Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Well, the worst has happened, and the United States has elected a xenophobic, misogynistic, bigoted, bullying, narcissistic, thin-skinned, ignorant and unqualified demagogue to the highest office in the land and the most powerful position in the world. As the title of this post implies, I feel like the guys at the end of Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, singing about the bright side of life while being crucified. If I weren’t so shocked and frightened about Donald Trump being President (a phrase I am still having a hard time saying), I would appreciate the Python-esque absurdity of it all. I have spent the last few days feeling a whirlwind of emotions, dominated by disbelief, fear, and anger. I have devoured dozens of articles, analyses, and think pieces. I have made multiple social media posts and left countless comments. I have talked and texted and commiserated and comforted with friends and family, all of us dizzy with the implications of Trump’s ascendancy. I have cried – hard. BUT: I have also felt my spine straighten, my eyes open, and my shock and fear harden into strength, action, and resolve. And as I always do, I have begun to apply all my training and studying of human cultural behavior into an analysis of how we got here and what I think we should do about it.

I struggled with what I wanted to write for my first post in this new reality because my head was spinning with too many thoughts and ideas, all intertwined and fighting for my attention. But tonight, as I found some time to relax and attempt to quiet my thoughts, it came to me that maybe I should try to look on the bright side of life. Don’t get me wrong: I have no illusions about how fraught the next four years are going to be. But I do think that in amongst all the awful, it is smart to look at a few positives, no matter how small they might seem. So here, in no particular order, are a few things that give me some hope.

  1. Hillary won the popular vote by a margin of around two million, or about 1.5%. Of course, she lost the electoral vote, which is why Trump will be President. And sadly, the voter turnout was not very high. But I think the results of this election will galvanize progressives to turn out for the midterms in 2018, and change Democrats’ tendency to not show up at the polls in non-presidential election years. And, although the map showing Millennials alone would have elected Hillary turned out to be not quite true (it actually showed the results of a poll that was taken in October, and as we all know too well now, polls can be wrong!), in general, young folks vote progressive, and there are a lot of them. So, in both two and four years, I think we have reason to be optimistic.
  2. The election has awakened people to the huge political divisions that exist in this country. Now, if you weren’t already aware of this, you weren’t paying attention – but at the same time, the level of shock that many people are registering with Trump’s win tells me that many people have underestimated how deep the divide truly is. No one should have thought a Clinton victory was a sure thing. While I don’t blame anybody who feels shock and dismay, I am heartened by the immediate calls for activism that I see springing up. I’m not talking about protests (although as long as they remain peaceful, I find the protest to be a useful tool), but about people actually taking civic action to protect those things they hold dear that are threatened by Trump’s presidency. I don’t necessarily think that progressives were complacent, but maybe we were a little too confident. So if anything positive has come out of our shock, it’s that we are now awake, and we will fight.
  3. Gun company stocks have tanked. It’s true. Gun merchants were doing huge business during the Obama administration, since many people feared that gun rights were going to be restricted or taken away completely. As a result, people were buying guns like never before. Now, I’m not completely anti-gun (that is, I don’t think gun ownership should be illegal), but I do think we need more regulations on the gun market, and the idea of people stockpiling guns makes me VERY uneasy. With Trump in office, I suspect that fewer people will be buying guns, which is obviously what the stock market thought today. Whether this trend persists remains to be seen, but if it does, I think that’s a good thing.
  4. The alt-right is probably going to fail. The alt-right’s whole raison d’etre is fighting against what they perceive to be a globalist establishment. Well, now their anti-establishment, anti-globalist champion has been elected. Who are the misogynists and bigots and racists of Reddit going to rail against now that they can’t point fingers at the holder of the most powerful office in the world? This is likely to be bad news for Breitbart, Drudge, Infowars, and World Net Daily (I won’t link to them – they don’t need help from me). Sure, they’ll revel in their victory for a while, but if they can’t wax conspiratorial about Barack Hussein Obama, Killary Clinton, FEMA concentration camps, and the United States’ role in the globalist cabal to bring on the New World Order, then what will their purpose be? To be honest, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Steve Bannon, who was executive chairman of Breitbart before he became Trump’s campaign chairman (and potential Chief of Staff – sorry, I know this post is supposed to be about the positives, but shudder) is actually disappointed that Trump won and they won’t be able to launch Trump TV, Trump’s planned media company to compete with Fox News. In any case, without a secret gay Muslim Kenyan terrorist demon-possessed black man in the White House, who will the alt-right have to blame for their grievances?
  5. This one might be a little controversial, but out of all the alarming pledges Trump made in his plan for his first 100 days in office, there are actually a few that I’m okay with. First is his plan for infrastructure spending. He wants Congress to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure spending package. Interestingly, when Obama attempted to pass an infrastructure plan, Congress blocked him, and they’ve signaled that they may not be happy with Trump’s plan either. In general, though, the country needs to repair and boost its vital infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and depending on the specifics of Trump’s plan, I think this is a good thing. Trump may not have political experience, and his construction projects have not always gone as planned, but at least this is something he has experience with. Another thing I like in the 100-day plan is the call for a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service, as well as changes to foreign lobbying rules. Apparently lobbyists themselves think this is unlikely to happen as it would require Congressional action, but many lobbying and political reform groups support the idea. It’s not a perfect plan – or really, a plan at all since he hasn’t fleshed out how his bans would actually get passed – but if it actually happened it would be a good thing.

So there you have it. I still think there is much, much, much, much more to be worried about than positive about. And trust me, this will not be my last word on the subject. But if this is our new reality, we might as well take a brief moment to give a whistle, and look on the bright side.

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