Fear and Uncertainty
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in his great book Crime and Punishment, said:
The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!
At this time of fear and uncertainty in the world, let alone the US, there must be some comfort we can find in what has happened, there must be some good deep down inside what we cannot, at this moment, comprehend. Where are the stars, because they still shine somewhere?
Enlightenment arrives like a thief in the middle of the dark night of the soul.
This is a 'Dark Night of the Soul' for Americans. It is a significant move against the liberal values many of us hold dear. They include the values of equality of opportunity and equality of human rights. The US has a balance between white and non-white, and male and female in its population and yet it was white males who tipped the balance in favour of racism and misogyny. These make up a large audience for this site.
If it does not help to turn my back on my American cousins (and my brother, who has lived there since 1968, and his family) what can I take out of what has happened, how can I find the bright stars, enlightenment?
I thought of writing an obituary, beginning, "Today America died..." but I did not think that would help. The internet and the press are full of WTF articles already—not surprising really. Out of that thought came the realisation that what has happened is like a death, that it is actually a death. It is a death what many millions hold dear, of what many Americans believe, of what they base their lives on.
Most people struggle with death, especially sudden, unexpected death. They go through the stages of grief before they find a way to accept what has happened and move forward. This will be the case with this extraordinary event.
Grief can be a transforming emotion but only if we can come to understand its stages. These stages are waypoints on the way to seeing the light out of the other end. While not everyone experiences every stage, understanding them is critical to avoid us getting bogged down in the journey instead of seeking its endpoint.
Although many people are in this stage, right now, it is difficult to understand this. The news is everywhere and so it seems impossible to deny that it has happened. It appears most commonly in shock and numbness. You just cannot believe what you are hearing, what you are reading. 'Surely the voters cannot be that stupid', you say to yourself. 'It won't last long. It can't last long'. This stage is essential for survival. It helps us to cope and move on to the explosive stage to follow. I saw this in the faces on television of many of those who were devastated by the result. They just could not take in what was happening before their eyes.
The well-known second stage is anger. This can come quickly or take time to work its way out. In the US there is already explosive anger being expressed, and it will get worse. This can be a dangerous stage if it is not embraced and worked through. There will be those who will stay here and refuse to move on to see a more hopeful future. They will fight and do all they can to make life difficult for the new President, but that is just stooping to his level, that will not change how the future pans out.
This is where the recriminations will fall on those who lost. This is where people will talk about how it might have been and what should have been done to prevent this tragedy. There is a sub-conscious belief that it might be possible to lessen the impact if we re-think aspects of what we think. If only...
This will be the most difficult stage for people to work through, but work through it they must. As the full impact sets in over next year, as the programs are rolled back, as the unreality of it becomes reality, however disastrous, depression is bound to step up and take hold. It will feel as though it will last forever, it will feel as though there is nothing that can be done to change what is happening, it will feel like the end. Understanding that this is a necessary stage will help people get through it. It is important, though, not to push it away.
The power comes when we work through to this final stage, acceptance. Acceptance is not about coming to think it is alright. It is not about deciding to work with it, but it is about accepting the reality of what has happened. In doing this we let go of the past, we let go of the grief and start building the future in whatever way works best. In this situation this will be about finding enlightenment in the liberal values we hold most dear. We can then work to help those who left these values behind to begin to understand them again.
The strength in this final stage is in leaving the others behind. It is letting go of anger and re-doubling our efforts to build a powerful new future. However grim it seems now, there is a brighter future ahead.
Don't try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night.
Philip K. Dick
Wait for the dawn, wait for tomorrow and work to rebuild what you hold dear.
That is why I have decided not to turn my back but to keep writing, keep talking, to remind people that what has just happened is not the only way. There is an alternative and people in the US will come to see that in time.
It is just a matter of time...