On the evening of November 8, my partner Stephen and I went with our friend Doug to dinner at this great little Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood, and enjoyed a good meal, a pitcher of margaritas, and great conversation. The television screen in the background displayed early results of the election with Trump leading, but only three states at that point had been called, so I wasn’t too worried. But after arriving home and as the night wore on, I started to get worried. Then scared—really scared. And then I became downright angry.
In subsequent days people talked about how they privately wept (some for days, curled up in fetal positions), or became physically ill, at the realization that Trump had been elected, but my reaction was one of anger. I was pissed at those who voted for him, and mad at the Democratic Party for not mounting a better campaign, but mainly I was angry at the media for their complicity in helping to get him elected.
So I stopped watching. Cold turkey. It used to be a part of my everyday ritual to turn on one of the morning news shows as I started about my day, and then again the evening news when I returned home, in addition to reading the newspaper. But I just stopped viewing the next day, and have pretty much not watched ever since, because I didn’t want to listen to those same people who helped get him elected now pontificate on and on about what happened and why. I also stopped for my own sanity. I needed a break. And I didn’t want the visuals. I wanted to control how and when I received the information, and just take some time to breathe, and gather my thoughts.
I believe that each of us has a story to tell, a unique take on the world we live in, and one with value that deserves to be heard. I believe that in sharing our stories with one another, we begin to see more of that which we have in common, rather than what sets us apart.
It’s going to be a long four years, so we need to learn to pace ourselves. I had read somewhere recently that you should set aside some time each day, preferably the same time, and do something for yourself for 10 or 15 minutes, such as meditation, yoga, reading, or some other exercise or ritual that helps you to clear your mind of the clutter, and focus on the here and now. It’s really helped me to stay more grounded and centered, and be less anxious. Now I start each day off with something I look forward to, rather than flipping on the TV and all the attendant noise and chatter that comes along with it.
Each day the news seems to only get worse. The anti-gay and anti-abortion Cabinet choices. The calls for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (and with what?). Medicare and Medicaid potentially being put on the chopping block. Possible cuts to funding for HIV research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The list goes on and on. And when no one was watching, the 21st Century Cures Act was pushed through Congress in December, so now new drugs in development may not have to actually be proven to be effective to get approved. What can we possibly do in the face of all this madness?
Well, I have a theory. Remember, this is how he got elected, constantly throwing stuff out there, changing his tune every five minutes with ever more absurd or ridiculous claims and/or statements. That won’t change, only this time it will take the form of appointments of people who are going to make decisions that have lasting effects. There are going to be many targets and they will keep shifting, so we will have to remain focused in our efforts, and keep our eyes on the prize.
There are already leaders in the HIV community who are coming together to mobilize and strategize the next plan of attack, and preparing for when the transition occurs so they can come armed with facts, figures, and arguments as to why, for instance, it’s cheaper in the long run to keep certain provisions of the ACA such as covering those with pre-existing conditions, or keeping the individual mandate and the expansion of Medicaid.
There are things that we can do individually as well. Find what interests you most, and get involved. Call an HIV organization in your area and see if they need help or volunteers. Participate in advocacy or peaceful demonstrations. When you get those requests for individual or organizational sign-ons, or calls to members of Congress about legislation, take part and participate! Check out the great new resource #ActivistBasics from our friends at TheBody.com.
Veteran LGBTQ activist Michelangelo Signorile, in a recent interview on The Huffington Post, said there are four key messages he’d like young queer people to adopt, which can apply to all people: Don’t wait; recognize the importance of intersectionality; protest creatively; and remain intergenerational in our resistance.
Lastly, in the words of activist Jennifer Johnson Avril, it may not be so much about asking yourself what you can do, but “who will I become?”
Take care of yourself, and each other.