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Patricia A. Nugent: Still Dead

I couldn’t recall when I’d last experienced similar symptoms. Churning in my stomach. Elusive rational thought. Inability to string words together coherently. Zombie-like motions. But I knew they felt familiar when they set in Election Night 2016.

I had a basement full of revelers, many in pantsuits and suffrage colors. I handed out “pussy” ears at the door. The champagne was iced, ready to pop when we hit 270. There was a fine spread of food, with a cake inscribed, Congratulations, Madam President. A life-size cardboard Hillary with a gold crown was holding court. I am Woman was queued up for our Nasty Woman Victory Dance in the street.

It was supposed to be an early night; all the polls predicted an easy victory. But I intuitively sensed Hillary wasn’t going to win; I’d had anxiety about it throughout the campaign. And early on that evening, before guests arrived, I heard the announcer say, “The Obama coalition isn’t holding together.”

The unthinkable was happening.

Guests arrived, equally nervous. To lift our spirits, we sang parodies about Trump. We ate Mexican food. “That’s OK,” we murmured when a state tally came in. “We expected to lose that one.”

But then, “too early to call” became “too close to call.” The laughter stopped as state after state turned red on the big screen. Some friends left sobbing uncontrollably.

I don’t remember exiting my own party to start madly washing dishes upstairs. I could faintly hear people asking where I was and their collective groans as more states were lost. Sounds came to me as though through a tunnel.

I kept scrubbing.

“Do you want us to leave?” remaining guests asked, when I reappeared to collect more dishes to wash.

“No, that’s fine. Stay put.” I rotely responded. Scrub, scrub, scrub.

One by one, the stragglers filed out when they realized there was to be no Breaking News telling us Florida had been called wrong.

I don’t remember saying goodbye to anyone. Or if I even did. I’d slipped into shock.

I crawled into bed at 1am, devoid of any hope for Hillary’s presidency. Or for our country’s future. But I didn’t cry; I was too robotic.

Early the next morning, 4am to be exact, a line in my book about my mother’s death flooded my consciousness: I wake up, and my mother is still dead. That’s when I remembered the circumstances under which I’d previously experienced these symptoms – when my mother had died.

Because when I woke up on November 9, Donald Trump was still the victor; it was not a nightmare. My brain has registered that message every fitful morning since election night – if I can even sleep. I wake up, and Trump is still president-elect.

After my mom’s passing, time helped me heal. Grief was supplanted by joyful experiences. Yet the passage of time under his administration has the potential to drive my fears and grief deeper as he implements his promised retaliatory agenda.

No, time won’t help this, I realized the morning after, sinking deeper into despair. But I didn’t cry until the next afternoon, prompted by a friend’s hug. To my shock and his, the first halting words out of my mouth were, “I. HATE. HIM.”

As a progressive, I’ve often been on the losing side of elections, both national and local. I’ve come to expect it. But I’ve never before felt personal loathing toward the opposition. And, yes, right now, for those who voted for him. This feels so personal because Trump has many of my friends in his crosshairs. And perhaps me.

I’ve never before equated a political loss to a personal death either. A death of so many dreams I didn’t realize I was so closely holding: To have a highly-qualified female president in my lifetime; to continue President Obama’s agenda; to be a better country than political rhetoric suggests. To send Donald Trump’s vitriol back to his tower.

After my mother died, I joined a hospice support group to assuage my grief, which was manifesting as helplessness and anger. In parallel fashion, the Sunday after the election, I invited my party guests back for a therapy session to assuage our collective grief, which is manifesting similarly. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to Kubler-Ross’ fifth stage. I’m not sure we should strive for acceptance; I don’t want to become impervious to what we have wrought.

As a caregiver for my mother, I’d turned to journaling to exorcise fear and grief from my physical being. That became a book, which created opportunities for me to speak to groups about the pain of adult parental loss and needed advocacy. Slowly emerging from shock after this election, I again intend to unleash the power of the written word to heal myself and others. To publicly advocate for groups, organizations, programs, and policies under attack.

The keyboard is mightier than the sword. And writing is very therapeutic.

Consider this the first chapter.

Even though right now it feels like my dreams are still dead.

Copyright 2016 Patricia A. Nugent


7 comments on “Patricia A. Nugent: Still Dead

  1. Stephen Roberts
    November 15, 2016

    Thank you Pat for expressing so well in words, the thoughts and feelings that so many of us are experiencing. I have spent half of the last week talking and impossibly trying to console my inconsolable family and friends who are dismayed and broken at the election results. My daughter who is studying in Christchurch, New Zealand experienced the earthquake and said it was like waking up drunk, being disoriented and incapable of feeling balance or being centered, similar to how she felt when she heard of the election results. I have forwarded your Journal to her and others to help them feel more connected and to know they are not alone with their thoughts and feelings.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Carol Fitzgibbons
    November 14, 2016

    You have done a beautiful job of describing the great loss I and so many others feel. I don’t mean a loss of an election, but the loss of what could have been, what should have been. And I totally relate to what you feel about this loss feeling in many ways similar to the loss of your mom.

    My adult daughter told me that this in some way feels like the devastating loss of her beloved dad when she was a young adult. The feelings are not as strong, but they are the same. A feeling of shock and disbelief and great sadness and disappointment. Of not knowing how to make sense of life anymore. A feeling that everything you believed to be true, somehow, no longer is. Of not being able to think about anything else and waking up to realize that yes, this did happen and yes, the lives of so many people will never be the same. And you have no gauge as to the degree to which that will be true.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. philoscientia
    November 14, 2016

    Is it Trump et al that liberals should be “angry” with? They are in their worldview and they hold that view for their own reasons. One can be angry that they have it, one can agree or disagree with them, but there were conditions and causes for them to form it. One can try to understand those causes, try to understand the outcome of those causes and conditions, and one does not have to like it but try to engage it, or just shake fists and wail at the whole package and not engage.

    But, hold this thought for a moment, perhaps it is not anger with the “Other”, the boogeyman Trump and his supporters, that should concentrated on and instead look to one’s own self first. I would offer another, more nuanced set of feeling and situations that may explain the grief.

    Clinton voters (even some 3rd party candidate voters) showed up to the party (meaning advocating and voting against – meaning taking action) to keep Trump and his worldviews from shaping the national cognition and near future. So did your friends at your party. But, what about everyone else? I might add a bit of empirical data here – voter turnout for 2016 was the lowest since 1996 ( http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/11/politics/popular-vote-turnout-2016/ ). How many Democrats, who came in droves for Obama looking for change, betrayed that trust to keep the autocrat out of power? How many decided to not show up to the party and didn’t even have the guts to call to let anyone know? Or did the liberals just not answer the phone?

    Millions LESS blues deemed it important enough to do so. A quote here – “Trump got roughly 5 million fewer votes than Mitt Romney. Hillary Clinton lost because she got roughly 10 million fewer votes than Obama in 2012 and 15 million fewer votes than Obama’s 2008.” ( http://www.politicususa.com/2016/11/09/graph-shows-hillary-clinton-lost-democrats-vote.html ).

    5 and 10 million. That is a lot of people that did not show up to the party. Why?

    I offer up that maybe there is anger because feelings of betrayal by others whom one thought would stand together to “hold the line”. Anger for the loss of that faith. Anger at a desertion without even knowing who it was that was supposed to show up. Still. Not. Here.

    Since they did not show up – perhaps there is a reason and probably more than one. One can assign whatever reason(s) one thinks according to one’s own psychology, education, worldview, whatever. Reality goes beyond what we stamp on it to try and make sense of it.

    Perhaps it was, ultimately, in the works and words of Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theda_Skocpol) because the liberal expression of power in the United States failed to bring the change needed to avert its own regime’s collapse. The “Left”, so educated and advanced in perceptions – how it failed to deduce its own cycle of extinction. “According to Skocpol, there are two stages to social revolutions: a crisis of state and the emergence of a dominant class to take advantage of a revolutionary situation. The crisis of state emerges from poor economy, natural disaster, food shortage, or security concerns. Leaders of the revolution also have to face these constraints, and their handling of them affects how well they re-establish the state.”

    In those terms – Obama, Clinton, Wasserman-Schultz, Biden, Warren, all of them….they had constraints, yes, and they apparently failed to overcome them. No need to say that it was because they didn’t try, that they weren’t noble, or even that they were wrong – but the reality is (regardless of blame or blamelessness) they failed. Was it because Trump was really anti-woman in his message? Why then were there 42% of women that actually did show up – vote for him? Maybe they weren’t the “right kind of women”…but at least they showed up. Men overwhelmingly supported him. These are clearly not the sort of men we want to live with as our neighbors, as our mechanics, our truck drivers, our warehouse workers, our policemen, our military, our whatever.

    So – who is the “dominant class” in a democracy? I submit it is those who actually show up to vote. They decide the expression of power. So about (average) 7.5 million Democrats decided they did not care enough to show up. Dominance in this sense are those who did show up and, right or wrong, that is how democracy is supposed to work. Maybe they felt cheated. Maybe they felt Sanders spoke to them and not Clinton. Maybe they voted for Trump just because he was the anti-candidate – the one that Obama was supposed to be 8 years ago.

    I would also offer up liberals are angry with themselves, perhaps for not seeing things as they are, but how they wanted them to be. The left are even now “fighting back” by doubling down on their ideologies and circling the wagons to turn even bluer than they were before. Won’t work. The republicans tried that in 2008 and 2012. They were declared dead in 2012. it took a candidate like Trump (once himself a democrat I would add who donated to John Kerry and Ted Kennedy) to break their own party apart, to challenge their relevance to the core, to bring them back. I submit, wrong or right, that it worked. If one thinks it wasn’t supposed to, or that it ought not to have – I challenge you for the reasons behind that.

    The Dem’s should heed well this new set of lessons. Telling people they are not educated, that they are racist, that they are deplorable (the new 47% comment – context be damned), and that they are misogynists didn’t seem to work. Even if true for the minority of them – was it really ALL of them? Either way, it failed, miserably in fact. Perhaps there are different approaches. Perhaps, glasses a little less rosy and easily used to condemn could be taken off.

    We can now either accept the outcome of a fair election (“We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead,” Clinton told a crowd of cheering campaign staff members and supporters in New York. “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that. We cherish it.”)
    we can decide to not respect the rules we all agreed to before hand. Do we worship that ideal deity of “peaceful transition”? Do we really cherish it? Or do we only cherish it when we agree with it?

    It is left to be seen if armored police vans start rolling up to your house or your neighbors. Maybe they will. If they do, maybe we know why there was a 2nd Amendment, if that interpretation is “correct”. But I remember hearing the conservatives saying the same sort of thing when Obama went in office in 2008. Then again in 2012. Then again when Clinton said she was running again for 2016. Everyone is scared – scared of their rights taken away, scared of our leaders, scared of our economy, scared of The Big Other.

    Maybe, for those who are “grieving” are not really grieving for the outcome of the event, but rather they are grieving for the death of their own illusions.

    Both sides of the country are telling each other to “wake up”. They are sheep, they are over/under-educated, they are misinformed, they are…wrong.

    I wonder what it looks like if both sides did “wake up”.


  4. Paul Davison
    November 13, 2016

    You have the beautiful ability to hit the nail on the head. So well written.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pattie LoPresti
    November 13, 2016

    Well said for many of us Pat. Very telling- so many young people burst out crying when they heard the results. My eight and nine year old students asked: “What happens if a president is bad?” I’ve NEVER had one ask anything like that before. Stay strong and we will hope for a miracle…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. majokmindfuleating
    November 13, 2016

    I knew that grief was exactly what I was feeling on Wednesday. I turned on the TV with a miniscule feeling of hope but in my heart knew it was futile. Was exacerbated my grief was knowing that the source of pain is going to be in my face for the next four years. I won’t have the benefit of time helping to fade the intensity. We’re all likely to suffer PTSD before this is over

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Marie Jordan-Whitney
    November 13, 2016

    Yes, you express my feelings as well. I felt the same way when my dear friend, Marcelline died. I have never before felt this sense of grief or dispair for an election outcome. So many of my dreams died on November 8th.

    Liked by 2 people

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