When I was diagnosed, I experienced all the stages of grief in a very short time. Within those first two weeks, I denied, got angry, bargained, slipped into depression…seemingly all at once.

Somehow, however, I quickly accepted it and implemented a plan of action. I started looking at cancer as a problem to overcome and began to explore the best options on the table to address it as nothing more or less than that: a problem to overcome.

Don’t get me wrong: anger, denial and depression still slide under the covers with me every now and then, but for the most part, I’ve been lucky enough to find acceptance and I’m following a plan of action.

I don’t mean to suggest that others should process and approach their own treatments the way I have, but this election has affected us all, and if, like me, you’re stunned into anger, denial and depression by Donald Trump’s election, then we need to move quickly to acceptance and focus on a plan of action.

In Which I Embark on an Extended Metaphor

Our country has been diagnosed – no, injected with cancer…an ideological cancer. Trump and the ideals he promoted to win this election, ideals which a clear fifty-percent of the country either implicitly or explicitly condone, are cancer cells that have metastasized. Hatred, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, gleeful ignorance – these are not abstract things. They are actual ideals that actual people have and defend. If we allow them to, these ideals will lead us down a dark hole of destruction and threaten our entire society.

But here is an important distinction, and it cannot be emphasized enough to those who just lost: Donald Trump’s supporters are not the cancer. Donald Trump’s ideals are the cancer. We need to remember that [most of] the people who voted for Donald Trump’s ideals are people, human beings with families and loves and fears…just like you or I. They do not see these ideals as bad or hurtful, they see them  as solutions to problems that are going unaddressed. That does not make them all irredeemable idiots. Misguided? Yes. In need of a civics education free from partisanship? Absolutely (and I would argue that’s our biggest problem.)  

So we can all agree, more or less, that we have problems in our society. But a free society has and always will have problems…the only question is which ideals we employ to solve them. Trump has sold his to half the country – but to paint as “stupid” every person who voted for him is just as dangerous as voting for Trump.

The faster we realize this, the faster we will be able to attack this cancer we all have. And yes, I say ALL – if we are to be one country, if we are to be part of a shared society and throw our lot in with each other, we have to accept the burden of our sickness together.

It is his ideals that are the sickness, his ideals that have taken hold of our society and infected our cells. It is these ideals that need to be addressed, challenged, attacked and beaten. We need chemo, immediately – and chemo is an absolute bitch. It’s hard, disruptive and ever-present. There will be days when you can’t inhale without dry-heaving, when your whole body aches, when simple acts require herculean efforts. Even on the days when you’re between treatments, it will be hanging five feet above your head, like your own personal guillotine that you know will drop in just a few more days. But that is what is called for now in our country. It won’t be easy to face the chemo we need, but face it we must.

And by that I mean, we need to get involved. We need to engage – not with those who agree with us, but with those who don’t. With love, empathy, patience and understanding – without yelling or demonizing, even when faced with it in return – we need to convince our fellow Americans that Donald Trump’s ideals are not good ideals. That they are not the ideals of a healthy nation. That they will lead to nothing but hurt and pain and destruction of all the things we hold dear as a society and as a Constitutional Republic.

And we need to do this not in the impersonal and shallow comments section, but with in-person, face-to-face discussions. Debates. Gatherings. Events that create real discourse among people and force everyone to take on everyone else’s concerns. I’m not talking about anything specific, and I don’t know what form these could take – but I do know that actual dialogue is necessary, and that it is still possible for everyone to meet somewhere in the middle if we just took the time to be a society again. Like chemotherapy, it is an uncomfortable, difficult path. But like chemotherapy, it’s our last, best hope to rid our body of this cancer.

I truly believe the ideals in our arsenal can win. Inclusiveness, generosity, empathy, society and love…these all stand in direct opposition to those other ideals espoused by Donald Trump, and they are the best bet for a healthy republic. But they will not win if the only way we’re promoting them is by sharing trite memes or re-tweeting clever one-liners for our own personal echo chamber. We need to engage with those in our society who think Donald Trump’s ideals are good, who think that the cancer doesn’t exist, and convince them to join us in the I.V. chair. It’s a difficult task, and there’s no guarantee of success, but if we want to fight for the ideals that would relegate Trump and his to the proverbial dustbin, we have to roll up our sleeves, take our anti-nausea meds, and shove that needle in as quickly as we can.

I’m grateful if you took the time to read this. Hopefully we can overcome this together.