Recently, I flew to Europe for the Nordic Larp conference Knutepunkt. I spent a week in Oslo learning more about game design, speaking with some of the brightest minds around about larp design. And of course, as I knew it would, the current political situation in the United States came up. For me, speaking about something is a means of coping with its existence, so I was glad to sit with people from Europe and explain how I saw the rise of the current administration. Yet two things struck me during this conversations.
The first was the reactions from people. During one conversation, where I was having an in depth discussion about the hypocrisy of politicians who won’t stand up to Trump, some folks came in. They were drunk and having fun, but when they heard we were talking politics, one of them hissed like a vampire being repelled by garlic and they all fled. It was funny enough at the time, but I found it annoying after a few moments.
It’s easy for you to run, I wanted to say, this is my reality. I get you don’t want to talk about it, but maybe we want to. Maybe we need to.
The second thing that struck me was the reaction by people I was talking when I was explaining the politics of America these days. I was used to people being horrified by the state of our politics. But the sheer level of emotion on their faces cut me to the bone. They were stricken, not only for the rest of the world in the wake of an unstable American government, but for us. Europeans were afraid, upset, angry, frustrated, hurt, for us. And their empathy broke a dam I didn’t know was inside me.
You guys: I’m not okay. We’re not okay.
Trump’s presidency, the state of our country, is an emotional weight on our shoulders. The ever-present specter of bigotry, intolerance, and rising fascism looms large in our every day lives. And though many fight to rally against the current administration, though we shout and rail and put on buttons that say RESIST, we must also look at the other side of the coin. For every person who is raising a fist, for every angry tweet and furious Facebook post, there is a quiet, numbed resignation sliding into place over so many, a pall brought on by hopeless fear.
We are a nation under siege by an administration intent on hammering home so many horrible executive orders and bills in such a short period of time it is demoralizing. And for some, there is only so long you can hold onto that rage before the emotional labour is too much to bear. We burn out. We go silent. We bow our heads and say “enough, please, just enough for a little while.”
It’s okay. It’s okay to be sad. Your feelings are valid. They always are, of course, but now even more so. It’s important to recognize what we are facing, how we feel, and not to trivialize the importance of understanding our feelings. Trump’s America is depressing. And for those feeling depressed now, I think we need to start recognizing those feelings and offering support as much as we can. Actor James Franco recently came out publicly stating he’s become depressed because of this administration. This narrative should be shared. If any narrative should be normalized, it’s talking about this, so people can seek help without shame.
This level of depression may be new to some folks. To those who live with mental illness, where chronic depression is a part of their lives, the current political climate is a dangerous landscape full of triggers that might trigger that depression full force. It’s going to become important that we look after one another, doubly so perhaps for those already pre-disposed to depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental health issues.
This phenomenon of depression in the face of tyranny is not unusual. It’s important to note that we’re joining a long tradition of depression already in progress. For every person from a marginalized group facing oppression that raises their fist, there is the creeping miasma of depression, the helpless feelings that come from facing an institution that harms you and your community. Trump’s administration has just brought that situation to the glaring forefront for many who have never faced administrative oppression on such a level. In other words: minority groups have been dealing with this way, way longer than most of us from non-privileged classes. Depression in the face of tyranny is not new. It’s just new to many of us.
But whether you’re new to depressive feelings, struggling with mental illness on a regular basis, or else part of a group who has been in this position for a long time, this is a time when we can stand together. Not to raise flags or banner signs. There’s time for that too. But we can stand together in empathy to offer aid to one another, to comfort and support where needed. We can say “I understand where you’re at. I hear you. Your feelings are valid. And you’re not alone.”
We are living with what is for many a horror we didn’t ever think could happen. And it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint, to continue fighting for what is right in the face of the Trump administration. To keep up fighting, to keep healthy during this time, we have to acknowledge the sadness around us, practice self-care, and tend to one another with understanding, empathy, and compassion. And maybe if we do stand together, we can work to push away the unimaginable.