Post-Election Recovery: Start Small

fallen short. by Muff McElfresh (CC BY-NC-ND)

fallen short. by Muff McElfresh (CC BY-NC-ND)

It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed. ―Lemony Snicket
Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. —Rebecca Solnit
The big moments are gonna come. You can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. —Joss Whedon


I’m watching a bright green iguana slinking down my dock, enjoying its progress for as long as I can before my feisty, territorial puppy notices it and runs the poor creature into the water. Ah—there they go.

The tiny dramas that make up a day.

But larger things loom, overshadowing iguanas and puppies. Dangerous powerbrokers threaten the fabric of life as we thought we knew it. What can we do in the face of such menacing ignorance and empowered self-interest?

I think it’s okay to cower a bit. To curl up in inaction, nursing your shock and disillusionment for awhile. No one can fight constantly, especially after a body blow like the one we just suffered. It’s okay to stagger. It was staggering.

Once you’ve caught your breath, shaken off your stupor, and recovered your wits, start small.

Survey the vile wreckage of Washington, but know that you can’t undo the results of hundreds of years and millions of votes overnight. Don’t break your teeth trying to bite off more than you can chew.

Talk to people about how they feel and what they think. Listen to them, whether or not you agree with them. Don’t accuse or preach. Try to understand where they’re coming from. Try to show them where you’re coming from.

When you see something, say something. If someone’s making an effort to bridge a divide, applaud them. Help them. If someone’s threatening others with ignorance or hate, speak up. Confront them. Support those being threatened. Listen to them. Ask how you can help.

Call and write your congresspeople, yes. Hold them accountable for their actions and inaction. But look closer to home, too. Find a worthy cause and contribute your time and/or money. Support community efforts. Vote in local elections. Run for local office and fix things from the inside.

Meaningful change doesn’t come from the top. Sure, big players can wreak havoc—the president-elect is doing his part—but it’s our groundswell of response that changes the cultural landscape.

So be gentle with yourself, take the time you need to lick your wounds. Once you’ve recovered, get up, dust yourself off, look around, and see what needs to be done. Then get to work.


  1. Pingback: Braving the Inauguration

  2. Yes, it’s what one does after the storm that has great impact. It’s amazing how a groundswell of effort from ‘the little people’ can, not only sooth the soul, but affect the future of our lives in major ways. Your view on taking small steps is sobering and wise advice, and gives us back a measure of control.

  3. Calm, sage advice following a storm. The old adage of today being beginning of the rest of your life certainly has merit here. Well intentioned folk will continue to seek a productive path. Your words will help. Thanks!

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