Tag Archives: trump

How to Be Mad

Friends, it’s almost a month later. How are you doing? Are you safe?

If you’re anything like me, you’re doing a delicate dance* between trying to carry on with your life, activism, and a new phenomenon that I call Trump Fatigue, where you collapse under a blanket absolutely paralysed and despairing because you still can’t believe this is happening. Sound about right?

I see laws coming through the pipeline that massively affect me, that massively affect my friends, that massively affect the country. I’m seeing a lot more violence. I’m seeing division in communities as we desperately fight to protect a life’s worth of causes on limited resources. So here, for our benefit is my guide to the hardest part of post-Trump life: how to be mad.

mad (măd) adj. Angry; resentful. See Synonyms: angry.**

A lot of us have worked very hard not to be mad, it’s kind of a frowned-upon emotion in liberal circles. But we’re not in rational times any more, and trying to pretend you’re not mad at Trump could get you in more trouble than you’re in now, and could literally get people killed. So once again: how to be mad.

  1. Get mad about all the things, and focus on some of them. You do not have the energy to be as mad as Trump’s work deserves. This is why he’s been so successful. Across a broad ranging platform of policies he has wreaked such destruction that we can’t channel our energy enough to fight back. Be mad about that! And then pick the places where you and your anger can do the work of fighting back.
  2. Do not get mad at other people’s mad. Women’s March, I am looking at YOU. Because of step one, you’re going to have a lot of people around you with different mad to you. Some of them will be mad at you. Some of them will be ignoring your mad. These people are your allies – listen to them. You have the same reasons to be mad, why are your expressions of that mad different? Does your mad need changing? Are you aware of the ways your mad might be making extra work for other people? What can you do about that?
  3. Remind yourself why you are mad. You’re probably getting really tired right about now. Maybe you switched off from the news, or facebook, and you wish that the mad around would just be over. Stop! Remember why you are mad, and the worth of that response in the face of what’s going on in the world. If you are prepared to accept what’s going on in order to be comfortable, that is a choice. But others out there can’t, and if you can’t accept Trump, you’re going to feel mad.
  4. Be your own kind of mad. Not everyone is a protestor. Not everyone can call senators. Your mad might be loud, or quiet, or based entirely online. It might cry, and it might scream. Make it work for you. You do not need to be anyone else’s mad.
  5. But be mad in good ways! There are good and bad kinds of mad. There is the mad that allows people to get mad alongside you, and there is the mad that turns you into a threat. If you are smashing tables because you don’t like what someone has to say about your anti-abortion bill? That’s the bad kind of mad. Punching Nazi’s… ok I’m not so sure about the Nazi punching. I absolutely think physical violence is to be avoided, but if that Nazi came for me, I would want someone to punch that Nazi. But those of you saying you’d “bang” Melania Trump just to see the look on her father’s face? You are part of the problem, and I am mad at you too. You are the reason we can’t have nice things…. Like female presidents! Who aren’t Trump! Be the kind of mad that sees the world now, and sees the world better, and gets angry as the distance.
  6. Take breaks from being mad. Hormones and chemicals and tremors oh my! Mad is physically exhausting. Take time out to give yourself a break from being mad. Take care of yourself. But also remember that the people still being mad might need your support more than you need support for taking a break. Take your space to recover. Let them have space to be mad. And when you come back, bring cookies, or something.
  7. Let people see that you are mad. This is a bit contradictory, which is why I left it until after the funny cat video. There’s a lot of pressure on certain groups of people to stop being mad. Or to say they aren’t mad. They’re having to choose between being mad, and serious threat to themselves and their families. So if you can afford to be visibly mad, be mad! Be mad for yourself, and be mad for others. Say “I am so angry about what is being done to you.” Punch holes in the walls that say only some anger is valid.
  8. Make space for other people’s mad. This is the flip side of that advice: your mad might not be the most important mad in the room. You getting mad about something in the abstract might be getting in the way of someone with a quieter mad, who’s actually living it. If you silence your mad, you’re probably silencing theirs as well, but don’t get mad so loudly that they can’t be heard. Practice the balance of being mad together.
  9. Get educated. You are going to be called out and asked to justify your mad. You are going to be asked what you want to be done. You are going to be fed a lot of information about why your mad really doesn’t matter. Resist. Read books, watch documentaries, select carefully from the internet. Seek out sources from people who’ve done the research, especially people who’ve done the research who don’t live like you. If someone tells you to look at something, look at it. Have the discussion. Put a whetstone to the edge of your mad and hone it until it can cut through anything. Know, also, the risks of being mad.
  10. Direct your mad. Mad can only do so much good between four walls. Use your private spaces to grow and nurture your mad into a force, but don’t neglect using that force in the world. Let it drive you to do the things you’d otherwise be too tired, sad or scared to do. Find out, as I have, that mad can make you teach, and mad can make you learn, and often, and the best way I have found of being mad in the world?

Is kindness.

* Yes I shoehorned that in to justify publishing this on my dance blog.
** Colloquially, mad can also be a derogatory term related to mental illness. I’m also finding it really useful as a term right now. I absolutely and only mean it according to the definition, but that’s why I’ve been careful not to say “madness” anywhere in this post.

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….and what now?

…for the dancers in my life who are struggling to dance.

I can already see the theory we’ll be reading in a couple of years time – Traumatised Nation: Dancing in Post-Trump America. Things will change in light of this election, and like everyone else, dancers and artists are going to have to decide how they will move on and live in the face of the unimaginable. I’m sure I am not the only one who has doubted the significance of my choice to dance in the face of these huge socio-political events. I’m also sure I’m not the only one who’s looking for ways to do something productive. This post is about doing both.

I’ve been talking to a number of my colleagues about “breaking the movement barrier.” How do we dance now? How do we teach other people to dance now? Choreography is one thing, but how can we go through the motions of a day-to-day class leaving space for where we are, while still doing our practice the service it deserves? How can we get other people to do that with us?

I got lucky. I had to teach a ballet class at 8:30am the morning after the election. My students came to class and told me they wanted to dance. That they needed to dance. That the classroom felt safe… what could I do but oblige? When I get stuck, and I still get stuck, I remember that at least for those people in that room dancing was a way to make the world feel better, and then I can move again.

What can dance do right now? Well you can choreograph. Some people already have. If the statement you have to make is one you want to make with your body, do it. Even if that statement is confused, or personal, or you don’t know what you’re allowed to say. Watch the choreography people have already made and look at how other people are thinking.

Dance can look after you. I’ve seen so many tears since the election. So many people not knowing what to do, or how to carry on. Sometimes what you need is a reminder that you know how to breathe, you know how to move through space, and take up space, and those capabilities have not gone away. Your body is still there, and the tools you have to live in the world are still there for you as soon as you decide what to do with them.

Dance is an escape. I went to a fantastic lecture last year about tactful stuplicity – sinking into the stream of the internet and opting out of a world where too much is wrong. Right now the internet is a pretty toxic place, but can we sink into music, and clear instructions, and scripts of behaviour we understand in order to give us more energy to navigate the complicated outside the door?

Dance can build community. Under the rule of hatred, love is a radical act. In a state that polices bodies, touching each other is a radical act. At a time when words are tearing us apart, moving our bodies together in silence is a radical act. And one where we can possibly come to understand each other better. I have tried since Tuesday to keep my doors open and to offer spaces for people to gather and care for each other. The people who have come have been dancers.

Dance can protest. Dance can stamp, shout, scream and tear its hair. Dance can insist on the magnificence of its own beauty. Dance can mobilize the songs we fear to sing, and the actions we fear to take. Dance can be a space to work things out. Our dance does not have to be public: there is a powerful rebellion in turning the music up loud and moving by yourself behind your bedroom door, in full-bodied acknowledgement that things are not ok. That something went wrong, and that something has to change. In dancing, we can commit to that need for change.

As artists, we are not obligated to be political activists. We are not obligated to be leftists. There is no correct response to our new president-elect, and not everyone can do the same kind of work. I think it’s important to recognise that there are lots of very valid ways of going forward now, and we can find routes for ourselves in the practices we have spent so much of our lives building. Or we may find that we need to do things differently in order to shape the world we want to live in.

There is a sentiment going around at the moment that our protests are powerless, that our activisms are superficial, that we failed, and that we cannot do enough. We did not win the election. We will have to live for four years under whatever shape the new regime takes. But we cannot let our failures, or the incompleteness of our work, prevent us from working at all. We can keep going. We can do better. We can listen. We can speak. We can make spaces. We can work stuff out.

We can dance.

Photograph by Mike Will Art