For many, this has been a tough week. Walking the streets of Burlington, countless numbers of people can be seen wearing the grief on their faces, heads are hung low, people seem to be embracing their loved ones tighter and every conversation heard in passing is a new take on what is causing this sense of unease.
What seems to be weighing heavily on a lot of our minds, however, is what happens when we leave the liberal sweet spot of Burlington and head into the America that left us surprised and scared Nov. 8.
As somber as it is to see a majority of your community in low spirits, it seems infinitely more unsettling to head to territory where people are rejoicing because of Trump’s victory. Even more frightening and anxiety-invoking for many of us who will be facing these people across a dinner table for the multiple holiday gatherings coming soon in the season.
This time around, it seems more pressing than ever to not overlook comments made by one’s slightly intoxicated uncle, well-intentioned mother or conservative grandfather. For those trying to get a grip on preparing themselves for these looming interactions, here are some tips to try and deal with and appropriately react to unsettling comments and behavior.
Breathe. Deeply, consistently and mindfully.
Keep in mind what you want to touch on and what you want to avoid in any discussion you may have. Think about your family ties. Remind yourself, if you are close to your family, how much being with them means to you, and stay aware of how you will be affected in the future by the conversation’s possible outcome. Act according to your goals going in.
Plan before you speak in order to handle things as thoughtfully and constructively as possible. Assume the other person has spent as much time defending their own stances as you have. Outline clear arguments, hone in on lines of reasoning and prepare for the counterarguments that will come your way. Use both facts and direct statements stating exactly how things make you feel. Set goals for yourself before engaging, and focus these goals on making headway and letting your family members know how you’re feeling. This will not be solved in one dinner, and make sure your goals reflect that.
Don’t sacrifice your emotions, including anger. There are ways to be angry constructively and there are ways where it may manifest into loss of control. Channel your emotions into passion, and don’t shy away from expressing exactly how you are feeling every step of the way. Emotional relation of issues is most likely to strike a chord with your loved ones, so use this emotion deliberately and genuinely.
Take care of yourself. This goes for before, during and after the discussion. Trace your reactions to specific points people bring up and remember who brought them up. If your mind and body have had too much, not only will this take a serious toll on you, but could take the discussion to places you weren’t planning on. There is nobility in disengaging if needed. You can also focus on areas of agreement, if there are any, to ease the tensions a bit. These tactics are not the same as being silenced if you need to call upon them for self-preservation or the preservation of your goals.
Even if you may have to leave the community that supports you, remember that they are only a text or phone call away. Check in with your friends, remind them that you have each other and remember that your feelings are validated and that you are fighting a noble fight.
Know, and give credit to yourself for, your bravery and strength of spirit for standing apart from the people or the place that you came from because their views do not align with what you know in your heart to be right and good. When looking at moments of fear-mongering and persecution, history looks kindly on dissenters and with disbelief at those that blindly followed racist rhetoric and hate.
Be empowered by the fact that you did not choose the path of least resistance, and that you created your own moral code instead of just inheriting one that doesn’t fit. This is powerful. This is, and you are, impressive. You are on the right side of history with millions of others who choose love and equality over hate and bigotry. Do yourself a favor and step away from the dinner table to silently remind yourself of this fact, and of how incredible you are.
While you do that, also remember the family you have in others that are willing to organize and take to the streets to protect your rights and the rights and bodies of the many people attacked and debased in this election. It’s a very big family, and we will fight alongside you long after whatever awkward, painful dinner you have to sit through.
Margaret Colbert, Caitlin Plumer, Nathan Budgor, Sarah Holmes, Charlotte Gliserman, and Mikayla Varunok
Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Students