The Power of Storytelling in the Age of Trump // Talia Schulder
Trump’s campaign relied on his false ability to speak for others. He claimed to know what was best for all Americans and repeatedly shared his narrative of making America great again. This narrative was believable for many people, its plot and characters, heroes and villains, tapped into the minds of the many Americans that went to the polls for him. Trump’s mythic tale may have persuaded many, but it warped the real lives and histories of many others in this country and around the world. He claimed their stories were his to tell, and if one thing is to be learned from this, it’s that for people to heal from this narrative theft, they must be given the power and encouragement to share and spread their own stories. They are the only ones who can speak on behalf of their experiences. They are the only ones who can write the truth about their own lives.
Storytelling may have been the means for Trump to win, but it can also be the means to fight against the lies he spread. Many communities from different regions and backgrounds were repeatedly targeted in his narrative; they were represented with statistical deceits and anecdotal attacks. These can be traumatic both for the literal and immediate dangers of racism and executive orders, but also for the effect this has on the voices of the marginalized. This told oppressed people that Trump could take their own lives and make it into a story with flaws and falsehoods; he could strip them of their ability to speak for themselves and have a large proportion of the country agree with his decision. As a creative writing major, I have benefitted from the act of outlining my thoughts in a creative and organized way and knowing that people are reading and learning about my hardships. Individuals and communities who have been warped in the nationalism of Trump’s fables must reclaim their experiences through writing their own stories both privately and publically.
Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) is a short-term treatment often used for refugees and asylum seekers with PTSD. It asks an individual to reorganize their experiences and traumas into a chronological narrative, both to help their minds organize these upsetting experiences and to help the individual feel control over their lives, to feel that they have the power to form the stories that represent them and give a voice to their own experiences (Robjant and Fazel 2010). This therapeutic model can be applied to the millions of refugees that have been refused asylum in America, and can also be expanded and used on the countless Americans who feel they were and are unheard under the new administration. Storytelling both gives a literal voice to millions of people who are ignored and oppressed, but also gives people the power to find their own voice amongst the rollercoaster that is occurring around them. Knowing that their voices are diverse, loud, and clear, and that their experiences matter, could help give hope to the billions of potential storytellers who’s stories Trump is trying to erase with the stroke of a pen.
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