Yes, I’m talking to you. Specifically, I’m talking to you if you’re in the liberal/progressive/yellow dog (or blue dog, if you prefer) Democrat camp. And more specifically, if you’ve been living in a state of constant outrage, or depression, or sadness, since the election.
Later I’m going to ask you to put on your big-boy panties, but right now I’m putting on my big-girl panties and I’m going to talk to you for a little bit. Please know that right now my bossy, judging and crabby self is coming from a place of love, with a little fear and self-preservation thrown in.
Many of us are outraged by what’s happening in our country, and we’re writing about it, we’re posting on social media, we’re spending obscene amounts of time scrolling scrolling scrolling, wondering when the next shoe will drop, the next piece of ridiculous news. We routinely say “when is this all going to end”, “aren’t they going to impeach him already”, “I keep thinking we’ve hit rock bottom, and then he does this?”, and, “I can’t wait for the blue wave”.
If you’re outraged it means you’re paying attention, and that’s a start. You might also be feeling depressed and hopeless, that the world is falling apart, and you have no idea what to do about it. You’re feeling helpless.
In addition, you might be personally uncomfortable with “the Resistance” and #RESIST and #metoo and #timesup and Black Lives Matter and where the hell did all this come from. Maybe you say to yourself or others:
I wish they could be quieter
It can’t be THAT bad
Maybe we should just give Trump a chance
Why has everyone gotten so political
Everyone’s so angry
I read a quote the other day that captured part of it for me: “When highly committed parties strongly believe [in] things that they cannot achieve democratically, they don’t give up on their beliefs — they give up on democracy.”*
Our government is being lead by people who are not only giving up on democracy, but they are actively working to dismantle it. I don’t need to give you examples. (But if you need some, follow Amy Siskind on Facebook or buy her book “The List”).
You know this already, so I’m not going to depress you further by giving you a list. But I will add one thing – it is June 15, 2018 and at the border our government is separating immigrant parents from their children, and is planning to built tent camps for these children.
Don’t Give Up. Stay Woke**.
Last October I attended the Women’s Convention in Detroit. Like many of you I started to wake up after the election of Trump, but it was during the Women’s Convention that I got clobbered (in a good way) with the fact that there are people, good citizens, who have known for decades that our country has serious problems. They have been running organizations to fight poverty and racism, they advocate with their words and their feet, they show up. They plead, they cajole, they march, they write, they call. So for many among us, it’s not new, and it’s not optional. They didn’t wake up when Trump got elected, they were already wide awake, AND they were working their asses off.
But there were many of us who were blissfully ignorant, privileged, thinking that all would be OK because look, for 8 years we had Barack Obama “taking care” of things. Seeing these powerful women we realized, that yes, he had been a great president, but it takes more than a great president. And we had just elected the worst possible president.
So we woke up. We got involved.
During a panel discussion at the convention the head of the NAACP of Detroit said “we have a civic engagement problem in this country”. Look at the election results for 2016 – 50% of us don’t vote, even in a Presidential election.
Part of waking up for me was the realization that our democracy, imperfect as it is, is worth fighting for. Though I have always read the news, and voted (of course), I don’t think I’ve been a particularly good citizen. Not bad, just not good.
Resolve. Be Inspired.
Friends, there are no more surprises. It’s messed up. It’s bad, and it might get worse.
But it’s not hopeless. There are good citizens in action:
- A friend who calls his senator every single day and reports his conversation on Facebook.
- Millions of people, mostly women, who marched (twice) in this country and around the globe, to bring attention to women’s issues (which are human issues by the way).
- My friend Cathy, a lawyer, who is volunteering to help people seeking asylum in the US, because we are now governed by leaders who are openly hostile to immigrants and refugees.
- The lawyers and ordinary people who showed up in droves at airports when the Travel ban was announced.
- The thousands of women who have found their power and decided to run for office.
- The people who have found their voice on social media. Maybe it’s a lot of “preaching to the choir”, but it’s also building a virtual community, and helping all of us to know that we’re not alone in this madness. After all, there is no such thing as a choir of one, and don’t choirs make beautiful music?
- The millions (it’s got to be) of people who never before, but now regularly, call their members of congress to voice their opinions. They learned that they can make a difference.
- The action groups that have sprung up all over the country, including the St. Croix Valley Women’s Alliance in MN that mobilized after the election and are acting to resist the Trump agenda. My friend Linda has found her place in the resistance with this group.
- The young people in Parkland, Florida and around the country who stood up and fought back in the midst of unspeakable grief, to bring attention to gun violence, and demand that something be done about it.
- The regular people who figured out that they need to be good citizens. It is astounding and inspiring. It IS the silver lining, if there can be one.
So think back to history class when we learned about the ordinary people who were part of the French Resistance, fighting the Nazi occupiers during World War II.
Did we say about them – –
I wish they had been quieter
It wasn’t really THAT bad
I wish they would have given Hitler a chance
Too bad they were so political
If only they hadn’t been so angry
What we probably said was “Thank God there were people who fought the Nazis” or “I wonder how the world would be different today if there had been no Resistance in France.”
Get to Work. Yes, I Mean You.
This is the part where I’m asking you to put on your big boy panties (or if you prefer, big person panties).
I’m not asking you to be an activist, I’m asking you to think about what kind of citizen you want to be, and act on it. We are all ordinary people living in a time of crisis.
Remember Hillary Clinton? Remember when we all thought she would win? Remember when she didn’t and many of us said “Shit, I wish I would have done more to help get her elected.” That’s what I said.
This is your time, friends. There’s talk of a “blue wave” that’s coming in November, some even call it a tsunami. This is not the time to hope and pray for a tsunami, or assume that it will just miraculously happen. A tsunami happens because of a deep powerful earthquake under the ocean. We are that earthquake.
If you’re not already at work, now is the time to start. You don’t have to quit your job, abandon your family, or stop having a good time in life. You can do small things that make a big difference, but you need to do something, we ALL need to do something. If you are outraged, or afraid, or feeling helpless about the state of our country, SUCK IT UP and find your power. If you have time to spend on Facebook, and trolling Trump on Twitter, you have time to be the citizen that you are, and that you want to be, and defend our democracy.
Here are a few ideas – –
- To state the obvious, you must VOTE. If the last 18 months has taught us anything, it’s that who we elect matters.
- Find out if your neighbors, friends, and young people are registered to vote. If not, help them. (You could work with the League of Women Voters or local Democratic party too)
- If you are able, give some money to candidates you support. They need it.
- If you are in a “safely blue district”, find a candidate you like who’s running in a red district and volunteer for their campaign.
- Put pressure on your representatives about the issues you care about. It’s easy if you use tools like ResistBot (https://resist.bot) or Daily Action (https://dailyaction.org). You don’t even have to talk to people.
- Choose the issue you care most about and join an organization working on it – like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood or Moms Demand Action.
- Join a group that is working to elect progressive candidates or advocate for progressive causes. (Indivisible (https://www.indivisible.org), Women’s March (https://www.womensmarch.com), Organizing for Action/OFA (https://www.ofa.us) – they are everywhere). Join these groups on Social Media and “like” and share their posts. If there’s not a group in your neighborhood, start one.
- If someone organizes a protest, show up. Numbers matter. Support the organizers.
- Use your Social Media voice to amplify the work of people fighting for our democracy, and doing good work, and help your friends to take action. There’s enough gloom and doom to last us a few lifetimes.
- If you’re fluent in Spanish or another language, use your skills to help immigrants fighting legal battles.
- Heck, you could even run for office!
If you’re stuck, message me and I will give you ideas. I promise. Just please, get to work. We need you, and thank you.
**Woke is a political term of African American origin that refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice. It is derived from the African American Vernacular English expression “stay woke”, whose grammatical aspect refers to a continuing awareness of these issues.
© Rebecca Larson 2018