I lay on my floor this morning trying to stabilize my breath, which has been constricted for days, almost claustrophobic. Breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out. I’ve never been an anxious person. But all this past week I’ve been on the verge of panic. Breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out. The focused breathing worked – I began to let loose the tension and holding. I began to cry and scream. And then my breath came easier. Phew.
It’s intense isn’t it – this daily barrage of rolling back civil rights, of blatant lies, of disregard for human life. Trump and his billionaire, white nationalist, buddies have been wreaking havoc for the past week and there seems to be no end in sight. 4 years is a long time to put up with this heartbreak. And the consequences for people and planet will be many. The work of the past 5 decades is being stripped away in front of our eyes. The democracy fundamentals of freedom of speech, of due process of law, of separation of church and state are cracking. Our “democracy” is in the throes of a dictator and his henchmen.
It is important to feel that. To know it is happening. To look it in the face. To scream “NO!”.
And then to look around and see all the people who are standing by our side, who are united in resisting this oppression. This is democracy rising. This is PEOPLE recognizing their POWER and putting it in action. Then we put our fists in the air and shout, “YES!”. This is beautiful.
I’ve been getting a lot of emails and calls from people wondering what to do now. We’ve been thrown in the deep end of the pool, not knowing how to swim, we better figure it out quick! That is to say, I am also learning how to swim in this particular historical moment, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I do not have the answers, just thoughts and ideas from my own particular perspective which will continue to shift as I learn by doing.
Many people have been fighting white supremacy in the form of government and institutions for centuries – black folks, native folks, LGBTQ folks, differently abled folks. They have also been fighting the exploitation of labor and the privatization and theft of land for centuries. They know how to survive, thrive, and even win in the midst of obvious oppression. Their expertise and vision is amazing in this moment. Listen and take leadership from the people who know.
In the last 5 decades things have seemingly been getting better – and yet in many ways those gains we have made in civil rights and in technology have been blinding us to the fact of the explosion of the prison population and exploitation of prison labor; we’ve been blinded to the land grabs for oil exploration and drilling; we’ve been blinded to agriculture methods that are making us sick; we have been blinded to the way that Capitalism continues to funnel money/power to the top .1%.
We are not blind anymore. We can clearly see how white supremacy and capitalism are colluding.
It’s time for people to take back their power. We don’t want the old order, an economy that is making people and the planet sick. We want a new economy. And to do that we need to build a movement – a movement of movements. Here’s a 10 point plan for making gains. But what is my personal role in that. How can I best show up in that movement?
What do I do now??? Here’s my advice:
Practice self care – you know the things that will keep you healthy and well so you can participate in the struggle over the next 4 years (and beyond). For me it means daily meditation, exercise 3+ times a week, getting lots of sleep, drinking lots of water, playing with my friends, eating healthy. And when I get off track I just recognize that, without judgment, and do what I can to get back to taking care of myself.
A key part of self care for me is limiting the amount of time every day I am soaking in news (1 hour) and FB feed (20 min). We each have a different threshold – how much do we need to listen to be able to actively participate in showing up for democracy? Find your threshhold and stick to it.
Join a group that you feel passionately about. Just one. Focus. Get connected. Show up for that group’s events. Fundraise for that group. Respond to that group’s call for volunteers. You’ll be able to contribute your very own unique ideas and abilities to that group. Ideas of groups to join: Black Lives Matter, SURJ, a Migrant Organization, a workers organization, a organization fighting for Single Payer health care, an organization for Muslim rights, an organization for women’s rights, 350.org or another climate justice org, an organization fighting for LGBTQ rights, a disability rights org, #LoveArmy, ACLU, freedom of the press, prison abolition. There are lots! Join One. Look for an organization that is led by the people most impacted. Look for an organization that is organizing for whole system change. Look for an organization that sees it’s issues as directly connected to other issues. Participate when that group is joining mass mobilizations – like the women’s march, or the upcoming climate march in April. Learn how the issues are connected.
When you have more energy, time, resources … and only when … donate to other issues you care about, sign petitions for other issues, make 5 calls a day to legislators for other issues, show up for local rallies, etc.
Communicate across political divides. This is important. The hatred and division that now exist in this country are putting us all in jeopardy. Make a concerted effort to reach across that divide with love and with an open mind. I recently wrote a letter to family members who support Trump. I asked for an ongoing dialogue. This isn’t about convincing anyone of anything, this is about love and about maintaining those bonds of love, and about stepping outside of our comfort zone and having our personal view expanded.
LEARN. Learning is essential in this moment. What is white supremacy? What is class? What is oppression and privilege? How does it work? How does is show up in my own thinking? – go to talks, workshops, read books, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, join a study group.
Pray, Meditate, Connect to Spirit. After the election I wrote a blog about prayer. It remains a crucial part of my personal strategy. What is happening right now is much bigger than right now and one way to access that wisdom is through prayer. We could see at Standing Rock how prayer made it possible to stand in unity and nonviolent resistance in the face of such repression and blatant disregard for land and water and human rights and liberties. We will need that spiritual strength and understanding in all of the resistance and creation that is needed in this moment.
There is so much new energy being stirred up right now. This is exciting and gives me so much reason to hope. However, I encourage you to be cautious about creating something new in this moment – there is already so much happening. If you show up and support an already active group it will gain in strength and have more energy and resources to do what needs to be done (and what has needed to be done for a long time but there weren’t the resources or people). And your ideas and creative energy will be able to shine through in connection to other people’s ideas. Not that new isn’t needed – it is. When you are creating, do it with others, prioritizing the voices and ideas of the people who are most impacted by the scaling up of this all-American crisis.
Be aware of privilege and how it works and how it plays out in movements. This oppression and privilege guide is a helpful resource. Learn about your own privilege, be open to receiving feedback. This isn’t personal, this is systemic and understanding how privilege and oppression works is crucial to building the movement for change that is needed. And no need to sit back and wait til you’ve got it all figured out – learn by doing. The combination of learning through studying and action is crucial.
If you are a parent, bring your kids into awareness of what is happening in a developmentally appropriate way. Kids have a beautiful way of showing care and solidarity and justice. They are contributing their own power and ideas and beauty to this moment. The choice of whether of not to tell your kids about what is happening right now is a privileged choice. Refugee kids are not able to forget that they are refugees, Muslim kids can’t ignore the hate, kids with Lesbian moms or Queer parents or trans parents are daily aware of discrimination. Kids who are oppressed do not have the privilege of knowing about what is happening or not. We must break through wherever we have privilege (it might be class privilege) and show our kids what it is to stand in solidarity with all people and with the planet.
Last week I said to my kids, “I have to go in my room to pray and cry for awhile.”
“Well, he is doing the things he said he was going to do in his campaign – working to ban abortion, ban Muslim immigrants from entering the US, pretending like climate change isn’t real, and building a wall between the US and Mexico. All of these things are going to hurt so many people.”
When I came out of my room after awhile my 7 year old said, “Mom, you are the best. Even though you get mad at me sometimes.” Awwwwww. And I said, “You are the best too – even though you make me so mad sometimes.”
We are the majority. There were 65 million of us who did not vote for Trump. If we are each contributing actively to one issue – and we already see that the leaders of various issues are joining together for a mass movement – then we are each contributing.
A friend of mine said, “I’m starting to love Trump. Do you see how he is bringing us all together?” This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. And we are the ones we have been waiting for. This is a beautiful moment.
Here’s a bunch of resources (in case you are looking for more to do!) compiled by a racial justice group near where I live.
With so much love and gratitude,