I’m still in a state of desolation and shock. And, if we’re being honest, I’m also afraid. The number of anxiety attacks I’ve had in the last day alone… sheesh.
But I like order and I like lists. So here are my plans as they’ve evolved in the past week.
“What you can do, or dream you can, begin it” – Goethe
And this is important: take action in a way that you can sustain. Not everybody is cut out for the kinds of action extroverts feel comfortable with. I’m all for stretching my abilities, but choosing a method that goes against your essential personality will make you miserable, and miserable people give up. I truly believe that introverts and high sensitivity folks have something unique and necessary to contribute. Stay open to the ways you can leverage your particular strengths. (I’m so sorry I used “leverage” as a verb. We’re in dire times, okay?)
Choose some things you can do and keep doing. Set up recurring donations – some good organizations are mentioned at the end of John Oliver’s show (and he has other bracing things to say as well). Volunteer, in any capacity at all. Get engaged in local politics. Put your representatives on speed dial, because emails and social media might feel good, but don’t seem to impact much.
“Garbage in, garbage out.” – Apocryphal
Stop reading, and sharing, crap news sources. Keep your critical thinking skills honed. Try not to get sucked in to either too-optimistic or too-pessimistic predictions.
“The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people.” – Hugo Black
Support the free press.
Donald Trump has shown a consistent hostility towards journalists and the free press – his campaign revoking press passes willy-nilly right up to the moment I’m writing this. He has stoked actual physical violence against journalists. That’s in keeping with his intentional policy of obfuscation (eg, the non-existent tax returns, his ridiculous cribbed doctor’s letter). So fight back by supporting transparency and good reporting. Buy a subscription to a newspaper – national, local, or both.
“Put on your own oxygen mask first.”
Get enough sleep. Get enough to eat. I know there are approximately four thousand articles to read and ten thousand comments to make and eleven bazillion mansplainers out there on social media, doing their mansplainy thing. In the long run, though, 85% of that will fall by the wayside. Better to read a book or watch TV and gather your strength for the next action.
And by the same token…
Resist predictions. I know there’s an entire industry built on breathlessly predicting what will happen next. NPR and everybody else is spending a ton of time talking about the kind of president Donald Trump might be. I understand journalists have to have this discussion, but I don’t. I want to stay informed, but there’s a fine line between informed and wasting my energy freaking out about things that haven’t happened. We don’t know exactly what will happen. And for sure some of it will be very bad. But the best way to be prepared for very bad is to stop anticipating it, and instead build up our reserves of energy and determination.
“What you focus on expands” – Oprah Winfrey
Here’s an unpleasant truth: We’ve given Donald Trump way too much attention. I’d even argue that that attention is what got him where he is. The sheer spectacle of rightwing batshittery; those stupid, sixth-grade-reading-level tweets. He’s had practice being a character in a reality TV show; it’s his favorite role.
I have given Donald Trump all the focus I intend to give him. I don’t want to spend any more time thinking about him; I don’t want to spend time looking at him or listening to him. There is nothing he’s going to say that will be outside his norm, which I’ve become an unwitting student of. Have you heard this man speak or read his tweets? His communication skills are, how best to say this… streamlined. He seems to use about a hundred words tops, and unlike a poet, he hasn’t even gotten the good out of those hundred. On any given day, you can get the news about what he and his professional hatemonger buddies are planning in about five minutes. Is there nuance? Sure. But not nearly as much as we’ve been conditioned to believe by the 24-hour news cycle.
Here is who I am paying attention to instead: our Democratic leaders. The ones who have been fighting this a lot longer than I have. The ones who have read the briefing books, written their own books, taught law school, community-organized, put in the intellectual and emotional labor necessary to have some thoughts worth listening to: Barack and Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton; Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Tammy Duckworth. And all the other leaders I don’t know about yet, who are going to emerge from this crucible.
“some chick says thank you for saying all the things I never do / I say you know the thanks I get is to take all the shit for you
it’s nice that you listen / it’d be nicer if you joined in / as long as you play their game girl / you’re never going to win” – Ani DiFranco
So you’re a member of the “majority” and you want to be an ally. Put on a safety pin, don’t put on a safety pin. I think there are legitimate reasons to do both. But white people: The point here is not to imagine yourself as Social Justice James Bond, swooping in to save the day so you can feel great about yourself. Of course you should research de-escalation and peaceful intervention techniques. (And this wise cartoon on how to defuse harassment.)
But what’s equally important is to be the white person who speaks up to other white people. Be the white person who disrupts the dominant narrative of whiteness. There are times when I’ve heard things that are just not okay. And I was so surprised by it, each time, that I didn’t say anything. Because I wasn’t prepared. I can get prepared. I can figure out some standard phrases to address sexist / racist / xenophobic comments. I can wear a safety pin, but also a Black Lives Matter pin. Because the place where I might have the most impact is in conversation with other white people, with other white women.
Standing up for the underdog and being a hero is such an appealing notion. Engaging your own people in difficult conversations is a lot less appealing. And here’s where I’m gonna go against my previous point and say: focus on the hard thing and not just the easy thing.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” – Toni Morrison
Writers: keep writing. Write how it makes you feel. Write what you see. If you’re white, write how whiteness informs you and break it down. Write how misogyny informs your life and disassemble it. Re-read all of Angela Carter’s short stories and remember how to be subversive. I know this comes naturally to you. And know this: Poets and outsiders have always been essential to the health of the body politic. Writing is self-examination and is action. As Nigella Lawson put it in an interview recently, “I prefer to be paid to think, not to worry.” Don’t worry; think. Don’t worry; make art. (Don’t boo; vote.)
A man with fascist tendencies just got handed the most important job in the world, after a campaign in which sexism, racism and xenophobia were a feature, not a bug. A man who felt fine stoking racist and anti-Muslim hate and has made no apology for it to date. A man who explicitly said he feels entitled to sit down next to a woman and put his hand up her skirt. That guy. All of our worst nightmares. The Pussy Grabber in Chief. He’s probably going to go down in history as the worst president of all time (sorry, W, to knock you off your pedestal). I’ve known people like him and they don’t change, because they simply don’t value change. We’ve seen the real him. So here’s my last piece of advice:
Don’t ever, ever, let this become normal. Maybe you were always in this fight or maybe you just started or maybe, like me, you’ve always felt useless. But if you were useless, then why were he and his merry band of misogynists so eager to knock you down?
When you’re lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, thinking,”Oh my god, what are the next four years going to bring?” ask yourself instead “What do I want the next four years to look like?” Because like Hillary Clinton said,
our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear; making our economy work for everyone not just those at the top, protecting our country and protecting our planet and breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams.