That sense of possibility has largely dissipated. I am afraid every single day — of wildfires in California, of hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, of the police and ICE, of going to the grocery store in a pandemic, of Electoral College math.
When I can’t sleep, I think of the time I walked by a Planned Parenthood in New York City and watched a person affix a cross to the side of the building and pray over it — a reminder of how reproductive rights remain under attack and are in danger of being whittled down to nothing. I think of how Breonna Taylor didn’t even see the police coming. I think of how I lost my great-aunt to Covid-19.
I feel fragile.
But as the election approaches, I know I can’t rely on a President Biden to cure my Trump-era depression. If he wins, it will simply represent a return to the normalcy favored by Democrats and the lie of American unity. A Biden presidency would not bring with it the same level of incompetence-meets-evil that we have suffered under the Trump administration. But without an agenda aimed at radically transforming (or in some cases eliminating altogether) the institutions that have caused so much harm, the best we can hope for is four years of bipartisan compromises that leave us facing the same challenges. Electing Mr. Biden is, at this point, a necessary measure to beat back the worst of the Trump era, but it is hardly a balm in and of itself.
So when I’m briefly able to shake loose my sense of dread, it’s not tied to a fantasy about Nov. 4. Instead, it’s the result of the hope I’ve found in pockets: the teenagers who lead climate marches, the protests at the border against family separation, the defeat of new prison construction, the ending of cash bail, a brand-new nationwide call to defund and abolish the police, and a tide of progressive lawmakers elected to local and national offices, from New York to St. Louis. The systems of mutual aid that have formed in response to the pandemic. The largest protest movement in this nation’s history.
I can imagine coming out of this depression when I think of examples of people acting together to make the world better and fairer for themselves, but also for strangers. It’s not unlike when I have to make myself return texts and phone calls — I can lift myself out of misery by remembering that I’m part of a collective. And that we care about one another.
This is perhaps the greatest lesson of the Trump era for me, one worth repeating to myself every day even when this presidency is a distant memory: We need one another. We need the bonds of community, political solidarity and collective action if there is any chance of alleviating the darkness of this era. We can prevail — we can protect our democracy, our planet and our emotional well-being — only if we do so together.
On good days, I can see that happening. I can look through the fog of this Trump-era depression and imagine what could be next — regardless of who wins the election — and feel almost giddy.