For the next three years, 11 months and 26 days Trump will reign in the White House as the new Supreme Commander of the United States and by extension the free world. And I, along with my fellow Americans across the globe, will be entering a mourning period.
There’s a sense of powerlessness that comes with expatriating, immigrating, and being on the road as a “digital nomad” or whatever else the New York Times is trying to rebrand young foreigners these days. Far from the lands that issued our passports, we’ve taught ourselves new languages and customs under new laws and cultural pressures. Yet, when our homelands are hurting, we often find ourselves hurting as well: their pain is still our pain. We’re simply further away from the aching lands that raised us. We exist in a tension between our past lives and the present—a present ripe with fresh traumas and duress.
Distanced, too, are we from the routes of protest and healing. My attendance at the Women’s March on Washington would have cost me a pretty penny priced at around half a grand, and some of my closest American confidantes are time zones away should I need a shoulder to cry on. What are we to do? How can we help revive, heal, and progress our communities and our countryfolk from abroad? The answer isn’t simple, and there’s no final verdict, but here’s where we can start:
1. KNOW YOUR ENEMY
Back in the States, Trump supporters across the nation are reeling in disbelief as they realise that yes, the “socialist nonsense” known as Obamacare was indeed authorized by the Affordable Care Act. Not to mention that Trump plans to cancel their last hope for access to expensive medications and treatments. And have you heard what he’s got planned for the arts? The National Endowment for the Arts is slated to be cut entirely. Trump’s team has been quick to erase any references to the protection of LGBTQ people from the White House’s webpage. In its place is a set of bold policies promoting an anti-immigrant police force that sounds terrifying at best.
Meanwhile, what is Theresa May up to these days? On the hunt for the least flattering pantsuits at Primark, I’d imagine. Article 50 has yet to be triggered and the full effect of leaving the Single Market exists only in our postulations, but the world has watched the pound plummet endlessly—even Trustafarians in Berlin for the weekend will be pinching pennies soon.
The Supreme Court ruled this morning that parliament must vote to trigger Article 50, so now’s the time to call up your local MP’s office.
What I’m trying to say is this: if we know which plans are in the pipelines, there’s still time to shout, to yell, and to text your congressman or MP sad emojis about how eliminating carbon-emission guidelines will make us feel. We can only fight the battles that we know are taking place: stay alert, stay safe, and stay strong.
2. PICK YOUR BATTLES
The most important question that I have ever asked a stranger was simple but sweet, and it still remains relevant: “Did I fucking ask for your opinion?”
As we speak up and speak out against the people and policies that threaten to throttle our freedoms, a second-line of defence will stand in our way. Standing alone, they go by the Devil’s Advocate or Just Trying to See Both Sides; as a group, their herds are known as Wastes of Time.
The beauty of free speech is that I can loudly dispense my opinion of your astrological sign just as freely as anyone else who wants to peddle their nonsense du jour on any number of pointless topics, like photorealistic paintings or neoliberalism!
What’s important to remember is that it entitles people to have stupid opinions, if only “for the sake of a civil debate”. It, however, does not mandate that you correct them. You are under no obligation to help them. As we air our grievances and mourn our losses, they’ll enter our space to interrogate us and our beliefs, demanding that we explain just how it is that they can be racist if they have a black friend. These conversations aren’t worth our time or energy and, to be honest, neither are the people who require them. Save your words for somewhere where they’re heard.
3. REST, RELAX, RECHARGE
As with any trauma, turbulent political atmospheres present a fantastic opportunity to let your personal maintenance slip. A word of advice: don’t!
Now more than ever, be sure to check in with yourself and keep track of your physical, mental and emotional health. Why are you tired? Is it because of your workout regimen, or is it because you were up till 3am worrying about your access to birth control? Do you feel safe, and is there anywhere you would feel safer? Why are you crying? Who can help you?
I had a difficult time dragging myself into my office on 9 November, and I’ve surrendered a handful of mornings to my depressive malaise in the months since. Sometimes, getting out of bed is too much to ask of yourself. Instead, find solace in self-care rituals and make a point to maintain your wellbeing in whichever increments make the most sense for you. Nourish yourself with a fresh juice! Do a face mask! Open your mail! I’ve found Emily Reynold’s practical self-care bot and Jonny Sun’s tiny care bot especially helpful when I can’t find the motivation to move past the four posts of my bed frame.
4. GET TO WORK
So, you know who you’re fighting and you’ve got a batch of emails to your local representatives in your outbox; you also know who is getting the cold shoulder and which arguments aren’t worth the emotional labour. You’re showered, fed, and fresh for a fight. What now?
As I said in my guide to moving to Berlin and running away from all your problems, it’s time to get your feet on the ground of your local community. What’s happening in Germany with Frauke Petry, and is Le Pen really doing as well as we feared? Similarly, how can we assist local refugee populations in the face of global xenophobia and rising hate crimes? We stand defiant in the face of hatred, but we also stand in support of those who are more vulnerable. As expats and citizens abroad, many of us are chasing treasured opportunities while others are simply escaping execution. Now is the time for us to be smart, be safe, be brave, and be kind.
Feature image: Clueless (1995)