How Do We Move forward Together after the Election of Donald Trump?

There has been a tremendous amount of anxiety in the nation since Donald Trump became President-Elect of the United States. Many people are worried about the future of this country and whether their basic rights will be supported. There is considerable tension between those who voted for Trump and those who did not.

Since the election, I have been counseling both Trump and Clinton supporters who are distressed about the tension this election has created. I thought it may be helpful to share the perspective I’ve gained from working with both sides. I have presented these thoughts in two separate letters, one for Clinton supporters, and the other for those who voted for Trump. Both offer concrete suggestions for how people in our nation can move forward together.

Dear Clinton Supporter,

You voted for Hillary Clinton, hoping she would win and that you would be celebrating our first woman president. Instead, election night turned into a nightmare you’re still trying to understand. You can’t believe someone as despicable as Donald Trump could win. How could so many Americans vote for such a horrible person and put him in one of the most powerful positions in the world–President of the United States of America?

You may be finding yourself feeling angry at anyone who supported Trump. Perhaps you feel tearful every time you think about what this means for the next few years. You may be extremely worried for your children, close friends, or neighbors, especially those who belong to the groups Trump targeted during his campaign. You may be deeply concerned about what his election means to our democracy as we know it.

It can feel like life will never be the same. How do we move forward when you’re not sure who you can trust anymore and when some of the people closest to you feel like strangers now?

This election was extremely contentious and so many inappropriate and outrageous things were said. What can you do to actually move forward?

1. Remember that you are not alone. Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, so there are many people who feel the same way as you. Talking with them will probably bring you some comfort.

2. Realize that many people who voted for Trump didn’t necessarily seek to incite hate. Yes, they did vote for a candidate who clearly said many awful things, but they may have been genuinely conflicted about another issue important to them. For example, someone whose religious beliefs oppose abortion of any kind, may have felt they were choosing between the better of two evils. Others who voted for Trump were so angry at the establishment that their vote was an act of desperation aimed at shaking up the system they feel is rigged against them. Remember that it’s okay to be upset, but be careful about writing off half the country.

3. Let yourself grieve and deal with other emotional reactions you may be having. Especially if this election has opened up old wounds from previous sexual assault or discrimination, realize that you will need some time to heal before you can stand up against hate. Sometimes when life knocks us down, we need a little time or help from others to get back up. Please seek that support if you need it.

4. As angry as you may be at Trump supporters, remember that our power to fight hate is much stronger when we are united as a nation. If someone says they don’t support hate, believe them, and stand together.

5. Remember that even though seeing all this hate out in the open is painful, that openness is necessary for deeper change. You cannot change what you cannot see or acknowledge. Everyone can now see that America still has much work to do on basic civil rights.

6. Remember that social change often takes decades to achieve. We are not moving backward. We are moving forward to deal with issues that are still unresolved.

7. Join forces with anyone who is willing to fight against hate, even if they voted for Trump, voted third party, or did not vote at all.

8. Support organizations that have already been fighting for the rights of so many different groups: the ACLU, The Center for Reproductive Rights, The Trevor Project, etc.

9. Refuse to disconnect from your fellow Americans. A sure sign that hate has won is when we are all clearly separated from one another. Reach out to your neighbors, friends, family members, and coworkers. None of us will truly feel safe all by ourselves. Do not let this election isolate you. That will only feed fear. Look around and you will see many, many goodhearted Americans who want to help make this country a better place, just like you.

10. Never give up on America! Exercise your right to speak up and protest, but do so peacefully. Otherwise you are no different from those inciting hate and violence in the aftermath of this election. As Martin Luther King so eloquently said,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Dear Clinton Supporter Letter (download the pdf)

Dear Trump Supporter,

You cast your vote, but now so many people are angry with anyone who voted for Donald Trump. They are saying you’re racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic, anti-immigrant, don’t care about people with disabilities, and generally are worried more about yourself than this country. You feel that’s absolutely not true.

You may have voted for Trump because of your personal concerns about the economy, abortion rights, Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness, or any number of reasons. Perhaps you were angry at  the entire political system because no matter how hard you work or how much you play by the rules, you can’t seem to get ahead. You wanted your vote to show that you’re angry with the system and need change.

You may feel offended that you’re being accused of being someone you’re not. Don’t people see that this election was hard for you too? You really didn’t like Trump either, but felt caught in a no-win situation.

Yes, this election was extremely difficult and you may feel that people are overreacting and just need to accept that Trump was elected. But, how do we move forward?

1. Realize that although you may have voted based on issues that are important to you, others felt so strongly about the hateful rhetoric during the campaign, that they were willing to abandon normal party affiliation to keep Trump out of the Oval Office. They may be disappointed and confused that you didn’t make the same choice.

2. Remember that hate affects the lives of some people more than others. Throughout the campaign, racial minorities, Muslims, LGBT individuals, immigrants, and women heard so many awful things being said about them. Trump said many inappropriate things and did not stop his followers from doing the same. His lack of willingness to take a clear stand against hate left many people afraid of what he would do if he had more power. Now, that reality has come true, and many who belong to these groups truly feel frightened that they will be targeted. Cabinet appointments since the election continue to feed this alarm.

3. Remember that many people in this country are grieving. They feel like what has been lost is the America that they love. For those who have experienced discrimination or been sexually assaulted, Trump’s election may have opened up old wounds and led them to feel traumatized by this election.  They may have a genuine feeling of despair about whether their concerns will ever really be acknowledged by their fellow Americans. Give them time to heal. When you tell hurt individuals to move on, it makes them feel even more invalidated.

4. Although you may feel you had good reasons for voting for Trump, if you truly are anti-hate, it is critical that you make that stance clearly known to others and unite with their efforts to combat hate.

5. Remember that even though seeing all this hate out in the open is painful, that openness is necessary for deeper change. You cannot change what you cannot see or acknowledge. Everyone can now see that America still has much work to do on basic civil rights.

6. Remember that social change often takes decades to achieve. We are not moving backward. We are moving forward to deal with issues that are still unresolved.

7. Join forces with anyone who is willing to fight against hate, even if they voted for Trump, voted third party, or did not vote at all.

8. Support organizations that have already been fighting for the rights of so many different groups: the ACLU, The Center for Reproductive Rights, The Trevor Project, etc.

9. Refuse to disconnect from your fellow Americans. A sure sign that hate has won is when we are all clearly separated from one another. Reach out to your neighbors, friends, family members, and coworkers. None of us will truly feel safe all by ourselves. Do not let this election isolate you. That will only feed fear. Look around and you will see many, many goodhearted Americans who want to help make this country a better place, just like you.

10. Never give up on America! Exercise your right to speak up and protest, but do so peacefully. Otherwise you are no different from those inciting hate and violence in the aftermath of this election. As Martin Luther King so eloquently said,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Dear Trump Supporter letter (download the pdf)

About admin

Licensed psychologist in San Antonio, Texas.
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