Dear Connor: Breaking the loop of endless despair

What will you remember about Election night, Nov. 8, 2016?

Dear Connor: In between riding the Conch Train with you and doing laundry, I’ve been grabbing hold of belt loops. The belt loops are attached to the pants of friends and family folk tromping way too close to a despairing cliff jump.

It’s been a wicked and wonderful 48 hours, little one. American democracy is one deplorable, nasty swamp (to cherry-pick a few cliches) that somehow works stunningly well. We have, for 45 presidential election cycles, made peaceful transition of power the foundation of our republic. That fundamental premise of American governance must not get lost in the chasm that this week separates half our nation from the other.

Around 3 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 9, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called her opponent and conceded the race to Republican candidate Donald Trump and he became the 45th president-elect of the United States.

For many, that was a stare-at-the-headlines-in-shocked-denial moment. For others, it was a moment of fist-pumping-and-equally-shocked-satisfaction. President Trump? That was not how it was supposed to be. The Trump campaign was as surprised as the Clinton campaign. That doubled-down break from what pretty much everyone thought was going to happen is going to keep all of us off-balance for months to come.

But. It did happen. Whether one is fist-pumping or vowing “not my president,” Donald Trump will be sworn into office in January 2017. He is our president. We are one nation with one president. Three-quarters of a million American soldiers died between 1861 and 1865 to ensure that.

What we the people do over the next decade, the choices we make, determines whether our Constitution thrives or we destroy ourselves from within.

By midnight Tuesday, Nov. 8, we knew Trump was winning. The four of us had spent the evening playing with you and following the election results on social media with an occasional eye to the television. We didn’t talk much as state after state turned red.

MamaDada and Ghee eventually went to bed, but, political and history junkie that your Ninny is, I wanted to hear the first words from the new president-elect. Molly the Cat came out to snuggle and we watched on until shortly before sunrise.

I’m distressed and discouraged with the chaos and dissonance in America. The possibilities are at best worrisome; at worst destructive. I have two choices: I can shut down in paralyzed fear, or I can process this mess and figure out how best to mitigate the existing damage, minimize the coming destruction and hold close those people and ideals I cherish.

I’ve been worrying all this around in my brain, which is never a good thing because I get trapped there. Best be getting it sorted and in writing so I can go back to the laundry. Let’s get to it, shall we?

I wrote this as one long post and then broke it into separate posts. Read them all at once, or pick and choose. You might want to bookmark the last post. Heck, you might want to read it first. Especially if you’re one of the folks whose belt loops I’ve been grabbing this week.


“Dear Connor” is a collection of essays written for Connor Cunningham by his grandmother, Linda Grist Cunningham. I began writing these as my construct for making sense of the unraveling American community. Connor may never read them, nor might others; but they’ll help me distill solutions from the cacophony that passes for discourse in final crisis generational turning of America.