Reporter's Notebook

Processing the Pain of the Election
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Readers who voted for Hillary Clinton and readers who voted against Donald Trump articulate their shock, disappointment, and fear in the wake of the presidential election.

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Track of the Day: ‘Just for Now’ by Imogen Heap

One of the Atlantic readers in the TAD community started a thread on singer/songwriters:

Those folks who wrote and performed intimate music that touched your soul. The Beatles, Dylan, Carole King, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, etc. Folk, Rock, Country, Whatever. Folks that had an instrument and something to say that touched you.

One reader recommends Imogen Heap’s “Just For Now”:

I think looping is an interesting niche for solo singer-songwriters. Something about layered melody and beats is kind of kewl, and solo-ness of it all is very personal look into the artist’s creativity and talent.

Lyrics here. The opening verse applies to many Americans right now:

It’s that time of year
Leave all our hopelessnesses aside
(If just for a little while)
Tears stop right here
I know we’ve all had a bumpy ride
(I’m secretly on your side)

(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)

Supporters of Hillary Clinton at her election-night rally react to the voting results. Drew Angerer / Getty

We’ve heard from scores of readers who can relate to Megan’s letter about feeling responsible for Hillary Clinton’s loss—many of whom offered sympathy and assurances that it’s not her fault, and many of whom (like me) share in Megan’s sense of guilt. One reader, Laura, says she understands where Clinton voters like Megan are coming from—up to a point:

Well, actually I don’t understand, but rather I recognize the behavior. And it angers me, because I thought after all these years of struggles to raise the status of women, all the sacrifice, that women would openly embrace and cheer on Clinton. But indeed, among younger women there was this familiar reticence to openly support Her.

I am 63. As a young woman, I worked with Planned Parenthood to ensure abortion rights, and then for the Equal Rights Amendment, and then organized secretaries’ unions to improve wages and working conditions. Throughout my working life, the right of women to live as equals with men has been a driving force—an inheritance from my immigrant Spanish grandmother, who knew she was equal to men and made sure her daughters knew it as well, even if it only meant she ruled her kitchen.

So when my even slightly younger friends—who are the beneficiaries of all those decades of work—reluctantly, sheepishly, apologetically, expressed their support (or worse, their hatred) for Hillary Clinton, it was all I could do not to slap them with my grandmother’s bony hand—her hard-working hand—and say, “You fool, we’ve worked too hard for this. Be proud, have some pride.”

It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance that I doubt I’ll see again and I am heartbroken—not only to have missed the chance to see a woman president of the U.S., but also to know that younger women have not overcome the shame of sex discrimination.

We fight on.

Ann Laughlin, a reader who marched for the women’s movement in the 1960s and ’70s, would agree with Laura: “So many paid so dearly to get women the privileges we take for granted. We took the benefits and lost the focus. We did not finish the job we started.” This next reader, Meghan Edwards, can speak to that sense of complacency:

I did not campaign for Hillary. Before last Tuesday, I didn’t feel connected to her at all. But I did vote in this election, and I voted for Hillary, because to me, there was no other option. The other option wasn’t real. It wasn’t something that I took seriously, nor was it something that the mainstream media—which I consume every day—treated seriously. Memes. Hair jokes. Mouths as eyeballs. It was always, always a joke.

And because of this, I thought this election would be a breeze. I thought we would be sitting back at 9 p.m., celebrating an already called election for Hillary. I thought we would feel the same way we felt in 2008 after President Obama won—elated, as we made history.

Becky, a reader who recommended a Yeats poem for our roundup of consoling poetry, sends a follow-up note:

Thank you. The article and poems really are helpful in figuring out how to think about it all. I am sure others find that not only poetry, but literature and music, help us with the sudden shock of the Nov. 8 election results.

For instance, in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows, the character Eben Ramsey explains how the beauty of Shakespeare’s words in Antony and Cleopatra helped him think about the German occupation of Guernsey:

Do you know what sentence of his I admire the most? It is “The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.”

I wish I’d known those words on the day I watched those German troops land, plane-load after plane-load of them—and come off ships down the harbor! All I could think of was damn them, damn them, damn them, over and over. If I could have thought the words, “the bright day is done and we are for the dark,” I’d have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstance—instead of my heart sinking to my shoes.

For music, I find hope in the Anthem of Europe, which is based on the “Ode to Joy,” from the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Sympathy.

The European Union has posted the lyrics to that anthem along with its official video here. But Becky recommends the rendition embedded below, and I can see why—the growing crowd of people singing along to the refrain “All men become brothers” has me tearing up a little:

(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)

A crowd watches Donald Trump's inaugural address in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2017, Ricky Carioti / Reuters

In the aftermath of November’s election, many readers who had been shocked by Donald Trump’s victory shared poems that helped them cope with loss and change. Jared turned to “Ash Wednesday” by T.S. Eliot:

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

Full poem here.


Trump’s presidency is actual now, and will be for another four years. For many, after the bitterly fought campaign and the upset victory, his Inauguration Day feels like the turning point between a past marked by loss and a future marked by uncertainty. Maybe that was why, this morning, I found myself looking back at another poem—W.H. Auden’s “Homage to Clio,” the muse of history:

It is you, who have never spoken up,
Madonna of silences, to whom we turn

When we have lost control, your eyes, Clio, into which
We look for recognition after
We have been found out.

It’s a poem in praise of memory and choice, those uniquely human capacities—and in praise of the regret that comes inevitably with them. So far as Clio stands for time and history, her “silences” apply to both the past and the future: She won’t tell you what to do next, and if you look back and beg her to change something, she’s extremely unsympathetic.

What Clio can do, Auden writes, is to remind you of your own power: your ability to act with purpose, not only in the sense of political action or artistic expression but also in the simple sense of recognizing your own regrets and fears and place in history. That power is a privilege and a burden, which may be why Auden closes with a prayer:


Muse of Time, but for whose merciful silence
Only the first step would count and that
Would always be murder, whose kindness never
Is taken in, forgive our noises

And teach us our recollections.

Listen to Auden reading the poem here.


If you have a poem that brings you hope and comfort, please send it—with a link if you can—to, and I’ll add it here. Update: Katie recommends “Revenge” by Eliza Chavez:

I’ll confess I don’t know if I’m alive right now;
I haven’t heard my heart beat in days,
I keep holding my breath for the moment the plane goes down
and I have to save enough oxygen to get my friends through.