Recovery III: our roots

The last two blog posts I’ve talked about shock and its treatment. I’ve been incredibly moved by the comments you’ve posted. Has any other election ever brought a reaction like this? Sure I felt depressed when Bush was handed the election by the Supreme Court, and angry, but weeping? Terror? No.

As Joyce, living overseas, says in her comment:

One of the women who lives upstairs, a widow, came to my door and rang my doorbell, wanting to know if I was all right.

How do I feel? I’ve lost my country. All I now have is a passport.

(And to those of you who voted for the man, who thought his apparent policies justified overlooking his extreme words and his vehement friends—God, I hope you’re right. I hope he leads us to a good place and not off a cliff. And yes, Hillary was dead wrong to call his supporters a basket of deplorables—which probably cost her more votes than any email server. But more than the words, she was wrong to think it. She lost because she had no clue about the very real pain and rage of a large part of the country she wanted to represent.

She didn’t listen, the DNC didn’t listen, and the whole world now gets to pay the price.)

It doesn’t help knowing, as the great Nasty Woman Samantha Bee put it, that I’m one of those responsible for this:

Don’t try to distance yourself from the bad apples and say, “It’s not my fault, I didn’t vote for him. Hashtag ‘not all white people’.” Shush! If Muslims have to take responsibility for every member of their community, so do we.

Okay. We’ve retreated into our novels and needlework, binged on carbs, gone for walks, and wept with our friends. Deep breath. And another.

Remember that grass I fought to remove from my Christmas cactus on Wednesday? That tenacious, invasive, weed that got everywhere? Here’s where we come back to that.800px-switchgrass_roots

That’s right: grass roots.

We are a republic. We choose people to govern for us. We pay them to decide on our laws, build our schools, see that our bridges don’t fall down, and make sure that if we lose our jobs or our minds, there’s some kind of a safety net. We pay them so we can get on with our lives.

That luxury of being a bystander is gone. The trust is broken. For the next four years, we can’t turn it over to others. It remains to be seen just how many of Mr. Trump’s declarations will actually be implemented, but I think we can count on a scythe being aimed at the necks of the environment, women’s rights, and the protection of minorities. And just as post-Brexit Britain saw an upsurge of attacks on minorities, we’re already seeing it here. (See the above piece by Samantha Bee for what one of her staff met on his way to work.)

We have a republic based on checks and balances, and friends, that’s now us. You and I are that check, you and I have to provide that balance. At least for the next two years, until we can shove more Democrats and independents into the houses of Congress.

Tree roots around a stone block.

But before then, think about this comment from Brad, retired Army doctor:

We found that units with high cohesiveness and where the soldiers trusted their leadership, those units had much lower rates of PTSD. They weren’t facing the stresses emotionally alone, in other words.

Friends, you and I are not alone. We are a unit of strong, bright, caring people, and if we have to pick up the slack for the next two years, we can start now.

I want to hear your thoughts. I want to know how you’re planning to make a difference. I want to keep this going, because if we don’t, we’re going to lose everything that (oh, the irony…) makes this country great. So, here’s a couple of small thoughts I have, tiny roots that make grass so damned tenacious:

  1. Our money. If we can’t trust our representatives to guard our backs, we have to outsource our checks and balances. Jezebel has a list, but I’ve personally started with three organizations with a long history of pushing back: ACLU and Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List. I’ve gone in to each of them today and signed up for a monthly donation.
  2. Our community. Seems to me that after an election that was all about dividing us up, the best check-and-balance involves coming together. You and I need to reach out, and see if we can lance some of the poison. You and I need to notice whenever something offensive comes along, and gently, firmly, politely intervene. Men who interrupt workplace harassment with, “Not cool, man.”  Or the method shown by the artist Maeril:tumblr_ocoysqdlia1shxz3to1_1280

You and I need to hold hands and say, No, we’re not going there.  We’re too good for that.

Has any other election ever brought a reaction like this? I don’t think so. But as my friend Brad the doctor said:

Cactus and dreamers have tough roots.

So tell us, your community, your family: what roots have you set out today, that can grow a more powerful tomorrow?800px-roots_of_an_old_tree_in_thailand

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  1. Ali Smith on November 12, 2016 at 8:40 am

    I’m in the UK, and the shock of this on top of our deeply shocking Brexit vote has been profound. But we can all work together. I can’t comment on your vote because I couldn’t have voted, but I understand the grieving process doubly now, because Trump’s election will affect the whole world.

    So let’s stand together; fwiw we have your back. We’ve been wearing safety pins, post-Brexit vote, as a signal to people who are being victimised that we stand with them, and to show them we’re someone they can talk to when they’re in trouble. It works brilliantly. Intervention, just like the cartoon you posted, works and defuses aggression instead of building on it.

    Who knows what will happen, but I hope we can work to create change together, across the ocean. Loads of love from the UK. xx

  2. Aubrey Hamilton on November 12, 2016 at 8:52 am

    ACLU and Planned Parenthood shot up to the top of my preferred charities this week. I am going to contact the local League of Women Voters and volunteer with them if our schedules mesh. I just wish this feeling of impending doom would abate.

  3. Leslie Lambert on November 12, 2016 at 9:03 am

    “We have a republic based on checks and balances, and friends, that’s now us.”

    This has always been true; thankfully, we haven’t often had such an urgent reminder. My hope is that people can resolve to work together without “normalizing” the attitudes and behaviors manifested during the Trump campaign. Thanks for your perspective!

  4. Caroline Dechert on November 12, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Thank you, Laurie, for these thoughtful, compassionate, and truly helpful blog posts.

    When I feel desperate and hopeless, doing something helps me. So here’s what I am doing. I used to volunteer sporadically at our local interfaith homeless shelter. Now I’ll give them one evening a week. This is local; these are neighbors inside my community who need help, and who can help me, too. They have many things to teach. Also, I need to be reminded that one person’s work can make a difference. That gives hope.

    On the broader stage, where I will not be able to see that difference so clearly, I’ve set up small monthly donations for the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and ProgressNOW New Mexico. There we must trust that the little donation will be joined by other little donations that will help to do something real and big.

    I’m a librarian and an archivist, and I am proud of my profession for stepping up. The Women Archivists Roundtable is beginning to look at effective ways to document and make public post-election hate activity. It’s important to know what is going on. It’s important for people who suffer to know their stories are heard, verified, and (if they wish) told (and I agree that many stories of hopelessness have not been told or heard, and that has fed the despair vote that in part has brought us where we are). I’m also hoping to use my skills in research and documentation to help the ClimateCongress Wikipedia project. In both these last cases, I’ll only have a little time to give, but a lot of people giving a little time is still effective.

    I hope what I do will help others. I know it will help me. Feeling powerless is the true danger. Don’t wanna go there. So I reach out for a warm cat and a sweet cookie, and revisit the words of favorite authors. I have had occasion to live with despair before, and I have three quotes from wildly different sources that carry me through.

    Here’s one, from Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound:
    “To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
    To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
    To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
    To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
    From it’s own wreck the thing it contemplates;
    Neither to change, not falter, nor repent;
    This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
    Good, great and joyous,beautiful and free;
    This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory”

    And from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities: “The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”

    And for the geek in me, there’s the final note of Season Three of J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5: “It was the end of the Earth year 2260, and the war had paused, suddenly and unexpectedly. All around us, it was as if the universe were holding its breath . . . waiting.
    All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both. G’Quon wrote, There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities – it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.”

    These are the words that remind me who I am, and what I stand for, and what to do next.

    May our souls never lose their way. May we hold up those who feel hopeless and powerless, and show them their strength. May we hold up a mirror to those who act only from power and strength, and show them who they truly are.

    And meanwhile, warm cat compresses, lemon marmalade on toast, and really good books, between rounds of work for the future.

  5. Cynthia Fehrenbach on November 12, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Thank you for the practical call to action.

  6. Mary Sharples on November 12, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Beautifully written, as usual.

  7. Tim H. on November 12, 2016 at 11:30 am

    In these times, anyone with a perceivable difference is at risk. Speaking in defense of a bully’s target raises the price of bullying, tolerating bullying is the social equivalent of being okay with broken windows, waist high lawns and trash in the street. And doing right has one more little benefit, the look a sociopath gives you when you commit kindness is simply priceless.

  8. Erica on November 12, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    The Salvation Army, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood are my favorites. I also plan to continue to volunteer in my community on a very regular basis, and I plan to keep encouraging others in other parts of the country and still stand for those in my community when day-to-day opportunities present themselves.

    • Erica on November 13, 2016 at 2:41 am


      “The Salvation Army, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood are a few of my favorites. Without discretionary income, I plan to continue to volunteer in my community on a very regular basis, and I also want to keep encouraging others in other parts of the country and still stand up for those in need in my community when day-to-day opportunities present themselves.”

      The original post was brought to you by an exhausted brain after too many nights in a row of not enough sleep. My apologies for the first reply.

  9. Annette Lessmann on November 12, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    I love that you have some practical solutions. Three people have told me about the safety pin project. It helps to know.

  10. Shirley Bomgaars on November 12, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    We have always donated to Planned Parenthood – we’re forever grateful for their services when we were young. (Younger?) I made a good-sized (for me) donation to the ACLU this week and am a sustaining member of one PBS station and two independent radio stations. These are small things that I can do. Small roots…
    I’m a member of the Pantsuit Nation – over 3 million strong in about a week! And have joined a local chapter as well – we plan to support local businesses and effect local elections. And we haven’t even met in person yet! Small roots…
    Many have adopted the Safety Pin from our sisters and brothers in the U.K. after Brexit, showing those who don’t feel safe in this brave new world that we have their backs. Small roots…
    Thank you, Laurie, for continuing to inspire.

  11. Kay Lundgren on November 12, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    I was at a church bazaar today looking at used books. One book was about Hilary Clinton, the woman selling the books said, “I feel sorry for her.” I said, “I feel sorry for all of us.” She turned her back and walked away.

    • Laurie King on November 12, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      I’m afraid many of The Don’s supporters are in for a rude awakening during 2017. And if I am wrong, I will be very, very happy to say so.

      • Karen Buys on November 13, 2016 at 8:28 am

        I keep thinking that. I believe that most of them, although not all, voted for change, for a hope that their lives would improve under his administration. From all I have read of his plans and the Republican party platform, anyone who is not already wealthy will find themselves much worse off. And that, unfortunately, will only increase the anger.

  12. Suzie on November 12, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    One of my biggest fears is that, until that rude awakening comes, I will be surrounded at work and elsewhere by people who voted for him and now think they were vindicated. I’m great at witty repartee, but I’m not sure I have what it takes to keep my mouth shut, or at least be civil for now. I have been wondering if there is at least a place online where I can talk, learn, and commiserate with others without having to censor myself, and am thinking about creating a private Facebook group if I can’t find one. (I am the rarest of creatures, a Democrat in public safety, and I work in a comm center where people routinely post things about killing ‘libtards’). Suggestions?

    • Laurie King on November 12, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      I’m going to open this up to the community. But one thing that occurs to me is that harassment in the workplace–sexual, gender, or political–is against the law. Other suggestions, friends?

      • Suzie on November 12, 2016 at 9:19 pm

        One other question: My inbox is full of messages asking for donations from all sorts of progressive campaigns; I can only afford to donate to so many of them. Can someone tell me how they vet the organizations that they donate to, so I can make a more informed decision?

        • Caroline Dechert on November 13, 2016 at 5:10 pm

          Organizations like GuideStar ( and Charity Navigator ( can help you learn how well a non-profit does its job. For grass roots campaigns, things can be a bit more challenging. I have found Bill Moyers’ list of organizations helpful ( Throughout his site there are more detailed stories on many of them. It’s helpful to know they’ve been vetted.

          • Laurie King on November 13, 2016 at 5:11 pm

            Thanks for this Caroline.

          • Suzie on November 13, 2016 at 8:18 pm

            Thank you!!!

  13. Ann Sor-Lokken on November 12, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    It is just a little thing, but we need to remember that Christ taught us to pray for our enemies, We are all children of a loving, caring God. He loves everyone on this earth and the earth. If we remember that and show that love in our actions toward each other we all can grow and prosper. My prayer for us is that we all will show more love for each other as we go forward with our lives

    • Laurie King on November 12, 2016 at 4:17 pm

      Having respect for our enemies is not a little thing, but otherwise yes, I do agree.

  14. Meredith T on November 12, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    I so totally agree with you. This is a call to action.

  15. Joyce LaGow on November 12, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    This year alone, over 100,000 immigrants from Africa and the Middle East have been rescued and/or have been washed up on the shores of Italy, a country of 60 million people. Most wind up in Sicily, many in the province of Ragusa where I live. I have donated regularly to the local Catholic diocese where there is an enormous effort underway to help these poor suffering refugees, an effort undertaken in a region that is economically hard hit and likely to stay that way for some time. I have felt for a while that I need to do more. Next week, I’ll check in with the archdiocese to see if I can volunteer. I’m one of a very few native English speakers in Ragusa, and we get refugees all the time from countries like Nigeria where English is common.

    By the way, the next time you come across someone whining about immigration in the US, tell them from me that they have absolutely no idea of how lucky they are. I live in Europe which is undergoing the geatest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. I see it every day, and I have Italian friends who work for Migrazione who are almost killing themselves trying to deal with the flood that comes through here. And yet they remain courteous and even kind.

  16. Kerry on November 12, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    I made my donations to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the Human Rights Campaigns the day after the election. I’m a college student these days, and I am already taking steps to be more active in my campus volunteer activities around LGBTQ and women’s safety issues. And I am trying to be vigilant and attentive so that I can do the right thing as, if, when, and where it is required.

  17. Skip Collinge on November 12, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    I’ve not really made comments on Facebook after working as hard as I could, financially and physically against Trump. I’ve written my reasons on why our country could have been so reckless in it’s choice. But the bottom line right now is that I am totally and completely depressed and I cannot get out of this mood. Looking into this, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s selfish, And the reason is I can’t believe we’ve elected a bully that enables bullish behavior.

    • Suzie on November 12, 2016 at 8:19 pm

      You are not alone, Skip. The thing that is keeping me afloat is seeing this as a call to arms, the challenge of our time, the mountain we will have to climb. It is easier for me to be angry than it is to be depressed. Keep fighting, and if you need help, reach out! Let me know if you need my email address, look online for local mental health services who may be able to help, and try not to despair!

  18. doretta on November 12, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    ARGH! Your comments about Hillary and the “basket of deplorables” thing just goes to prove how bankrupt our media have become. Look up the actual text of her comments. What she did was acknowledge that one set of Trump supporters are white supremacists, etc. and that’s a problem. Then she went on to say “but there’s another “basket” of Trump supporters” that includes the most clear and compassionate description of what’s been happening to working class people that I’ve seen yet. Of course, no one knows that.because the media didn’t report it.

    • Margaret Dubay Mikus on November 13, 2016 at 12:40 am

      Thank you for this clarification, Doretta. It makes the result even more concerning. When anything she said could be picked into phrases and used out of context.

    • Laurie King on November 15, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      Very true, however, the Dem party as a whole has begun to speak to a more and more limited group. Hence their skewed polls, hence their inability to win over the hearts of half the country. Bernie Sanders is very good at listening to people outside his group. Others are not–including, I’m afraid Hillary Clinton. I love, respect, and honor the woman, but I can’t overlook her limitations.

  19. candace nagle on November 13, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Thank you! I completely agree that we need to now put our money out there to make change and support the front liners. I also think of Divesting/Reinvesting our investments…get as much money away from these people as possible. Money is, afterall, what they love…so take it away…take away that power as much as we can! Redistribute whatever wealth we may have. And then, boycott all Trump companies and the people who support him and his people. The biggest concern of all in my heart is the environment. We do not have time to experiment…there is no time left for a climate change turn around and we cannot afford this delay. This is my greatest worry.

  20. Joyce LaGow on November 13, 2016 at 12:44 am

    I suggest a mass letter writing campaign to the NYTimes, WA Post, and any other media outlet you use, telling them you are no longer subscribing or following them due to bias and spell out why. Copy print and digital advertizrs. The Times in particular is struggling financially and even they will take note of a boycott.

    Write to Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren telling them your views on the actions of the DNC and insisting that the Democrats drain their own swamp befre pointing fingers. For those so inclined, make cghlear that the stranglehold the Clinton machine has on the Democratic party has to go. I am pointing out in my messages that I’ve changed my registration from Democrat to Independent after more than 50 years of being a yellow dog Democrat. They know the voter turnout figures, they know that huge sectors stayed away–threaten them with the flat ou loss of their base.

  21. Karen Buys on November 13, 2016 at 8:35 am

    I’m moving forward in several ways. First, I have decided to stop muzzling myself to protect other’s feelings – not that I am going to be rude or belligerent, just that I am going to stand up for what I believe and call people out, as kindly as possible, on how their actions affect others. I was brought up to not make waves, to “make nice,” and I’m done with that. Second, I am reaching out to local and national organizations that I support or can offer support to. Tomorrow I’m going by the local Islamic center to talk to them about someone coming to talk to my high school Sunday school class and find ways that we can work together. Third, I’m making sure that everyone I know knows that I am there for them as a safe space, a safe ear, a hug, a ride, etc. And last, I’m wearing a safety pin, everyday.

    • Marsha on November 13, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      Yes. This.

  22. Marsha on November 13, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Let our revenge and recovery be in the form of hundreds of thousands, even millions of Americans getting off our butts and helping individuals and organizations in need with our skills and determination.

    If we do, we will change the world.

  23. Caroline Dechert on November 13, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Reading the responses of friends after the election I’ve come to realize how lucky I’ve been in having venues to meet and speak deeply with people who are different from me, and have very different views. Understanding makes a big difference in dealing with decisions or actions that seem incomprehensible from a point of view of pure reason. I’ve been looking back in my own experience to touch on something that might be helpful in this area. In the short time I lived in Massachusetts I was encouraged to go to (and later present at) my Town’s Citizens Academy. I learned a lot there – the things they set out to teach about how Town government and various departments work, and also, through about ten evenings of being together with the same smallish group, the ways different people thought about government and what it should and should not do. I remember both very liberal and very conservative people in that group, united by a desire to understand how things work so we could make them work better. It was probably the best setting for civil public discourse I’ve ever encountered. I see that my home here in New Mexico has a Police Citizen’s Academy that teaches about the police department, but nothing for city government over all. I think I’ll be making that suggestion to the Mayor, and maybe following up with an offer to volunteer to work on it. The one in Barnstable, MA, was started by two teachers, I believe, and I know I kept all the handouts, even when I moved far away.

  24. Jim on November 18, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    I Miss Nixon

  25. Regina Clarke on November 18, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    I have been reading your books–an avid reader!–since the 90s and never dreamed a time would come when I’d be reading your thoughts on such an issue as this. Really great to read your words here. Thank you so much, Laurie, and for your call to action.

    I knew the day after the election that the causes I loved most would be driven under–wildlife, conservation, Girl Global, and civil rights for all. I have now sent messages to the Wolf Conservation Center here in NY, to the NRDC, to the National Wildlife Federation, to WWF, to Defenders of Wildlife, to the National Parks Conservation Association, and to Native American groups saying I would increase my donations because I knew they no doubt would face severe cuts in funding after January 20, 2017. I should have offered more before–but this election has galvanized my sense of purpose.

    Just as a reminder, though–Hillary Clinton did not lose the election–that is, she won the popular vote. She also did not on her own alienate anyone–and she was not the only one to miss the signs that working class white men were distressed in general and white women fearful of a woman in charge. Her candidacy was severely impacted by the far left as much as the far right. Personally, I believe she was demonized because she dared to be a truly strong woman going after a man’s prize. I am a centrist these days–I wasn’t always. But I do think Hillary Clinton’s perceptions were not the primary cause of the election outcome. And again, she won the popular vote. It is dangerous to simplify outcomes and assume we know what happened. I wager, we still cannot be sure what led to this disaster, not fully.

    But here we are heading back in time to something closer to 1968 than 2016. We can’t let that happen on our watch. At the root of it–I agree–we must pay attention, and act with both integrity, and awareness. No more complacency. That, I think, was the true name of the game–we never expected Trump to win. I doubt he did, either. Yet here we are. It really is on us to decide what happens next.

    Thank you again for these messages of late. Grand.

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