Wednesday the 9th of November, I sat in horror as I watched the American tide turning away from Hillary Clinton, and headed straight towards Donald Trump. I had to keep watching as I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was true. My heart sank, I felt sick in the stomach as waves of horror washed over me.
I felt despair that millions of Americans felt it’s acceptable that a sexual predator who attacks, disrespects and dehumanises the very people he seeks to lead, is fit to hold the most powerful political position in the world. Millions of Americans voted to hand over secret codes to the second biggest nuclear arsenal on the planet to a man who is easily offended and holds long grudges.
It’s two weeks on now, and I still find it hard to accept Trump will be president. As a citizen of the world, I feel let down by America. As a woman, I feel as if I’d been slapped in the face. My hope lies in the fact that Clinton won the ‘popular’ vote. It assures me that just as many Americans could see through the vitriol and posturing, deeming those qualities within a leader as unacceptable.
In Australia in recent times, there has been a great deal of focus on domestic and family violence. It’s been on the media, there have been campaigns, charity events, and awareness days.
Domestic and Family Violence a Global Problem
In fact from 25th November to 6th December the annual male led awareness event to stop violence against women and children, White Ribbon Day takes place. It is an international movement with 57 countries participating proving that violence is a global problem. The fact that millions of Americans and Australians failed to recognise Trump as an abuser is troubling. That his boastful tale of sexual assault was dismissed as ‘locker room talk’ is symbolic of how much more education about violence against women is necessary.
As a counsellor, I see the effects abuse has on people. The way it distorts, humiliates and invades personal identity cannot be overstated. In the face of such violence, much personal growth, development and recovery are necessary to overcome it. I believe that the clients who face the reality of what they’ve experienced truly are unsung champions who use just as much tenacity, courage and strength as any Olympic champion would. All of this to just survive, not simply win a gold medal.
As a professional working in the area of mental health, I’m most concerned by the unaccountable nature of Trump’s behaviour. His election appears to be an endorsement that violence, whether it is emotional, sexual or verbal is acceptable, and willing to be overlooked in the face of promised economic prosperity. It is worrying that it’s acceptable to trash talk, it’s acceptable to be a racist, it’s acceptable to threaten, it’s acceptable to isolate, it’s acceptable to instil fear, it’s acceptable to be exploitative.
Power and Control
Any survivor will tell you that threatening, isolating and exploitative behaviours are those that belong to a predator who seeks power and control, with no regard or empathy towards those who are victimised. This is someone who will do or say anything to get their own way at the expense of someone else.
I think it would be fair to say that throughout the election campaign, Trump has demonstrated that he truly believes he can get away with anything. How do we know that? He told us – twice. He said he could get away with anything as a celebrity – and he has. He said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Thankfully, this wasn’t tested.
People need safety, security and predictability for good quality relationships and lives. This is true about relationships between couples, right through to relationships between nations. It takes much more discipline, dedication and effort to have peaceful and harmonious societies. It’s much easier to pull down and divide rather than to stay unified, to be respectful and tolerate differences.
Instability = Fear
All along, commentators speculated that at some point Trump’s behaviour would change. As Dr Phil says, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. It would be a mistake to think that somehow the presidency itself will change Trumps behaviour.
At 70 years old it is hard to imagine personal change. I think of how many times victims have remained in relationships hanging on to the promise of some kind of change that never happens.
Does Trump frighten me? Yes! I know that I’m not the only one. Many people are feeling fearful, unsure and uncertain about the future. My fear ranges from being grateful Australia is very far away from the US, to visions of an apocalyptic ending of the world going up in nuclear smoke. I bank on Trump’s love of his children and grandchildren, plus his own self-interest and self-preservation as the preventative of that happening.
The tragedy is that making promises to being ‘’great again’’ will prove to be fruitless. That’s because the fundamentals of humanity are overlooked by such an attitude and stance when it is served by closed-mindedness, bigotry, self-interest and saving face.
When compassion, kindness and understanding for others are excluded, we as a species are in trouble. Historically we’ve seen before what happens when people are dehumanised due to their race, religion, sex or sexual orientation. The word ‘great’ being used in the same breath of divisiveness, fear and threat is moronic and immature. When I see threats, fear mongering and instability at work within relationships, there’s nothing but sorrow and trouble. We know this to be true within communities and greater society.
What do we do now?
Throughout history, greatness has been achieved by goodness. Goodness, that is expressed by treating others with dignity and respect. To stand up for what is best for all, not just a privileged minority. That people can have a chance of living healthy and happy lives with their dignity intact. We speak up for what is acceptable and what is not. We continue to love, be kind and create safety in relationships where people feel secure. That we do unto to others as you would have them do unto you. That’s what I’m going to do. How about you?