The Challenge of Giving Thanks in Donald Trump's America

Donald Trump protest
Demonstrators shout during a rally against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Seattle, Washington, U.S. on November 20. Many Americans feel they have little to be thankful for this election year. David Ryder/Reuters

It is Thanksgiving morning, and I am spending the holiday with family in the U.S. state of Connecticut, far from my home in London. Arriving in the U.S. earlier this week, I landed in Washington, D.C. for a visit that had been planned as a victory lap, celebrating a Democratic victory over Donald Trump.

Instead I found myself on something like a funeral march, as I fell in alongside numb and hollow-eyed locals in a capital that within weeks will be home to a man who represents what it has long stood against.

In Washington, wherever I went for my morning coffee, it was a sure bet that at least one other table adjacent to mine would be occupied by Washingtonians meeting to console one another about the fallout from the election —whether it was over a project that is now doomed, an appointment that will expire, a friend at risk of expulsion or a job that won't ensue.

Eavesdropping proved enlightening as these anguished Americans swapped coping techniques. Favorites included practising yoga and mindfulness meditation. If all else failed, some suggested vodka. And then there were many who opted to black out the news, reading novels, not newspapers, and switching from National Public Radio to smooth jazz.

Trump supporters may well ask what right we have to whinge. After all, "to the winner go the spoils." They're right. But the winner does not earn license to spoil. And so much of what the president-elect has promised to do would accomplish exactly that.

Of course, he has rowed back on some of his pledges. Trump now says that he'll reconsider his opposition to the convention on climate change, Obamacare and even the nuclear treaty with Iran. But these reversals are hardly reassuring. In fact, they tend to affirm the perception that he is unstable, incapable of, or indifferent to, understanding the issues he must confront and the choices he must make.

But if he's all over the place on the issues that matter to us, the president-elect remains resolute with regard to those pertaining to his family and himself. He has made it clear that his businesses will continue to work with entities connected to foreign governments and he has continued to be relatively inaccessible and unaccountable to the press.

Further stoking the anxiety of many Americans, the system of checks and balances meant to safeguard our constitutional rights seems to have broken down. The Republicans control both branches of our legislature—the House of Representatives and Senate—as well as the executive branch, the White House.

And, under President-elect Trump, Republican appointees will dominate the Supreme Court, too. Once inaugurated, Trump will chose a judge to fill the vacant seat left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. It is likely too that he will have other vacancies to fill as older Supreme Court members pass away or retire. In brief, in a government dominated by a single party, the institutions meant to restrain the president will serve him instead.

I am mindful though that as the festive season gets underway, we are meant to be counting our blessings, not contemplating the apocalypse. In that spirit, I am celebrating the millions of my compatriots who have been and will be turning out to volunteer to look after the destitute throughout this period, and those who have rededicated themselves to America's founding principles by joining organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League.

I am thankful to for the Americans who have met with their friends and cohorts in coffee shops across the country to offer not only consolation, but a plan to improve their community for all who reside in it, ensuring that no-one is at the mercy of a mercenary and malevolent administration.

Diana Shaw Clark has lived in London for 17 years. She has spent her time in the British capital organizing Americans living abroad in support of Democratic party candidates.