We invited friends to watch the US presidential election results with us at home. We didn’t know if it was going to be a party or a funeral, but we knew we could not face it alone. We had to share the moment, in time, in a room, with people.
The mood at the beginning was hopeful and buoyant because like everybody else, we had been obsessively consulting utterly irrelevant polls and clueless numbers for months. But we also had gone out to vote on a beautiful sunny day and stood in long lines with respectful New York citizens, many of whom brought their kids to the voting booths so that they could experience democracy in action. Beatriz, our founder, was voting as a U.S. citizen for the first time. Things were looking up.
Yet, as the evening later descended into the realization that people hate Hillary Clinton more than they doubt Trump, and half of this country wants the kind of change that sets the world back instead of forward, our friends sank into a deep funk. A bunch of bright, talented, decent people watched together in disbelief as our bubble of reality collapsed in front of our eyes.
What my 10 year-old friend Leo told me at the beginning of that long night still haunts me: “If Donald Trump wins, he’ll start World War III!”, he cried. I reassured him that this would not be the case. Now I feel terrible for misleading a child. This nation has betrayed its children.
People were stunned. I felt like crying but could not shed a tear. I started washing the dishes and the empty glasses so as to fend off the ball of revulsion and fear at the pit of my stomach. We went to bed around 3 am, after watching Trump handle 5 minutes of reassuring speech (no doubt so that world financial markets would not collapse) and then revert to his usual gaseous running loop of empty blather.
Sleep is merciful, like death. Alas, from sleep you wake and realize it’s the next day and now you have to live in a new harsh and difficult reality you refused to even contemplate. I looked with envy and pity at my dog Petra. She does not know that she lives in a world where Donald Trump exists. Her innocence contrasts with all the nastiness in this world.
I have no spiritual advice to give. I cannot prescribe prayer, meditation, or calm people with a repertoire of soothing words. My response is that I have to do and be what I am to the very best of my ability. And this is something that can apply to you. Action and intention are the seeds of change. I want to work harder and be better because what I do and who I am are good. And so, besides my angry consolations (the poor idiots who voted for Trump and think his money is going to trickle down to them have another thing coming and they thoroughly deserve the hell in which they already live in). Call me horrible. This is how angry I am.
But my better balm and true consolation is that I am involved with DADA. And DADA is a place, a community and an idea that by its very nature is antithetical to Trump and everything he and his followers stand for. We have built a place where you can come and draw. Or you can draw with others. That is it. And you don’t know what color they are, or who they like to love, or if they are rich or poor, or good or bad, or if you speak the same language — and you don’t care. You draw and they may draw something in return. If it makes you smile, or love another’s drawing, or meet someone new, or challenge yourself, we have done our job.
I feel so proud that we have built this place as a response to a callous world, to a world that is suspicious of intellect, art and knowledge, a world that mocks artists and their values. And I feel just a tiny speck of reassurance that ideas like DADA and the people who breathe life into it every day are going to prevail.
I am proud that we have built a space for people to express themselves, grow, learn, and play with others. And I am grateful and moved by the artists who have become our friends and champions, who are sprinkled all over the world, whom we have never met in person, yet with whom we feel so close.
If you are bummed out, sad, fearful, despondent, all it takes is one action – go to work, read a book, clean up your room, listen to music, write, go see art, sing a song, watch a great film, make a drawing, enrich your soul first, so you can feed others. Then you can move on to bigger things. And soon we’ll have a world with better people.
Change can only start within us.