Where We Go From Here, #3

I woke up this morning in despair.

I don’t want to hide that. I seesaw between getting my we-can-do-this on, and feeling paralyzed.

The paralysis is the same sense I had immediately after 9/11. I’m sick, sad, scared. Suddenly I don’t recognize this world. I don’t know what to do here, where to look, where to put my feet.

I’m saying this because I know many of you feel the same. And some of you have begun to be feel bad about it. To think that if you’re still dazed, still unable to see a way out of this, then you’re not strong, you’re behind, you need to get with the roll-up-your-sleeves program.

No. You need to feel what you’re feeling. It’s real. In her concession speech, Hillary said, “This is painful, and it will be for a long time.” The other side doesn’t get, I think, how much more than just a political loss this is to us. For women, for blacks, for gays, for people of any color and all disabilities, it’s a repudiation of our importance as human beings. We’re not mourning our candidate. We’re mourning our hopes for ourselves and each other.

But last night I met with writers who’ve been in a workshop with me for a couple of years. We ranted, we swore, we laughed; we actually read and commented on some work. People shared articles they’d found, and we all felt better.

I woke up this morning in despair. But after 9/11, eventually we found our way again. We were able to act again. I spent a year writing a novel set in those first few weeks after, called ABSENT FRIENDS, and I still get letters telling me it helped people understand what those times were like here in NYC. Those times were much like these times. I’ll find my way, we’ll find our way, again.

One of the pieces a student brought last night was this.

It’s “Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Dr. Estés is a touch too religious for me, but though I don’t share her faith in God I do share her faith in us. She says we were put here for a reason; I don’t know about that, but I do know we’re here. We’re here, our tribe, together.

I hope this letter moves you as much as it did me. We’re still here. This isn’t politics. We’ll find our way, and it’ll be a wide, bright road.


  1. Eric Knight says:

    Thank you. This helps.

  2. Rhonda Buttacavoli says:

    Hopefully, our form of checks-and-balances government will help us weather this potentially disastrous administration. We must become a tribe of action – volunteer, write, talk, petition, become familiar with local and state-level representatives and Senators, dare to reach out and form coalitions with like-minded people who can help us communicate with those holding different points of view. High educational levels are a must regardless of one’s choice of career. The trades and service industries need not be unaware and ignorant of the greater good.

  3. Thanks, SJ. My main emotion has been numbness, not the tears and despair I felt after W’s second election victory. The numbness this time around is worse, because the darkness ahead seems likely to last for a very long time, and because of what T’s victory reveals about my fellow Americans. Your words truly do help.

  4. Li Ann says:

    Dear S.J. I requested your comments just before the election & so thank you for sharing your private thoughts both then and since. . . . It must have cost you some.
    I posted some comments on another blog. But in short, I recommend VH1 “Martha and Snoop Doggy Potluck”. Martha Stewart and Snoop hanging out with Seith Rosen (?), Ice Cube and Wiz. They had DIALOGUE. The men were unedited and Martha took it in and held her own and they seemed to enjoy each other. My optimist, extrapolated take-away is that if disparate Americans can spend time together like this, there is hope. MY hope is that Martha invites all of them to one of her lovely dinners. Secondly, that Hilary Clinton shows up on “Martha and Snoop” and does some booty wagging and just laughs!
    Please laugh too. I am ahead of the game because my friend went and sidetracked in town and bought me a Chinese egg tart (ONO!) It was kind of the color of Hilary’s yellow pantsuit.
    Much Aloha.
    P.S. Watch the whole thing. Martha is going to sway something like–being struck by lightning is a lot worse than being in prison. HA

  5. Rita says:

    THANKS SJ – I share your feelings – it is hard to know “which way to go” or “what to do”. 9/11 was devastating but it was external enemies. Today is different! I am a bit optimistic because Hillary did win the popular vote, because many disillusioned Trump voters were not really very pleased with him, and because voter turnout overall was really low. I am daring to hope as we move ahead that our paths unite to a stronger and better future (even if that is hard to envision or even imagine right now).

  6. SHARON says:

    To me this election wasn’t about politics. One side was going to demand that we be our best selves and one side gave us permission to be our worst. That creature’s victory freed those whose worst is very bad.

    I can’t find any reason to be hopeful for the future of this nation. Republicans now have total control of the country and they have proven to completely without ethics. I expect that their gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts will grow. I am an old white women and I don’t feel certain that I will ever be allowed to vote again.

  7. tim in seattle says:

    Sorry for your loss, it is a loss for us all. As you know I am somewhere way to the right of you, but I like my candidates to not be rapists and scaremongers, so I certainly didn’t vote R this time.
    That said, the Dems fielded a candidate that couldn’t even beat Donald Trump. Trump didn’t win, Hillary lost, falling millions of votes short of what Obama got in the last 2 cycles. White union members didn’t vote for her because she represents, rightly or wrongly, the perceived loss of jobs from a globalist NAFTA/TPP economy. People of color didn’t vote for her because they bought the Trump line that the Dems only woo their votes when they need them then forget about them until the next election cycle. (it is all too true), and young people didn’t vote for her because she took her foot off the gas and started planning her inaugural ball too soon before the election. Young folks are lazy like that, and the patronizing attitude that the Hillary campaign and the DNC had toward them (especially the Sanders supporters) did nothing to inspire any level of enthusiasm that would get them off their couches. Hillary had the election locked up, all the polls and news reports said, why bother to go out in the cold?
    So where to go?
    It’s going back a while, but when Fidel Castro sent Batista packing, he reached out to his neighbors for support. The response of almost all US politicians was to recoil in horror of being accused of sympathizing with a commie. Castro leaned left anyway, but the American response ensured that he would have no path forward except through Khrushchev, so that’s the one he took. Trump leans racist/sexist, but I think that is more out of ignorance than deep conviction. If everyone who is revolted by his behavior fails to work with him, as Harry Reid and others are suggesting, then the path he is forced to take is through David Duke and that ilk.
    Just sayin

  8. Sandy says:

    About ABSENT FRIENDS: I’m a substitute teacher at a high school. The students are too young to remember 9/11, and what they don’t know is staggering. (Just this year a sophomore thought the hijackers parachuted out before the planes crashed.) I’ve used descriptions from your book to try to help them understand.

  9. Deron Bissett, Ph.D. says:

    Liking the idea of you taking a break from the sorrow. Come on out. We are among lots of wise authors, scientists, and bookstores. E-mail is below.
    Deron Bissett

  10. Susan Law says:

    Step by step – some hard, some easier, each step better for the company. Thank you once again for being here.

  11. Thank you. Community, organizing, and self-care now need to be at the top of everyone’s to do list.

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