Lifestyle

Action Plan

Here we are again. So let’s do this, again. 

OK, never mind. I said I was going to return to the regular RG programming, but I can’t. Not yet. There’s too much panic and fear and sadness out there; too many people who feel helpless, like the world is crumbling beneath them. A few minutes ago, I left a meeting with my local school district that I’d requested to discuss what exactly is going on with the crippling under-funding and what the community can do to help, and left feeling despondent about the state of education in America, and how much worse it’s going to get as the economy plummets. I sat down on a wall to wait for my ride home, and clicked over to Facebook only to find a post titled “Farewell America.” I read it with tears pouring down my face.

Because what that post said was that we have reached the end of the American experiment. That America as we have known it is gone, and that nothing will ever be the same.

In the years to come, we will brace for the violence, the anger, the racism, the misogyny, the xenophobia, the nativism, the white sense of grievance that will undoubtedly be unleashed now that we have destroyed the values that have bound us.

Many years from now, future generations will need to know what happened to us and how it happened. They will need to know how disgruntled white Americans, full of self-righteous indignation, found a way to take back a country they felt they were entitled to and which they believed had been lost. They will need to know about the ugliness and evil that destroyed us as a nation after great men like Lincoln and Roosevelt guided us through previous crises and kept our values intact. They will need to know, and they will need a vigorous, engaged, moral media to tell them. They will also need us.

We are not living for ourselves anymore in this country. Now we are living for history.

These words make my blood run cold, as I feel certain they do yours. And this kind of rhetoric – this fatalism, this Doomsday speak – is tempting. I feel it, too. This morning I emailed Erin saying that the world was broken. And do you know what she wrote back?

Stop complaining. Take action.

(Well, she said it much more nicely than that. But that was the gist of it.)

It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of what’s going on in our country right now, watching as our social media feeds fill up with stories of people wearing blackface and telling minorities to “go back where you came from,” with images of swastikas painted on walls. A Trump America feels like a living, breathing nightmare, and makes many of us react with panic.

Thanks to my decade-long battle with anxiety disorder, I consider myself a card-carrying expert on panic, and so, as your resident expert, I am going to tell you what it does. It makes us act irrationally, or it makes us freeze. Neither of those are options now.

I have heard from so many people – and felt myself – this profound sense of helplessness. I wrote about it just this morning. But I am not helpless, and neither are you. So here is what we are going to do: we are going to stop panicking. We are going to feel super shitty for a few hours, or for a couple of days, and then we are going to move, one step at a time, one day at a time. We are going to take action every single day, in small ways and in large. We are going to put our money where our values are. We are going to give our time and our energy to the future of this country, and to the future of our children.

This is what has been missing from my life these past many years – and, if what I’m hearing out there is accurate, many of your lives, as well: the willingness to not just say “this is wrong”…but to do something to change it.

Here is how I suggest you start:

  1. Sign the Change.org petition calling upon the Electoral College to fix this. See other petitions fighting back against Trump? Sign those, too. Make your voice heard.
  2. Donate. Some suggestions: the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the NAACP, the Trevor Project, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  3. Volunteer. So many of us – myself included – have approached politics with what I think of as “passionate disengagement.” We care, but we don’t care enough to roll up our sleeves. Midterm elections are in two years, and we need to be ready for them. Contact your local ACLU or Planned Parenthood chapter. Contact your local human rights or advocacy organizations. Show up.
  4. Talk to your children, over and over. Our children are confused right now, and many of them are scared. We need to explain to them what’s going on, but we also need to be models for them; models of respect, of inclusivity, and of action in the face of wrongdoing. They’re watching us, so let’s behave how we’ve always told them that they should when they are scared or angry: Don’t just sit there and cry…do something about it.

In the Farewell, America post that had me in tears not so long ago, the writer said that the most important job the media can take on in the days and years to come is to bear witness, because “many years from now, future generations will need to know what happened to us and how it happened.” This is true. We must bear witness. And I personally look forward to one day reading these accounts to my children’s children. I look forward to telling them that I was there when America fell apart, and I was there to watch it be rebuilt not through the actions of a small group of individuals empowered by enormous wealth and privilege, but by Americans.

This is not the end of the American experiment. This is the American experiment, what’s happening right now before our very eyes. This is what America does: we make missteps, sometimes over and over and over, and then we harness the power of our voices to make things right. We do this through elections, through petitions, through nonviolent civil disobedience, and through our relentless belief that at the end of it all, our country and the people in it – all of them – matter. In these ways, we have brought about enormous change over the past several decades: we have empowered minorities, women, the LGBTQ community. This is a setback; an enormous one – no one would say it isn’t. But all those people that voted for progress – and then made it happen – are still right here in this country with us; just because Donald Trump wants to call himself the boss now doesn’t mean they went away.

Our country was founded by a collective of white men people who believed that black men and women were chattel, that women were possessions, that minorities were the dirt on the bottom of their boots. And those white men have the power once again – but the reason they formed a groundswell movement as strong as they did was because they were terrified. They saw a black man become President two terms in a row, and saw a woman standing ready to take his place. They knew that this was their last chance; that the tide was turning irrevocably against them. And it is; I can feel it happening right this very moment. This is not going to be an easy fight, but no fight that’s worth the battle is.

Democracy put Donald Trump in the president’s seat. But the democratic spirit – the fundamental belief in life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice – is going to be what brings him down, because the American people are going to make it so.

Trumpism smacked us in the face and sent us reeling because we underestimated its power. And now they underestimate ours.

  • Tricia

    I have to disagree with your position. I am a college education women that voted for Hillary Clinton, not because she was a female and would be the first women president, but I did not like or respect Trump. In my mind, she was the lesser of 2 evils. However, you can’t change the Electoral college to meet your vote. Just because democracy didn’t go your way in this election, you can’t be a cry baby.

    • S

      But when you think something that’s happening is wrong, you can challenge it. This is America.

      I do hope that Trump proves me wrong, and I want to leave room for that. I don’t think we should immediately lock ourselves into a position of opposition, and him into full commitment to his platform. We are not there yet. There is room for him to steer the ship in another direction.

  • Hey Jordan! I’ve been approaching this the same way – with action. One thing I’ve run into is that a lot of people (myself included) suddenly feel inspired to act but have no idea where to start. “Volunteering” sounds great, but can be so overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done it before or don’t know where your time will be the most useful. I wrote a little thing about this yesterday (https://medium.com/@mayafish/where-we-go-from-here-5c30b8bca475#.fsra16vzr ) and I’m spending a bunch of my time now talking to experts and getting advice on the best small, achievable things people can do right now besides donating (and sending out daily emails with what I find). Don’t know if this is useful to you, but wanted to mention it in case you get responses from other people expressing their trouble getting started. Thank you for writing this! Always love getting your perspective.

    • Heather

      Wow, this is awesome! I just followed you on twitter and I’m going to sign up for your email list.

    • jordanreid

      This is enormously helpful, Maya, thank you. I’ve always found it bizarrely difficult to start the volunteer process – I remember one year calling the Red Cross and virtually being unable to connect with a person who could advise me where to begin (granted, this was many years ago, and their website has improved dramatically since then). It is extremely overwhelming to most people, myself included, and this kind of guidance is invaluable.

  • Hope Varnedoe

    Thank you Jordan. Taking Action. Set up monthly donations to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Also gave to our local chapter of PFLAG. Now to get more involved with local politics and plan for choices for the mid-term elections in two years. There is so much to do but we have to stand up and stand strong. That’s my plan.

  • kim

    Have you read the constitution lately? The Electoral college is there for a reason, these white men , the founders, were above and beyond anyone today regarding their intelligence. You really need to get a grip and just move on, the world isn’t over, ppl aren’t coming in Gestapo gear to rip minorities from their homes. I don’t see what is so racist about wanting to protect OUR borders, without borders we have no country. Syrian refugees need to be vetted, it’s in our interest and national security. You are so consumed with white guilt, you seriously have too much time on your hands. Maybe try getting a real job, getting out there with real working ppl, out of your bubble. I hope you are never impacted by tragedy due to an illegal alien who just gets released, scot-free, free to offend again. I am college educated, a woman and I voted for Trump, I live in the real world.

    • Dingbat

      “these white men , the founders, were above and beyond anyone today regarding their intelligence”

      Please explain to us, with your College of Idiocracy education, how you have deciphered that people in the past were more intelligent than people today. I mean if you had an education you would know that knowledge is progressive.

      As for being a woman who just supported sexism you should be fucking ashamed of yourself. In fact you must already be ashamed of yourself, perhaps that’s why you operate that way. Power does work through people after all. Too complex for you?

      • allison

        Look, I respect your anger and feelings. I’m angry and upset as fuck, too. But you need to open up your eyes to the fact that a lot of middle moderate America voted for him because they felt like they were being left behind and they cared about the economy because their jobs were disappearing. Not everyone who voted for him is racist, sexist, etc. It could seem as though their supporting that while voting for him, but I think they were just so pissed off with the status quo that they’d do anything for change.

        I’m college educated woman and (begrudgingly) voted for Clinton to attempt to keep Trump out of office (though I live in NYC, so it didn’t matter anyway). I was pro-Bernie and voted for him in the primaries.

        These are all good reads:
        http://www.cracked.com/blog/dont-panic/

        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/09/donald-trump-white-house-hillary-clinton-liberals

        https://medium.com/@trentlapinski/dear-democrats-read-this-if-you-do-not-understand-why-trump-won-5a0cdb13c597#.k8334w92r

        And have you read Trump’s first 100 day plan? It’s basically about the economy. Not one iota of social policy. He’s basically a moderate in Democrat in Republican’s clothing. Why do you think his party hates him? He doesn’t share any of their ideals. He’s a total asshole, but whatever, he’s not as bad as Pence.

        • allison

          And there’s this podcast by Sam Harris, too, that’s great. He’s incredibly articulate, liberal, and calm:

          https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/the-most-powerful-clown

        • Heather

          He has appointed a white nationalist as his immigration advisor and a man who thinks being gay is a “lifestyle choice” as his domestic policy advisor on his transition team. He wants Steve Bannon to be his chief of staff. Calling him a moderate Democrat in Republican clothing is … I don’t even know.

          • allison

            I meant on social issues. Which is what I vote based on. I’ll admit that I’m basically a one issue voter (abortion), for better or worse.

            Of course he’s going to go hard and tough on immigration, and quite frankly, we kind of need it. I don’t want to see millions of people deported and families broken up, but if we want to have the social policies like Scandinavian countries do, we need to have stricter immigration. It’s very hard to emigrate to any Scandinavian country and there’s a reason for that.

            i’m all for immigration. Just go the correct path and please have something to add to society. Adding thousands of low or no-skilled workers to the population is only hurting the low and no-skilled workers of America who need and deserve the jobs first.

        • jordanreid

          Disagree that he’s a moderate Democrat in Republican’s clothing in a BIG way (see Heather’s comment below) , but I do agree that we need to move away from the “all Trump voters are Nazis/racists/etc” rhetoric, because all it does is widen the divide. and the reality is that many, many Trump voters voted as they did because they have felt the past several years the way we do now: powerless, angry, frightened about the future. We need to acknowledge that, and part of the road back has to include addressing the needs of those who felt like they had no other recourse but to put a man like Donald Trump in power. That’s a pretty big fucking statement to make, and it’s the kind of thing people do when they feel like they have nothing to lose.

    • Olivia

      I assume your family didn’t have members lost in the Holocaust? Because wow. Yes, that is literally what I’m afraid of. That could happen again, in a heartbeat. Please be sensitive.

    • S

      But that is what a lot of citizens/lawful permanent residents fear–that ICE agents will kick down the doors of their homes and take their family members away. Resident aliens are deportable for violent crimes and their deportation is prioritized.

  • Leigh

    Oh my goodness, I think you mean “chattel” and not “cattle”!!!?!?

    • jordanreid

      sure do. corrected.

  • Heather

    I made donations tonight to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Planned Parenthood. It’s not much, but it’s something for now.

    P.S. It’s ok to be a “cry baby.” We cannot normalize what happened here. President Obama was asked today whether he thought Donald Trump was a threat to the republic and he would not answer. That tells me all I need to know. I don’t know if you saw the silly letter from Leslie Knope that went around today, and it was silly, but one part resonated me. In discussing the stages of grief, she said that while we can acknowledge the results of the election, we don’t have to accept them. I don’t accept that this is the path we have to go down. We don’t need to act like this is the next logical step in our republic and just step back and disengage from politics like the majority of us do after every election cycle. We need to pay attention. We need to support each other, especially those who feel threatened by their own government. That’s not being a cry baby.

  • Mawah

    This isn’t perfect, but you might wanna give it a go, girl!

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/do-you-live-in-a-bubble-a-quiz-2/

  • Rain Mikajlo

    volunteering to be an abortion clinic escort was something that i signed up for today. going to sign that petition next!

    and raising our tiny humans to be good people 💕

    (im still scared though. of being a minority. of not being able to find allies in friends. etc)

  • Ankur Rimjhim

    “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men OR women, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”
    ― Thomas Paine