had recently arrived in Germany declared that he had started the fire and was tried and sentenced to death. The fire was used as evidence that enemies of the state were plotting against the government. It gave the push needed to ensure that martial law and related dictatorial powers could be applied, giving a man who relied on absolute obedience of all subordinates to their superiors control for four years, during which he outlawed all other political parties, ending with a vote that he carried wholly, ensuring his power well beyond his normal political time.
This is why we fear him. More than people ever feared Jackson, or Hoover, or Tyler, or Johnson — none of whom were President following the rise of Hitler.
Our references only go back to the period before and shortly after the Civil War. We have never had such a shitty pretendent.
Nor have we ever knowingly had one who was actively aided and abetted by a foreign power. The last major White Supremacist we had was Wilson over a hundred years ago — Nixon & Reagan were racist shits, but they weren’t White Supremacists.
This is why we are worried, and why the efforts to try and find a historical parallel in the US continue to fail — the only two people to ever share these kinds of qualities in the Western world are Stalin and Hitler.
Neither of whom gives us much to look forward towards, and so we are genuinely wondering if this is the end of “the American Experiment”.
It isn’t. It is merely the latest Test of such a thing, which is not an experiment by any measure.
There is only one way we will overcome this, and it is ultimately a political one that requires us to get through our mourning and use our grief to fuel active, intentional involvement int he very political process we hate — unless we feel like dying in a civil war that will be fought between federal forces and sanctuary cities and States that exist even in dark red areas.
And we will die. Make no mistake. Civil wars are never kind, and they kill off the outsiders first. They are always far more bloody, and when the lines are not as clear cut — which they are not, right now, as this is a division between white rural America (ignorant, gullible, poor, and well armed) and urban America (mixed racially, less well armed, more knowledgeable, but without resources because corporate interests will oppose support) and that is a recipe for bloodshed and violence of a scale and scope that beggars the mind.
Civil war means at least one half the nation dies. Leaving us weakened and vulnerable to attacks economic and otherwise by outside nations.
It is the absolute worst idea — and *that* is the true death of the Experiment. Because that comes from what the normal outcome of abuse and trauma is for most people:
Cynicism. Which is surrender as a philosophical outlook, and deadly to the very ideals on which this nation is founded.
We are not going to be able to skip those stages of grief, nor are we going to be able to undo the abuse or escape the trauma.
But we can heal it, within, through a simple tool that matters now more than ever, and that is lifting up.
Lift up the people around you. Celebrate them, celebrate their efforts, speak to and of them, and be willing to put your income, your homes, your sense of security and safety on the line.
Because, really, it already is. The protectionism and xenophobia and closing of borders is going to be incredibly harmful to the economy — there is not one single valid economic theory currently supported through broad consensus that sees any other outcome in the global market.
Automation, shifts from carbon based energy to fuels that are not longer alternative but necessary and wise, the consumer rise and decline of manufacturing — these are not things we can overcome, and these are not things that the incoming cabinet understands.
So they will ultimately put those things at risk anyway. If you do nothing, you will lose as the country is pushed into a weakened and vulnerable state of higher costs and lower income and more of the world’s wealth is concentrated into the hands of even fewer people than before.
We are in shock, right now, and we cannot afford to be so for long. We are reduces in power more than ever before in the last 50 years, and we must act to stop that — not at the federal level nearly as much as the local one.
Those currently in power? They do not hear us because we are not active in the meetings and in the efforts and they never see us, so busy are we trying to just live our lives.
That is a luxury. One which we have lost.
I have said time and time again that we outnumber them 3 to 1. Because voting rolls are not all that matters. Right now there are 16 year olds who will be voting in 2018 for the first time. There are 18 year olds who will be voting for the second. There are more of us than they know, and the minority vote is going to be large than the white vote in less than 15 years.
We cannot wait to exercise that power as a single bloc, and we *can* make the Dems listen to us.
We cannot do so with the Republican party — all that is left of that is a collection of human rights abusers and libertarian anti-Americans.
The Green party has never built up local parties, lacks the local force to make a change of the kind and level that is needed.
Which leaves the Dems. Or creating a new party — a Progressive Party, which will fracture the vote.
But a Progressive Movement, an anti-tea party, an “alt-left” that follows the principles of Indivisible and advocates for Human Rights over the individual bits and pieces of the whole, and runs a candidate (even a losing one) against *everyone* running for office over the next two years, especially locally…
… that requires 20 hours a month to do, and an make a change like you cannot believe is possible.
Because it is possible. If we can get through our grief trauma, loss and shock.
I’m an obstinate anti-authoritarian. I don’t merely believe we might do this.
I know we can.