If fear is what got us here, then what we need now is courage

Strength in numbers, compassion, and understanding.
Strength in numbers, compassion, and understanding.
Image: Getty Images/Michael Brown
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In the days following the election of Donald Trump, many of us wondered how we got here. As Quartz’s Gwynn Guilford wrote, Trump ran a successful campaign exploiting many Americans’ fears: of immigrants, of terrorism, of change.

Fear won Trump the presidency, and it left the country divided.

Now, many of us are nauseated with the fear that Trump might attempt to carry out the extreme promises he made during his election: a ban on Muslims entering the US, the deportation of children of immigrants (not to mention their parents), and the rolling back of women’s reproductive rights among them. And reports of racist attacks in the wake of Trump’s election make us fear those who voted for him.

But while fear may have gotten us here, it’s not going to get us out. What we need now is courage: the heartfelt strength to move forward with the same good intentions that motivated us before this election. We need to bravely prepare ourselves and each other for what the Trump administration might bring, to foster a strong, grass-roots movement that reflects our values, and to try to understand those who may not agree with us.

I spent the day after the election with my 99-year-old grandmother, and when I fell apart telling her some of what I feared, she simply said to me: “That’s not gonna happen.” Of course, none of us know exactly what will happen, but after nearly a century of life, she’s learned that fear is of little use, and optimism is essential.

In addition to spending time with your elders, whose perspective and wisdom are invaluable, here are some ways to move forward, with courage:

  • If you encounter a racist attack, peacefully intervene.
  • Make your kids feel safe by demonstrating that respect, kindness, and inclusivity are stronger than fear and hatred.
  • Reach deep down, and then reach across the aisle. It’s easy to fear people we don’t understand, and a lack of empathy is one reason many people were so flabbergasted by this election’s results. If you don’t even know a Trump supporter to engage with, here are two written pieces I found helpful in trying to put myself in their shoes.
  • Have the social courage to engage with people different than you. If you doubt how powerful this can be, read the Washington Post’s incredible profile of Derek Black, the heir apparent to the leadership of the white supremacy movement, who changed his beliefs after his college classmates were brave enough to invite him over for a meal, and then engage with him and his beliefs.
  • Join up with others who are taking responsibility for societal change, whether by donating money, or giving your time, energy, and expertise through volunteering, or protesting peacefully.