Thanks, I needed that

Anti-Trump protesters marched through Minneapolis’s West Bank on Thursday, November 10, 2016. Photo by David Tanner

As the shocking, sobering and supremely nauseating realization that we the people had elected a known bigot, misogynist and capitalist pig for president settled in across this great land, I started keeping a tally of signs of life, and after each one muttered the same prayer:

Thanks, I needed that.

“On the morning after the election, everything fell flat, and strange. It wasn’t just grief, it was fear,” wrote the great novelist Louise Erdrich, speaking for the lot of us on her Facebook page in an open letter to Hillary Clinton posted two days after 11/8. “It was haunting to walk the streets, go to the grocery, do simple things. There was always that question: Is that person filled with hate? Contempt? Or maybe that person? It was worse in the schools, where some students felt emboldened to make racist comments, to harass girls, to let out their ugly side. … For women of all ages on day one, sense of confidence and joy drained out of us. We shut down, tried to cope. And of course we did our jobs.”

Me, too. Erdrich’s wounded warrior’s words hit the ether at the same time racist graffiti and assaults flared up all over America, as everybody and their cousins’ inner Klansmen came out and validated Billy Bragg’s assertion to me last month that, “If Trump wins, it will empower every racist a–hole in the country. Since Brexit went down, racial attacks have gone up in my country, and that’s what you’re in store for if Trump wins.”

Erdrich’s words captured how I and so many people felt that first day, and they’re worth remembering and cementing in our psyche as we forge ahead on this strange path together, as the process of normalizing Trump becomes part of the daily news cycle and the heat of the initial outrage fades.

What I mean is the mere existence of Erdrich’s words are important, written as they had been from the vantage point of a stunned culture war crash survivor, crawling from the wreckage and trying to make sense of the new world. For my own wellbeing and self-respect I’d done my best to not be pulled into the election circus, but I was sucker-punched by Trump’s victory, feeling like the little kid in all the bully movies one more time. After that, I felt myself getting up off the canvas and making like the sign I saw people carrying at the anti-Trump march down Cedar Avenue last Thursday night: “Love Hope Rise.”

Thanks, I needed that.

I also needed soul food from another source, another form of sustenance amidst the psychos. The night after the election, I turned on the Idiocracy box to discover that Zach LaVine, the 21–year-old jumping jack flash shooting guard of my beloved Minnesota Timberwolves had scored a career-high 37 points in a blow-out Wolves victory. I missed the game but caught the highlights and post-game interviews, and hell if LaVine’s balletic power dunks and ridiculously graceful three-pointers didn’t momentarily jar me out of my post-election funk. In LaVine’s exuberant display of athleticism, I found a living, breathing example of youth and promise and a possibility that had nothing to do with politics, dictatorships or old white men. Dig the new breed.

Thanks, I needed that.

Zach’s highlight reel was the first time I muttered my prayer, but not the last. All over this city since the election, I’ve borne witness to random acts of kindness that I know for certain were inspired by the mainstream hate movement we’ve all been subject to over the last year. I’ve seen kind words exchanged between strangers of all races and faiths, and, while I don’t have any hard data to back this up, I sense that road rage is down, even in this historically road rage-y berg.

The human race feels beat up, and most souls I know are rejecting the dope show that the powers-that-be are selling and pulling over into their own sane lanes and taking solace in the fact that the positive yin to the hate mongers’ yang is taking hold and bearing real fruit.

Hopefully, that’s just the beginning. Since election day I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve prayed my prayer, inspired by everything from the sound of my kids laughing together, to the audacious hope found in the pioneering leadership of Minnesota Muslim-Americans Keith Ellison and Ilhan Omar, to the fast-forming coalition of groups of disparate causes determined to fight the good fight in the face of so much ignorance, to the fact that the much-maligned “liberal bubble” of South Minneapolis voted overwhelmingly against Trump, to the brilliance and brilliant work of so many writers, musicians, journalists, columnists and talk show hosts, all rising to the occasion and calling out the fascists with humor, grace and wicked intellect.

What I know after this tumultuous week is what I have always known, but which has been eclipsed by bad people and bad pub: People are good. People are smart. People are warm, and funny, and generous, and very, very, very creative. Not for nothing was Leonard Bernstein’s post-J.F.K. assassination quote about creativity (“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before”) passed around by musicians and artists the day after the election.

Of course, I wrote all of the above first and foremost as a reminder to myself and as an expression of one little South Minneapolis David’s slingshot chuck at the big bad giant of the next four years, whose pending “presidency” I swear has once and for all shocked me out of my white middle-class comfort zone and ignited and inspired my determination to fight bullies at every turn and to speak truth to power like never before.

Thanks, I needed that.