Greg Dennis: Coping and hoping in the Trump era

It’s inevitable that when a presidential candidate wins by 2.9 million votes — and is still denied the presidency — there will be a lot of disappointed people. When that candidate is a woman who seemed on the verge of making history, the disappointment has turned into heartbreak for many Americans.
That’s especially true here in Vermont, where Hillary Clinton outpolled Donald Trump by more than 26 points.
Clinton’s loss was especially keen for women, who looked to her leadership on family and childcare issues, equal rights, and access to affordable healthcare under Obamacare.
The anger over her loss, in the antiquated Electoral College, has spilled over into the streets. Last Saturday, perhaps 2 million people took part in women’s marches in Washington, Boston, New York, Montpelier (drawing more than 15,000 people to a town of 8,000) and hundreds of other cities.
For progressives, this has been a time of coping with the enormity of Trump’s ascendance, and of trying to find some a silver lining to the dark clouds over our national landscape.
In the wake of the women’s marches, I set out to ask several local women leaders two questions:
— What are you doing to cope now that we are in the Trump Era/Presidency?
— What gives you hope?
Here are the answers I got.
Fran Putnam, a Weybridge resident and climate change activist, had this to say:
“It has been very hard. Each day there is a new assault on something I believe in. To cope, I am redoubling my efforts to combat climate change and to support organizations and actions that protect everyone and everything threatened by Donald Trump.
“What gives me hope: Going to Washington and being surrounded by half a million people standing up for our rights and our values. I know that people all over this country and the world are energized and ready to resist the incredibly misguided actions of the new president. We are just beginning this struggle and we will not give up.”
Ruth Hardy, of East Middlebury, is continuing the hard, important work of grassroots party organizing:
“I’m coping in this post-election world by leading an organization, Emerge Vermont, that recruits, trains and inspires Democratic women to run for office. This work helps me focus on a concrete goal of helping get more women in office at all levels of government, rather than getting overwhelmed with all the work that has to be done.” (; motto: “Today we march. Tomorrow we run for office.”)
Hardy adds this: “The many amazing women I meet through my work give me hope. But most especially, kids give me hope. My incredible daughter recited a poem she wrote in front of a crowd of almost 20,000 Vermonters, and she was brilliant. Girls voices being heard loud and clear give me hope.”
Liz Ready is a Lincoln resident who heads John Graham Housing and Services, a countywide organization based in Vergennes that works to provide food, shelter, services and support to people in need.
On the subject of coping, she said: “We see the stark facts that already poor families living on the margins are being harmed. People of color and New Americans face greater scrutiny and fear. Congress just froze the Section 8 program that provides housing vouchers to poor families. People once homeless are now at risk again. Those now homeless are finding it more difficult to find housing. We are reaching out to elected officials and people here in our community to line up resources that will minimize their anguish and harm, one family at a time.”
What gives hope to Ready and her team?
“People in the local community give us hope. Every day people stop us on the street or call John Graham to find ways to help. Intuitively, neighbors know that people already struggling are the ones most at risk of going under.”
Wendy Goodwin is a Middlebury acupuncturist. “The massive despair I felt after the ‘election’ has been yugely relieved by participating in the Boston Women’s March,” she said. “I cried tears of joy to be in the presence of so much positive energy, determination, unity and caring. The pride I was taught to feel about the American Dream was revived when I saw the drum and fife brigade marching in their colonial costumes. The concept of not bowing to oppression is rooted deeply in me, and I am reminded how important it is to work as a community towards a society that works for all of us.”
Rebecca Kneale Gould, a Monkton resident, teaches at Middlebury College on religion and the environment.
“As far as coping goes, keeping an eye on ‘the local’ helps a lot,” she said. “I am taking pride in what we as Vermonters can do for people in need, and I am committed to simultaneously celebrating and pressuring local and national legislators to support the rights of women and LGBT people, to work for racial justice, to help the most disadvantaged in our communities.
“The many marches this past weekend demonstrated an inspiring and magnificent kind of energy for inclusion of ALL people in our quest for a future in which everyone can thrive. This truly global expression of what democracy looks like and how we must support one another both helped me to cope and gave me hope.
“The global aspect of it was particularly dynamic and hope-filled for me, because so many of the challenges we face, such as racial injustice, poverty and climate change, are not strictly national issues, but ones that people — and all living beings — are encountering all across the world.
“While I care about the country in which I happen to be a citizen, my identity is much more connected to being part of the human race, and the broader animal kingdom, recognizing that my own flourishing is only meaningful and sustainable if it is understood, properly, as deeply intertwined with the flourishing of all life.
“My sense of hope also comes from having a broad historical perspective. I can remember moments when I thought the future looked very dark. When I was in college, the United States and Soviet Union seemed constantly on the brink of ‘mutually assured’ nuclear destruction, and I genuinely feared that nuclear war could end life as I knew it. That didn’t happen.
“I also find it helpful and very important to remember that there are things going on with people around me that have nothing directly to do with the current political climate. I have friends who are dealing with illness and loss. I have students delighting in the works of an author whom they had never heard of before. Various people in my life have had babies, adopted puppies or become grandparents for the first time.
“There is love and beauty all around us and much to celebrate. We do a disservice to that very love and beauty if we don’t pause to recognize it.”
Gregory Dennis’s column appeared here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @greengregdennis.
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