August 13, 2018

Finding the Final Stage of Political Grief: Hope

By Clara Dessaint


Being a Democrat Abroad since November 8th, 2016 has not been easy. In the oft-described time warp brought on by the Trump administration, the day Hillary Clinton came so very close to shattering the glass ceiling – one she had been steadfastly making fissures in for decades – feels like both yesterday and light years away.

Much has happened in American politics since her magnanimous concession speech, most of it twisting the United States into a purveyor of discord rather than a bastion of freedom, acceptance and opportunity. Coming to terms with it all has been a true grieving progress but, fitting with our new distorted reality, the stages of grief have been anything but linear.

Denial rolled in fast and, no doubt emboldened by distance, took months to recede, marrying itself nicely with bargaining. From “of course Jill Stein’s recount efforts will rectify this madness” to “the Electoral College will vote its conscience instead of its party” every possible, overly idealistic ‘out’ was nurtured.

Anger and its partner-in-crime depression followed in unrelenting waves. When the Muslim ban was issued and then more recently ratified by the Supreme Court. When migrant children were heartlessly separated from their parents at the border and sent into a gratuitous and cruel bureaucratic limbo that has yet to be untangled. When the Trump administration attempted to water down a World Health Organization resolution on breastfeeding to benefit formula companies and now seems poised to further limit women’s choices over their bodies through another Supreme Court appointment…

Emotional-tsunami-inducing CNN notifications are too many to list and too complex to neatly box into Kubler-Ross’ model for loss. Indeed, political grief is a no man’s land of its own, where fear, embarrassment and bewilderment co-mingle with the jumbled first four stages while the fifth – acceptance – oftentimes seems completely out of the question.

Somehow though, even as each week in the Trump White House is deemed worse than the previous, hope – the message that brought President Obama to victory twice and which he recently reminded Democrats to espouse – is omnipresent.

There is hope in the grassroots primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in the historically unparalleled number of women running for office, and in the slow but steady indictments emerging from Robert Mueller’s office. There is hope too in late-night hosts’ marked dedication to calling out, however humorously, Trump’s travesties as they occur and in the brilliantly biting words of NY Times columnist Charles Blow and Pod Save America host Jon Favreau, to name but a few. From the Women’s March to the March for Our Lives and the Families Belong Together rallies, there is hope in the international activism that most recently floated a Baby Trump above Parliament Square and thereby dissuaded the man himself from visiting London.

Essentially, there is hope in the People’s ability – around the world and across all demographics – to speak truth to power, to take to the streets and phone lines alike to demand better. Let’s keep post offices abroad busy this November and vote out those who don’t listen.

Photos taken at the London Women’s March on January 21st, 2017.