If the last–what, two weeks(!?!)–are any indication, it’s going to be a long four years.There are going to be plenty of set-backs and, more disheartening, plenty of near misses (the DeVos squeaker just now not the least of them). Progress is slow, because by design these wheels grind exceedingly fine.
It is easy to lose faith, so remember these five things:
Resistance works. As I write this, carefully vetted refugees are finding sanctuary here, the rights of LGBTQ federal workers have been preserved, the repeal of Obamacare has stalled, the great Federal Lands Rummage Sale is on hold—all things you accomplished with nothing but phone calls and poster-board signs.We don’t need to shed blood or set fires or take up arms; we are doing this with cellphones and markers.That is amazing and beautiful and the true cornerstone of this nation’s foundation.
You can switch it up.Calling your members of congress is important.Showing up at the big protests is important.So is hitting those town halls.But they aren’t everything.There’s a quieter undercurrent to social action, the part where you simply chat with folks in your community, letting them know you have each other’s backs.I especially like the notion of “truth advocacy”—take time off from putting out energy (hitting the phones, hitting the streets, etc.) to read and research on your own, and to disseminate what you learn.
You can take a break.Take a day off.Take a weekend off.You’ll be shocked how much you’ll feel like diving back in after giving yourself a 24-hour break from talking politics, calling reps, reading the paper, or looking at social media.
You can join at any time.If you’ve never called your rep, you can do so for the first time right now.If you can’t call daily, you can call weekly.You are picking up the slack for someone who has reached that burnout point and needs a day off.We need subs like you just as much as we need those every-single-day every-single-protest power players!
We shall defeat them, one by one.☝️Remember: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice—provided that we keep putting our weight towards bending that mutherfucker. It ain’t gonna bend on its own.
Here’s the thing about dictatorial violations (be they as outrageous as genocide or as comparably mild as yelling at a barista for wishing a “Happy Holidays!”):
They rarely have the support of the majority of the population—and certainly never start with even half the population on board.Atrocities don’t require the majority’s active participation; they just need the majority’s active acquiescence.And the majority will acquiesce even to the most terrible crimes as long as those aren’t too far outside the norm.The wider the margin between “normal” and “atrocity,” the safer we all are; a pot that’s not allowed to even simmer can never boil over.
So here’s a game plan for keeping the Melting Pot lukewarm:
Learn these three sentences:
An honestly curious“I’m not sure I follow you?”(Other options: “Hunh; why do you think that?”)
A bemused: “You don’t really believe that, do you?”
A stern: “Not OK, dude.”Not angry—never angry, because anger energizes the mob—but stern, like scolding a dog or child.
Practice saying your sentences in a mirror. Make sure you’re getting the emotion right for each, and not getting angry.
Use these in person—over the phone or in conversation, your voice in their ear, your eyes on theirs.This tactic doesn’t work online or in print; it’s a matter of emotional connection, and that connection is made one-on-one, person-to-person.
Use this tactic with family and friends and coworkers and guys who are sorta being dicks in the coffee shop.Use it freely and often and in good humor. Connect and connect and connect and connect with your fellow humans, always keep them a little nervous about that “off-color joke” or that “innocent” cat call or “telling it like it is.”
Note that 1.1 and 1.2 are questions—because you always want to knock people off balance, and oblige them to question their beliefs and justify them (even if only internally).1.3 is simple, obvious, disengaged dissaproval.You wouldn’t argue with a child about running out in the street or a dog about whether or not your leg is for humping; you give a sharp “Nope!” and move on with your life.The same here.No one ever argued their way out of a genocide, but plenty of awfulness has been prevented by scolding grannies and scoffing naysayers.
Remember: If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, then the only thing needed for evil to falter is for good folks to do something—shit, almost anything, just as long as you aren’t sitting on your hands, biting your tongues, and looking the other way.Looking the other way is exactly what the lynch mob wants you to do.
I outlined my thinking more fully about two weeks ago (here’s the post: The Final Test of the Electoral College), but I think it’s fair to say that the Electoral College has finally proven itself to be, at best, a quaint vestigial
growth on the Republic, and at worst a systemic effort at the national level to generally discount the value of votes in the most populous states (which are also, incidentally, where the densest populations of immigrants and people of color live) in favor of giving undue weight to those in the least populous (and, entirely coincidentally, predominately white) sections.
Please contact your state reps and encourage them to support the National Popular Vote. Abolishing the popular vote has seen support left, right, and center in recent years, including that of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I have it on good word that the National Popular Vote way of going about getting this done is basically the only way it’s gonna happen; support them.
You can’t take care of anyone else if it takes all of your available energy just to keep your shit together and function.I made myself this “survival” playlist and listen to it first thing every morning while I’m writing; I’m not sure all the choices make sense to the general public, but they all buoy my spirit.Make your own survival playlist and listen to it religiously.Keep your heart, kid!
Wigged out that the erratic President-Elect—either through his business practices or bellicosity—will trigger (or maybe somehow worse, fail to trigger) a Constitutional crisis? Give monthly to the ACLU.
Wigged out about the shouts to repeal Obamacare?Call your congressional reps and call Paul Ryan, who has set up a sort of voice-mail straw poll to take the temperature of the electorate on this issue:202.225.3031.Doing both of these will only take you a few minutes, tops.
Wigged out about voter suppression and election rigging? I talked to my state rep, Jeff Irwin, at the local coffee shop.He pointed me to this very good project for fixing our damned-near broken electoral college system: http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/He also suggest you should work in your state to support expansion (or creation) of early voting and a shift to “universal absantee ballot” If you want to support the Greens’ recounts, you can still give money to fund that (recounts are paid for by whoever requests them—not the public at large; I’ve already kicked in). More importantly, you can volunteer to help with the recount itself in MI, WI, and PA. It looks like they’re maybe getting deluged with trolls spamming their forms, so I’m sure honest, legit volunteers are much appreciated right now.
Wigged out about hate crimes?Wear the safety pin—but more importantly, cultivate a good natured and incredulous: “Hunh.You don’t really believe that, do you?”Practice saying it with a squint and smile, and deploy it frequently when someone gets out of line.Gently obliging someone to articulate their feelings and acknowledge the repercussions of what they say, and to own those words—or, hopefully, to decide they don’t really want to own those words and where they lead.The safety pin is a nice outward symbol, because I like the idea of “safety” in the safety pin, and of being a presence to help calm the nervous. But more importantly, for my own mental health, I like to dwell on what a safety pin is for: We use them in an emergency to hold our shit together long enough to get somewhere safe and really assess what repairs we need to move forward.And, goddamned if we ain’t in that place right now, brothers and sisters.
BONUS ROUND: Wear the flag, too—not with snark or irony or upside-down, but with pride. Let us not cede our unified identity to the haters. E pluribus unum; the Union forever.
Use LOGIC to come to your conclusions, but appeal to others’ ETHICS and EMOTIONS to persuade them.Speak honestly and authentically about your own experience.
Here’s an example of how I might apply this in conversation:
“I totally hear that you feel like the country has made some big, jarring shifts in the last eight years, and you feel left out in the cold. But here’s the thing: I’ve been surprised by the number of Jews I know who’ve taken steps since the election to be sure that they and their children can leave the country in a hurry. But not super surprised, because my wife and I did so, too. And that didn’t take eight years; it took two weeks.”