The general consensus on 2016 is that it was the calendar equivalent of the second Sex and the City movie: No one liked it, and no one knows why it happened.
For those who were disappointed in the election results, the past 12 months may have felt like half a liter of Drano was poured into our dejected souls, but the true test of our sanity will be in the first few days of 2017. Since there is no equivalent to an emergency contraception–type pill to get rid of the unwanted burden that is the memory of the past 365 days (although we did come up with a fake one in the video above), here are a few rules to make it through the next phase of this brave new world, in which a guy who once spelled “honor” like “boner” and briefly had a beef with the pope will be the leader of the free world.
1) US media: Learn from Canada
Before Canada was known for its handsome prime minister caught being woke, it was known for its bumbling Toronto mayor caught smoking crack. Rob Ford, who passed away earlier this year (because 2016 truly wasn’t eventful enough), was a precursor to America’s new president-elect, which means the American media can pull some lessons from its neighbors to the north.
For those unfamiliar with Ford, as mayor he was mocked all over the world. His unpolished personality and unethical behavior attracted international attention everywhere from mainstream media to American late-night television. Remind you of anyone?
Robyn Doolittle, a reporter at the Globe and Mail who covered Ford and wrote a book about the experience called Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, talked to me briefly after the election. She believes it is imperative for reporters to continue to label lies when they see them.
“There’s a reluctance amongst media to come right out and say, ‘What this person is saying is not true,’” she says. “People always assume politicians spin things and bend it to make their own narrative, but what we saw with Trump and Ford is a new take on this. It’s flat-out repeating falsehoods.”
In addition to fact-checking aggressively, she believes the media has a responsibility to educate the public about the story behind the story. “People do not understand how journalists do their job and the great lengths to which we go to be fair and accurate,” she said. “We need to do a better job of educating people about our profession.” Doolittle suggested media outlets should show the public how newsrooms operate, explain how sources are found and what goes into fact-checking, and perhaps even conduct Facebook Live videos inside newsrooms for readers to understand how the journalism sausage is made.
Canadian journalists may also have a few tips about how to safeguard your phone, since numerous prominent members of the press learned they had been legally hacked by the police this year. Here’s how to set up two-factor authorization and why it matters.
2) Anti-Trump activists: Learn from Donald Trump
What? How could we learn anything from Donald Trump? I hear you. The president-elect may not immediately come to mind as one of your favorite social justice role models, but he should inspire the fabric of your fight. He is changing all the rules, and now you have to change them too. I said this in the case of the Electoral College vote, and the same applies in the case of every other act of opposition: Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary opposition tactics. If Trump is an abnormal candidate, your resistance should feel abnormal too.
“At this time we cannot sit on the sidelines,” Paola Mendoza, one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, told me via email. “My question to everyone is, what will you do when a deportation force comes to separate undocumented parents from their children? What will you do when the Muslim registry is forced upon us? What will you do when an underground railroad must be set up for women who need to have an abortion? What will you do?” Of course, if equal rights for women is not your cup of tea, there are many other causes you can join. A Google doc called “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda” has gone viral among progressive spaces and includes tons of action items for those interested in joining a fight.
3) Nervous Americans: Allocate your fucks efficiently
I’ve written before about Trump utilizes abusive tactics like gaslighting to manipulate his opponents and the press, which can make paying attention to politics incredibly taxing. Giving a lot of fucks all the time is really hard. Trust me, I’ve tried. So I talked to Mark Manson, the author of the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, to try to understand precisely how many fucks should be given in these dire times.
As Manson noted in his book, “You only get a limited number of fucks to give over your lifetime, so you must spend them with care.” When I asked him about his advice for voters who feel nervous about the political situation, he said to choose one thing to give a fuck about: “It’s a great idea to pick one cause, because that’s much easier.” He explained that spreading oneself thin is not just less effective; it’s also “the type of thinking that got us here in the first place.” He explained that “one thing that we saw in 2016 is that with so much drama and noise and conflicting information, and rumors, as citizens it became hard to know what we should take seriously and care about.”
To know what to give a fuck about, he recommends “ramping up skepticism a few more notches” when taking in information from both sides, regardless of political ideology (including on Facebook). As for what the president-elect should give a fuck about? Manson said, “It’s clear to everyone that the biggest thing he gives a fuck about is the aggrandizement and prestige of Donald Trump, and that is precisely an example of what you shouldn’t give a fuck about.”
4) For the rest of us: Expect the best but prepare for the worst
As my colleague Matt Yglesias wrote in reference to Trump’s potential for corruption and turning the US government into a kleptocracy, “Hope is not a plan.” Trump has already started to erode sacred institutions like the freedom of the press, and US national and foreign relations. While Michelle Obama may respond, “Dag, you don’t even know me,” to Oprah asking about criticisms that she’s a “black angry woman,” the same refrain does not apply to Donald Trump. He has spent 16 months showing us exactly who he is. There is no “blank slate.” Believing in the best-case scenario doesn’t even begin to prepare us for all the other possible scenarios. Give your time and money to the thing you desperately don’t want to lose, because just like your sanity, there’s a chance it might disappear in 2017.