The Five Stages of Trump

Trump lament

The day Trump was elected, I wrote a piece that ended up on the OpEd page of the Dutch national newspaper. I was in denial. If this was the outcome, I didn’t want to be an American.

Then I got pissed. My husband and I donated money to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center. I attended the Women’s March and Holland Against Hate. In the wake of the first Muslim Ban, I joined Lawyers for Good Government and Swing Left. Since then, I’ve signed petitions and written to my representatives in Congress. I even posted my own political manifesto.

Then the fire went out.

activist fatigue

I feel overwhelmed. Everywhere, there are voices clamoring for me to care about their cause. Calls for donations, more petitions to sign, another march to attend. The temptation to tune out is tremendous.

So I try to focus. After all, I’m a newcomer to the world of activism. Maybe I need training wheels. Figure out first which causes mean the most to me. Do I care more about the environment than the Muslim Ban? Am I most concerned about Trump’s connections to Russia, his nepotism or the Emoluments Clause? Which should I read first: the Trump budget, the Trump health care bill or his latest tweets?

But supposing I do find the one or two issues that move me, the question remains: what can I do? Elisabeth Kübler-Ross might say that I’ve entered stage 4 of the 5 stages of grief: depression.

nowhere to go but down

Trump surrogates
Matryoshka dolls. Image source:

I cannot take solace from the fact that the Paris Agreement is a non-binding commitment or that it will cost Trump the remainder of his presidency to extricate the US from this treaty.

I see little reason to hope for moral leadership from the likes of Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell. Both are happy to feed at the Trump trough. Impeachment is a delightful fantasy but a political non-starter. Even if the Trump administration were to implode, his surrogates stand ready like Russian nesting dolls all promising to do the same or worse than Trump. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go but down from here.

Down here is where a man can physically assault a journalist and still get elected to the US House of Representatives. Down here is where the US President can trash the mayor of London on Twitter. There is, in fact, no place too low for Trump and his spawn to stoop.

We’ve already experienced:

  • a near military meltdown (North Korean bomb tests and a Russian spy boat off the Atlantic seaboard),
  • Russian influence inside the White House (Flynn and Kushner)
  • investigations (Comey and Mueller) and
  • self-inflicted diplomatic wounds (pick any of the low points from Trump’s trip to the Middle East and Europe).

And we’re only 5 months into his presidency. But that’s not what feeds my depression. It’s my sense of helplessness, even weightlessness. I can rant and demonstrate and petition all I want and nothing I do will move the needle. Will it?


J.R.R. Tolkien coined the term eucatastrophe to describe a sudden, positive turn of events that saves us from an otherwise certain disaster. A eucatastrophe is no matter of mere luck but a phenomenon predicated upon a deeply optimistic view of life.

The Archibald family has that deep optimism. Read the statement they released after 30 year old Christine Archibald was killed during the London Bridge attack.

Please honor her by making your community a better place. Volunteer your time and labor or donate to a homeless shelter. Tell them Chrissy sent you.

That same optimism lies at the heart of organisations like Lawyers for Good Government, ACLU and Swing Left. They are in the trenches, right now, working for change.


I believe in the integrity of the US judiciary, having struck down Muslim Bans 1.0 and 2.0. When the Supreme Court hears argument on the government’s appeal of the Fourth Circuit’s decision, then we can say no, once and for all, to religious discrimination, whether gussied up in the form of an executive order or belched in a wee hour tweet.

I have faith, too, in the growing number of US mayors, governors, universities and corporations who are determined to adhere to the Paris Agreement, with or without Trump.

These leaders are stepping into the vacuum left behind by Trump. This is no partisan phenomenon. Independent Michael Bloomberg and Republican Senator Susan Collins have vision, integrity and guts. They work for the greater good regardless of what their party “leaders” might want or say.

So maybe there is hope. A day will come when we all emerge, wounded but still alive, from this ordeal. In the meantime, we fight on. #Resist.

This blog post was also published on Medium