February 27, 2024 | Rome, Italy

The optimistic American

By |2018-03-21T20:06:29+01:00February 24th, 2017|"American Girl"|
Anti-Trump protests swelled in large American cities in January, but have since died down.

here is upheaval in America. Known for our optimism, we are now in a time of despondency and despair. The new president has unnerved us. Many of us never expected him to be in the White House. And now he’s well into his first 100 days.

There is an urban outcry to reject his erratic behavior. To never forget his brash bravado, lies and flagrant falsehoods. What at first seemed like hyperbolic campaign rhetoric has now become his manner of leadership. Dismay has set in. There is a cry is to resist.

But resistance is a hard posture to hold for long. New Yorkers are an impatient lot. We impulsively jaywalk, unable to wait for the crosswalk light to turn green. Chatty customers at cash registers can make us crazy. Hurry up! Buy your stuff and go. The concept of the “New York minute” is based on impatience. Not moving is counter to our nature. It’s unnerving.

So we actively move to resist. We join groups, make phone calls, and attend protests. We seek empowerment and change. We write letters to our congressman and share posts with compatriots. In this way, resistance can seem like a form of action and temper our feelings of despair. Helped by speedy tweets and ever-churning social media, we try to stay ahead of the dark feelings and anxiety that have taken root inside us.

If only it worked. It seems to me we’ve just joined the circus by adding another tent.

My own resistance has taken shape in a very different direction. Call it the quest for sanity. My morning ritual once included an ample reading of the news, taking in several sites and opinions. Being informed meant I spent hours online. Now my appetite has changed. After a few minutes scanning headlines, I sit quietly with my laptop closed.

But it’s not calming. My anxiety is revived as I try to digest the president’s latest executive order or inner circle nomination. I notice the pull and the way the news is starting to push my day toward a cliff. And it’s still early morning.

I then return to my calm. I recalibrate. I remind myself what’s important to me, and what I wish to accomplish that day. I set my trajectory by my inner compass. I turn away anxiety, make notes on my to-do list, and write a letter to an old friend.

That is my resistance.

Yesterday I received a text from a Brazilian friend who lives in Brooklyn. He wanted to talk and said it was urgent.

“I want to get back to Rio as soon as possible,” he told me when we spoke. “After the election I had a watershed moment. I feel unwelcome and its time to go back home.”

I asked him why he was letting one man make him feel so unwelcome. I reminded him that many people around him loved him.

“Don’t give him the power to emotionally upset you,” I said. “Live the life you want.” It was a very simple exchange.

After a quiet moment he seemed to rejoice.

“Oh my gosh! You’re right! Thank you. Thank you. You are what this country is all about.”

My quiet resistance has allowed me to respond rationally. It has helped me tone down the extreme noise around me. It has called me inward, into the eye of the storm. In that eye, the winds are calm and I can find my center.

From this place, I know my own spirit will drive any action I end up taking, reflecting the optimistic American I am and will continue to be.

About the Author:

Madeline Klosterman wrote the "American Girl" column from 2008 through 2019.