I got off a plane early Wednesday morning and got to my apartment with just enough time to do one small thing before making my way to class: cover the mirrors.
A friend and I had joked for months about “sitting Shiva for the United States” if Donald Trump were elected president. Shiva, the Jewish mourning custom, requires adherence to a bizarre set of idiosyncratic customs for a week. Among them are not shaving, sitting on the floor and covering the mirrors.
The exercise originated as a macabre joke, a way of accepting the unacceptable and coming to grips with reality. However, as I researched the origins of the custom, I found it more and more familiar with my present situation.
Chabad, a Jewish outreach group, explains that the tradition was originally intended to literally scare away demons, but in recent years, it has taken on a more figurative meaning.
“The ghosts that visit a mourner are regret, guilt and anger,” the group says. “So we cover the mirrors. We don’t want to look at those dark figures lurking behind us in the mirror. At a time of such raw emotion, when the loss is fresh and the heart is volatile, there is no room for harsh self-judgment.”
In the aftermath of this very contentious election, recriminations are bound to run wild — indeed, they already have. Particularly for those of us who supported the candidate who was unsuccessful, the pain can be immense.
And as the five stages of grief slowly unfold, seeking to ascribe blame is tempting. Whether it is directed inward or out, having an airtight explanation for something unexplainable can appear to provide immense clarity. But that is misguided. In the highly-emotional time that follows a traumatizing event, which, surely, this election is for so many, such decisions are best left until later.
Our reflections ignore that. Our eyes always tell a story, one that we may deceive ourselves in these times into believing.
“If there are unresolved issues, there will be time to deal with them later. But in the week immediately following the loss, we focus on the loss itself,” Chabad concludes. “Taking a long hard look at ourselves in the mirror is often a valuable exercise. But it has to be done when there are no ghosts lurking in the background.”
I would be lying if I said that President-elect Trump does not scare me. He does. And whatever the opinions about how best to move forward — I, for one, agree with both President Obama and Hillary Clinton that we need to offer a new slate — this is not the time for it.
So I will strive to be different here in the first week of this new reality. I won’t shave. I won’t look at myself in the mirror. None of us should.
Horwitz is a first-year law student from Houston. Follow him on twitter @NmHorwitz