Know Your Fears


My husband told me he plans to write out a list of what he fears from a Trump presidency.  It makes sense, given how much fear is in the air.  Until each of us gets a bead on the nature of our fears, chances are it won’t matter much what we do.

We are exhausted from a long and tortuous election season.  Our nerves are wracked, our moral compasses are twitching.  Our guts are writhing from a roller-coaster ride that isn’t over but barely beginning.

The presidential contest was close, but it was more than that: it was polarizing, salacious, and unedifying.  It was omnipresent and momentous, hauling us all in together in a stinking net of civic obligation.  Then it ended with an ugly surprise, revealing that the nation’s ‘leading citizens’ don’t deserve their reputation as a leading class.  Today, American minds are still traumatized and reeling.  People are depressed, resentful, angry, disapproving.  Most of us sense further calamity brewing. 

Who likes the feeling of powerlessness that sets in after ‘the people have spoken’?  We, the electorate (yes, we’ll all complicit) have tipped the political order upside-down.

So, instead of bringing relief, the outcome of the election brings a new host of worries.  Americans must continue to be attentive and mitigate the various forms of damage Trump’s presidency may cause.  Fissures have opened up in both political parties; they, too, are divided and dangerously weakened.  The next few years will see ongoing tumult and crisis, making it all the more urgent to clarify goals and conserve energies.

American politics requires stamina and organization.  No one person or organization can fight every battle.  So know your fears; name the nature of the danger as exactly as you can.  Let the list you write define the wisest course to pursue.

Feel free to state what you fear most from a Trump presidency
and what you think people who share your fear should be doing.
If you’re viewing this on a laptop, the comments link is in the left sidebar at top.

10 responses

  1. My first fear is for the environment, which has been under assault for decades already. There is no evidence that a Trump administration would have any concern whatsoever for the damage (and the inevitable astronomical cost) of reckless disregard for Mother Earth in favor of jobs and profit. I have other fears, but I name this one first.

    • I’m wondering whether government’s unresponsiveness on green issues is going to stimulate more public activism aimed directly at polluters. Most Americans want a more reverent approach to the environment–they want clean water, air, and soil for the sake of health, if not for any other reason. If the government won’t value this, I imagine the action will shift to more pressure on the business sector. I think the last time the US saw a successful movement of this kind was the divestiture movement against apartheid–a proof that this kind of movement can work.
      Nice to hear from you, Peggy.

  2. I fear a white nationalist party with hidden ties to Putin.
    I fear Democratic disunity and inability to unify their party and mobilize voters. (Thanks Bernie)
    I fear people who failed to vote for Hillary who are asking themselves “What could I have done to prevent this? ”
    I fear the lies that pass as truth on the internet, many planted by Russian trolls.
    I fear people who want a charismatic leader.
    I fear a country where people who get an education and go to work every day are seen as elite.
    I fear people who are older, sicker, and cannot afford healthcare and have nothing saved for their old age.
    I fear a country that does not respect competence, experience and social boundaries.
    I fear the gig economy in a country with an insufficient social safety net.

    That is my start.


  3. Hi Susan — I have been mentally listing my fears, and they keep getting validated with Trump’s picks. A right wing nut for National Security Advisor, a racist for Attorney General. The evil son-in-law with his fingers everywhere. And what to make of a President who tweets his latest emotions.

    This morning I played tennis with a good friend.; we talked about the new not/bad normal. She is yoga teacher and has been trying to get me to yoga for years. I just can’t get into it, but I will need something to try not to feel in a constant low level of anxiety, sometimes higher level. As I think you have written, after months of feeling like this I was hoping to feel better after the election. So far, my getting on an even keel programs consists of staying in good touch with family and good friends, doing volunteer work, giving money to groups like Planned Parenthood, and reading good books. I used to be a news junkie, but at least right now too much news contributes too much to my anxiety.

    You have your work cut out for you with your posts in the coming months!

    Cheers and love, Janet


    • Hi Janet,
      I think you’re wise to devote yourself to finding an even keel. Ultimately, mitigating harm is going to come down to discourse and persuasion–both take a lot of energy. Except for urging the lame ducks to pass some law regarding presidential conflicts of interest, at the moment there’s a limit to what any of us can do.
      Take care now,

  4. Hi Susan- My biggest fear is in the human rights category. When living in Iowa, I witnessed the mass deportation at Postville. I cannot emphasize how terrible it was. The thought of registration of Muslims is horrific. I base these fears on ease with which the Executive Branch could change policy and enact new policies in these areas.
    To take action, thanks to Kate, I am now a member of ACLU. I will make a donation to United We Dream. I am trying to watch less news, but I am also fearful of being uninformed.
    I wish for peace, more for others than myself. Fear begets anger and hate, but it also keeps us in a heightened state of awareness, that sadly, may be needed.
    Thanks for writing!

    • Jody, I appreciate how clear-eyed you are, and how cogent. Do you have a view on what sorts of changes to immigration law would eliminate the kind of situation that led to the Postville raid? Our country is wrong, both in allowing immigrants to be exploited and in creating a situation where they and their children must live in fear.

      Even better law will never eliminate the need for the human-rights work you are engaged in, which instead may be needed more than ever in the months ahead.

      Thank you for writing in.

      “Postville, Iowa, Is Up for Grabs”
      “On Immigration, Law Is on Obama’s Side” (NYT editorial explaining why presidents are given wide discretion in how immigration laws are enforced)

  5. OH man, I have so many fears about the upcoming Trump administration that when I think of them (and the list keeps getting longer and longer), my gut begins to turn. When I read–or hear via TV or radio–who he has been meeting with vis-a-vis forming his Cabinet I get fearful. I’m in my early 60’s and have never experienced such a horridly divisive election. Almost all the folks I talk to (and they are my friends and good acquaintances) say the same. Our country will go through a HUGE catharsis now. . . . Trump: who is he really ????? . . . One of my great friends says Trump is neither a Dem or Republican. We know he is totally unpredictable, except that he can be predicted to be mean and awful. The bombastic statements he made on the campaign trail sucked the air out of ALL the other news. . . . I want to give the guy a chance (maybe he’ll be a “softer Prez”?) but can a zebra change its stripes?

    Thanks for writing such a thoughtful post. I look forward to reading more.

    • Our republican form of government presupposes virtuous leaders, because in the Founders’ eyes, only those who were virtuous could be counted on to exercise power responsibly on behalf of the people. In Trump, such virtue is missing, and a sign of it is the disapproval of respectable people. In addition, changes in how presidents are selected mean that candidates can catapult to the presidency without the sanction and aid of other established party politicians, another mechanism the US has traditionally relied on to keep dangerously un-tethered individuals out of the presidency. Unfortunately, our parties have not been doing their work, resulting in a president who, as you put it, is “neither a Democrat or Republican.” So all hope lies in the supposed ‘checks and balances’ of the government and in the power and vigilance of the people themselves.

      We have a huge, diverse, and generally forward-looking population, a large and constructive philanthropic sector, and a corporate sector that has embraced standards of diversity. All these elements are going to apply massive pressure on Congress and the President to see that our laws and established standards of equal treatment under the law are upheld. Many forces will be operating to curb and constrain our 45th president. Perhaps (out of a desire for reputation and the right kind of fame) he will respond in positive ways. If not, public dissatisfaction will force his resignation or impeachment. I do believe in the strength of our Constitution, which has seen us through other equally rocky times.

      Thank you for your comment. All we can do is our best.