As the news has come out that President Trump plans to end the DACA program (i.e., Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), I reacted differently than I had to his long list of cruel, short-sighted, and stupid policies like the Muslim ban, ending the Paris Agreement, ending military service for transgender community, etc. Where before I often responded with disgust, anxiety, and deep concern, now I simply shrugged. This was just another in a long line of such policies.
I found myself fatigued by that hollow feeling in my stomach – helplessness, anger, despair. Unconsciously, I just didn’t have the energy. And so this time, I didn’t really react. I let myself focus on more immediate aspects of my life. I pretended like it wasn’t real.
Part of me knew, of course, the implications of Trump’s new policy, how much real pain and suffering it would cause. But another part of me just wasn’t ready to take on that sadness again, or put in the effort to find some way to act meaningfully to oppose it.
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My wife came home asking about it. Had you heard? What can we do? We can’t just sit here and do nothing! But I was busy sending a text and more or less ignored her, nodding along trying to end the conversation as quickly as I could. I just couldn’t stomach another conversation like this.
But as I woke up today, I felt something different. I felt shame.
Because this is how Trump’s game works. Policies like his ending of DACA are not intended as real policy. He is not driven by any real belief or data that this will support Americans. This is not a “tough, but necessary” decision.
Policies like this are intended primarily to create the feelings of despair and helplessness they elicited in me. They are intended to garner passionate support among his base. They are intended to stoke the flames of racial tension and xenophobia in our country, emboldening those who are committed to protecting whiteness and demoralizing those committed to equality and justice. This is the tension that Trump’s entire political career is founded on. When he needs to do something to get in the headlines, to at least appear as if he’s doing something meaningful, he fires off another arrow like this, something that is sure to elicit the response that it did.
I can’t let it have this effect on me. Sure, I can feel sadness and anger. I don’t have to pretend like I don’t. But I must gird myself from despair and helplessness, or any sort of unconscious numbing to what is happening. If I do let it have this effect, Trump wins. He’s relying on a shock and awe campaign where his moves demoralize us and embolden his base. This can’t happen.
The truth is, as much as this feels like a “loss” for me, it’s not, not really. Yes, I am deeply saddened and angered by it. I feel for those who may be deported from their home. But I, my family, and nearly all of those close to me, are safe. I don’t have nearly as much cause for despair as many others. In fact, I am probably among the best positioned in our society to not feel despair.
If I truly am committed to change, being a change agent, and all that comes with that, I simply can’t give in to despair and numbing, at least for any more than a day or two.
My work is in not allowing myself to tune out. My work is in continuing to try to find something meaningful to do to support my neighbors who are at real risk. My work is in staying present when it’s easier to check out.
You gotta carry that weight. A long time.