11 Self-care Tips in the Age of Trump

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It’s only been four weeks, and already Americans are stressed out by the new administration. Stress, as we know, has a negative impact on health and can even shorten your life if left to continue. So now, more than ever, self-care is vitally important. Here are some tips.

1 Take a relaxing bubble or salt bath

Water is a healing element, particularly when combined with essential oils, cheerful bubbles, or fragrant bath salts. Get that water as hot as you can stand it, douse it with your favorite mix of feel-good, smell-good add-ins, grab a glass of wine, and then enjoy. Add some soft music. Maybe Enya. For an added stress-reliever, you can pick up one of these:

BATH222-donald-trump-rubber-duck (4)

Work out your stress by drowning it, grabbing it by the tailfeathers, and just generally abusing it. Doesn’t that feel better?

2 Have a glass of wine

Remember, it’s always wine o’clock somewhere in the world.

3 Eat healthy, nutritious foods

Self-care means providing your body with good fuel. Just ask yourself, “What would Donald Trump eat?” And then avoid all of those things.

In general, it’s best to avoid emotional eating, which often happens when we get stressed. But if you feel really stressed, you can choose from a variety of healthy recipes that all come from immigrants, such as burritos, curries, or salad rolls. That being said, borscht and taco bowls may not be as emotionally fulfilling.

taco_bowl

“I love Hispanics, but they did not make this!”

4 Exercise

Exercise is vitally important to your self-care, whether you go to a gym, take long walks, or ride a bike. It doesn’t matter what you do, but get that body moving!

If you’re feeling even more stressed than usual, exercise can help you get out your frustrations in ways that other things can’t. For example, if you’re feeling angry, you can try punching a pillow. Or better yet, try punching or whacking one of these:

trump_pinata2

A Trump piñata

5 Have another glass of wine

But not this wine:

trump-wine

6 Meditate

Meditation is proven to help you relax and keep you centered and at peace. There are many kinds of meditation in the world to choose from. You can try to quiet your mind and keep thoughts from entering your head. Ah, but who are we kidding? In the age of Trump, this is impossible for everyone except Trump himself. In times like these, you may decide that repeating a mantra as you meditate is far more helpful. Here are some ideas:

Om mani padme hum…

I am peace…

I am love…

She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted…

CNN is not fake news…

7 Treat yourself

One of the best forms of self-care is treat yourself every single day. It could be small, like a cup of hot Starbucks coffee, served up by a refugee, or larger, like a massage, manicure, or trip to your psychotherapist, who has reams of folders filled with Trump worries from stressed-out Americans like yourself. (If necessary, you and your psychotherapist can have joint therapy with another psychotherapist.)

Outings can be a treat, as well. Get out into nature, visit a national park before it’s sold off to white ranchers, or visit an art museum. The arts are excellent therapy, whether you like to beat on bongos naked in the middle of the night, or paint and draw. Coloring is also fashionable, and millions find it very relaxing. For example, you can color books full of mandalas, cute cats, or even this:
trump_colorbook

8 Just go for the vodka

But not this vodka:

trump-vodka

9 Try bibliotherapy (reading a good book)

Bibliotherapy is a real thing, and a good book really can help you relax and feel better, particularly when you’re going through a rough time. If you have the bandwidth, you can sit down with a conventional book by the fire and enjoy. (This activity also goes well with tips number 2, 5, and 8.) Alternatively, if you’re busier, you can listen to audio books read by outstanding voice actors. You can download a book to your mobile phone and listen to it anywhere, even while exercising, cleaning house, fetching coffee for your mansplaining boss, or punching a piñata.

Classic books are always a good choice, and here are a few ideas:

1984, by George Orwell

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson

The Diary of Anne Frank

Although, if these titles are still a bit stressful, you can usually find a book about a dog or other animal. Unless they die in the book. Maybe a cookbook?

10 Surround yourself with supportive friends and family

The best self-help is to surround yourself with people who truly love and support you. Unless they’re avid Trump supporters. If your uncle wears a “Make America Great Again” cap, it might be better for your stress levels if he doesn’t come for the holidays. Or any time, really.

Likewise, your social media feed can influence your state of mind. The friend who posts cat videos is a keeper, for sure, and the sister with the “Still With Her” profile picture is fine. But rest assured that it’s okay if you “unfollow” Dad, who keeps posting Breitbart articles and anti-immigrant memes. Likewise, if your cousin can’t get over Bernie losing the nomination to Hillary, it’s worth considering unfriending them. Who needs to relive 2016 when 2017 is already a pile of shit?

Hang onto the friends who are politely respectful, of course, and then consider creating a group for the Resisters, for occasional “honest talk” and venting. Guard entry to that group like Cerberus itself, blocking any would-be Trump trolls. You have to put up with your Trump-voting co-workers, neighbors, and family members, but it’s important to have a place where primal screaming is allowed. (See tip number 7.)

11 Buy a liquor store

In the long run, this will save you money on wine and vodka, and once the GOP eliminates Social Security and all hope of decent medical insurance, a liquor store in the era of Trump will always make loads of money, and you’ll need it if you ever want to retire. It also makes a handy inheritance for your children, because the GOP will eliminate the estate tax, too, and since your kids won’t have a decent education, they can at least learn to run a cash register.

The Myth of the White Race

children_holding_hands_iStock_000004544472SmallIn the past, I have tried to reach reasonable white people by writing about race. I know many wonderful white people who think they’re not racist, but they still have subconscious racism. (I deal with this in myself as well.) My hope was, that as “one of them,” maybe I could say something, anything, to help them acknowledge the reality that people of color face. I wrote specifically about racism here and here. I suspected I was preaching to the choir, but hey. It’s always worth a shot to win over hearts and minds.

In the age of Trump, however, I can see that a certain segment of the population is a lost cause, and that segment was larger than I originally thought. Indeed, there are many white people out there who are so delicate, so fragile, that a person of color cannot express their true feelings about their indifferent, thoughtless, or outright racist behavior without the white person feeling viciously attacked and provoked into responding with, “Reverse racism!” This response is the intellectual equivalent of, “I know you are, but what am I?”

Yes, it’s a clever little mind-fuck that the thin-skinned whites came up with to avoid ever having to deal with their own issues. A black person is clearly never supposed to even hint that a white person might be, a little, maybe, hurtful? rude? In the grown-up world, this is called being honest about your feelings. “When you do that, it hurts.” Healthy grown-ups can deal with this sort of dialogue when they’re on the receiving end. Interestingly, you know what kind of grown-up cannot deal with this at all, ever? A personality-disordered one. And when it comes to people of color, many whites respond narcissistically:  “Oh! How could you! I am SO not that, I am not a racist, I would never. I’m a very good person. Some of my best friends are…” This is what we call “blaming the victim” and “refusing to take responsibility for their actions.”

I have noticed, in my advocacy for people of color, that some whites love to tell me how sad it is that “I’ve turned against my own race” and other such bullshit. Yes, they reason, she must be a self-hating white person to take the wrong side on this issue. These people will argue that systemic racism is a figment, that no white person these days is ever racist, ever ever, and that the ONLY reason racial tension exists is because those uppity colored people just will not keep their place. Okay, they don’t put it that way, but in effect, that is what they mean. They should be quiet and suck it up, just like Elizabeth Warren. And yet they persist. Yes, there’s always an excuse ready to hand when a black person is unjustly and unlawfully killed.

So-called white people are extremely privileged in our society, but the mere act of saying that brings about the inevitable backlash: “Oh, you’re playing the race/privilege card.” If we claim it doesn’t exist, we don’t have to deal with it. The mental acrobatics involved with avoiding uncomfortable truths is an astonishing waste of energy, which belies the argument about being a “superior race.” Clearly, we are not.

But about this race thing. There is no “white race.” The (weird) term “Caucasian” that we check on questionnaires means “of European origin,” or more specificaully, “from the Caucasus.” The Caucasus lies between the Black and Caspian seas. In Asia. It includes Georgia and Azerbaijan. And that’s just a start.

English and most European languages are Indo-European. Finnish, Basque, and Hungarian are not; those languages are descended from the original European cultures who lived there before the Indo-Aryans came. The Picts occupied Scotland before the Celts arrived. The original inhabitants of Ireland are enshrined in myth as the Tuatha Dé Danan, who occupied the island before the Celts. The Indo-Aryans themselves came from, duh, the region of India. They interbred with the existing European tribes just as homo sapiens, as we know, interbred with Neanderthals. And it’s not like the mixing stopped there. Many a Spaniard has Moorish (African) blood, as does, no doubt, most of the population of the northern Mediterranean. The English are hardly “pure-blooded” anything. Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norsemen, and the French have all inhabited the island. Were these all “white?” They had profound cultural differences, some more than others. It wasn’t that long ago that none of these peoples would have laid claim to being a “common race” with one another.

Nowadays, the definition seems to be expanding. Russians, now, are becoming “white.” But Russia is a very big place, and it contains many different ethnic groups, including some Indo-Europeans, real Caucasians, Siberians, and those of Turkic or Mongolic origin. And of course, they have Jews, who may bear white skin, but keep getting locked out of the “white club.” (Semitic, by the way, applies to Arabs as well as Jews, ironically.)

So what is “whiteness?” It’s a social construct, a belief, much like a belief in the Tooth Fairy. “If you look like me, you’re white.” Unless, of course, you have a drop of black blood, but can “pass” for white. An octoroon, a person who was 1/8 black, was still black because apparently the 7/8 of their genetic makeup didn’t matter at that point. These white race rules get kinda complicated.

The truth is, most African-Americans have white blood in their veins. And the corollary is, there are a lot of “white” people out there with black, Native American, and Latino blood in their veins, too. Do they know it? Probably not. Is Barack Obama half-black or half-white? Do “whites” know that their European ancestors may well have had fairly recent African, Asian, or Middle Eastern influence? Probably not. Are they aware that all of humanity originated in Africa? Probably not, although if they really believe in the Adam and Eve thing, humanity only had two parents. Which makes us all related.

We know, scientifically, that the concept of “race” doesn’t make sense, because we can do DNA testing. One individual’s DNA may have ties to peoples and cultures all over the world. To me, that’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. It’s indicative of our Oneness. I get that thousands of years ago, we lived in tight tribes, basically extended family groups, and “other” tribes could be in-laws, friends, or foes. There’s some wiring there. But we don’t live like that anymore. Or at least, we don’t have to. It’s time to recognize ourselves in one another and give up the ego-protecting defense mechanisms that make us okay with another’s suffering. We really are one race, the human race. Some people won’t see it. I’m sorry for them. But the rest of us need to move forward now.

Watch this fantastic video about DNA testing and what it tells us about ourselves.

The Gaslighting of America

A scene from "Gaslight" about a narcissist's sadistic manipulation of his wife

A scene from “Gaslight” about a narcissist’s sadistic manipulation of his wife

There were these two couples who liked to spend time together and had been doing so for many years. They were good friends. They never discussed politics. They just enjoyed each other’s company.

Then one weekend at the beach, one of the women says something a bit political. The other couple raised their eyebrows and silently communicated, “let’s not go there.” Then later in the weekend, the woman’s husband dropped a political comment into the conversation. They were fishing, the other couple realized, and they let it go.

A few weeks later, the political woman calls her friend and says something along the lines of, “You can’t have been happy these past few years with Obama.” To which the other woman says, “In fact, I have.” And her old friend says, “Oh, my dear, but Trump’s going to make us so safe. We really do have to keep those people out.”

Now the other woman is flustered and can’t believe she’s having this conversation. She responds, “But if you watch the news…” And her friend says, “Oh, my dear, that’s all fake news.”

Will this friendship survive? Time will tell. But the nation may not. In fact, it will almost certainly be forever changed.

What emboldened the couple to bring up politics after so many years? It’s very similar to what hardcore Christians do:  they were trying to save their friends. Not religiously, mind you, but socially. You’re one of us, they think, and we love you. We want to make sure you understand what’s best for you. At the end of the struggle, or after the Rapture for those who go for that sort of thing, they want their friends to be there, alongside them. Not in the gulag.

Okay, they don’t consciously foresee a gulag. But, you know. You should be on our side, because it will affirm to us that we’re not racists/bad people for thinking this way…

And there’s the crux. Somewhere in the back of their mind, Jiminy Cricket is trying to shout at them, but they’ve applied a gag. They don’t want to hear him. They don’t want to think that they’re wrongfully judging and condemning whole groups of people. Trump’s narrative is so soothing, so appealing. Why, of course we want to be safe. Of course we don’t want Americans to be killed by terrorist attacks. This is the substance of the gag, and the more external validation they can get for it (by having their friends and family agree with them), the stronger it becomes.

Germans during the Reich were no worse than we are, fundamentally. Yes, there were the hard-core Nazis who fervently believed. There were liberals (socialists, communists). And there were good people in the middle who were also easily gaslighted, led along the path to think, “Maybe they’re right about those people, after all.”

Those people.

The moment you have an “Other,” you have a problem. The Other can be dehumanized (they’re more like animals than people; they’re subhuman), delegitimized (Islam is not a religion; it’s a political system), and stigmatized (they want to destroy us; they’re lazy; they steal our jobs). If you are afraid of the Other, if your so-called “safety” is endangered by the Other, you are more likely to do terrible things to the Other in the name of “self-defense.” This happens over and over, and still, we have not learned.

The people who are actively congratulating Trump and howling for the blood of the Other, in any form, are lost. Trump’s narrative is affirming their prejudices, and they are grateful to him that they can now attempt to elevate their piteous selves over people who have done them no harm. Microaggressions are now macroaggressions, once again, with mostly white men and some white women confronting minorities everywhere. And they have the gall to proclaim that they are not racists. They do not see themselves, and they probably never will.

But the real danger lies from the middle, from those who would never berate a Muslim person in public, but who quietly nod their heads in growing agreement that, yes, these people are a problem, and we should keep them out. Today it’s the Muslims and the Mexicans (the only illegal immigrants that seem to matter in this conversation). Tomorrow, though, the question will become:  why not the gays? Why not the Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists? Why not the disabled, who will be plainly visible on the streets if the GOP undercuts their safety net much more. Anyone who is different from the specified norm will be at risk, because once people start looking for the Other as a scapegoat, the target list only grows.

The Trump administration is playing the hand of an authoritarian demagogue. In true gaslighting style, they will push their narrative with, “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lyin’ eyes?” And some people will believe that CNN is fake news, that real journalism cannot be trusted, that the Bowling Green Massacre really happened, and only Trump can keep them safe. Too many people have an insatiable need for a Messiah to save them, and Trump is happy to let them think he is The One.

The good news is that some Germans resisted. It is due to their efforts that some Jews and others escaped the Holocaust. Not every mind is easily gaslit. The would-be authoritarians know this, too, and dissent will be silenced as much as possible, either on social media, on the street, or on the floor of the Senate (hats off, Elizabeth Warren).

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but let those who have eyes to see and ears to hear take heart and stand firm. It’s going to be a rough few years, but perhaps we can birth something better at the end of it. The only way we can do that is to stick together as one and give no energy to the idea of an Other. Remember, the founding fathers chose this for our motto:  E pluribus unum — Out of many, One.

Sympathy for the Devil

By Alisdare Hickson from Canterbury, United Kingdom (Peter Tatchell at London's anti-Trump rally.) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Alisdare Hickson from Canterbury, United Kingdom (Peter Tatchell at London’s anti-Trump rally.) [CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I was in my mid-twenties, when I had a genius flash of insight about people:

Most people are not reasonable.

This insight explained a lot about my own sense of frustration and anger when dealing with anyone, whether at school, work, or at home. Appeals to logic and rationality, I realized, are largely fruitless, because this is not what people respond to. My modern-day corollary is:

People voted for Trump based on emotions, not facts or ideals.

Angry people voted for the angry man. It’s as simple as that.

I forgot my own insight at times over the years, hoping that, with the perfect set of words, I could sway uncompassionate or delusional people into being compassionate. And it just doesn’t work that way, sadly.

I tend to see people as falling into three primary “groups,” in terms of how they react to the world. There is the expansive group, which I fall into. This group is able to empathize with others, or at least make the attempt, and views resources as essentially unlimited, meaning that just because one person or group gets a benefit, that doesn’t mean it detracts personally from my benefits.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the limited group, which sees a finite pot of goodies, and any outsider who dips into that pot is perforce taking away from their own pile of goodies. This group is seldom empathetic, and can only identify with their own problems and needs, or at least, their immediate clan’s problems and needs.

Most of the population falls in the middle, being expansive sometimes and limited in others, depending on the circumstances and their own prejudices. I’ll call them centrists.

In an enlightened world, I believe everyone would be expansive, understanding that abundance is unlimited, although Miami beaches are (not everyone can live on one). But our world is not enlightened, so the centrists have good reason, at times, to be cautious.

As for the election, it appears that everyone on the limited spectrum voted for Trump:  “This should all belong to me and mine, and I don’t want to share it with you people who are different from me.” Here you will find your alt-right, white nationalists, KKK, what-have-you, and any person who claims they are not racist, but who would still prefer not to give any government aid to black or brown people. But a lot of centrists also voted for Trump. Some of them were convinced that the limited crowd had a point: I’m suffering, and maybe it really IS the fault of those immigrants, etc. Some of them were convinced because of their own misogynistic prejudices (“He’s not Hillary.”) Some of them were not convinced at all, but were largely ignorant of the policies and issues and naively considered that maybe Trump would “shake things up” enough that they would benefit. “He’s on our side,” they said to themselves, and believed it.

After the election, Hillary supporters say, well, we need to reach out to these hurting people. And we do, up to a point. Many of those centrists, while not reasonable per se, can be reached with an emotional connection. In other words, “I hear you, and I see your pain.” The entire middle and lower classes are suffering in the U.S., regardless of their color. The question is, can the white centrists work in their own best interests even if those interests align with the interests of minorities? I don’t know the answer to that, but I haven’t seen it yet.

As for the limited group, I think they are a lost cause in terms of dialogue. This group tends to go for simplistic, black-and-white (literally, in many cases) thinking. This group thinks, “If I’m okay, then I don’t care.” People could be dying all around them, and as long as their clan was doing well, they wouldn’t be too upset. The cognitive dissonance and abundant excuses kick in:  it’s because those other people fucked up, they deserve it, etc. But the moment their own interests are threatened (“Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!”), they rise up in anger.

The limited group, and many centrists, has indeed risen up in anger. The 1% crashed the system, and while corporations and bankers recovered, they did not. Their anger was ripe for the shaping. In this, Trump was not stupid. He played them perfectly, and it will be awhile before they realize (if they do) that they’ve been had. But by then, what tragedy?

Can one have sympathy for a white nationalist? For Hitler? For anyone with such a narcissistic, me-first mindset? Of course. Compassion, like forgiveness, is not about erasing sins. It is about serving and nurturing your own soul, and preserving your own ongoing enlightenment. But compassion does not mean that you have to invite them to dinner or allow them to hurt others, either personally or on a national scale, which we are watching unfold.

Steve Bannon thinks our struggle is one of West vs East, Christianity vs Islam. He is wrong. All struggle occurs within the individual human heart. It is one of Love versus Fear. The limited group responds to and frequently lives in fear. Be sorry for them, because this is a great suffering. But do not succumb to it or put up with it, either. Love will win, because it is always does; nothing else exists, in reality. Yes, you can have sympathy for the Devil while you chase him out the door and say, “No more!”