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:
- 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.
- Donate. Some suggestions: the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the NAACP, the Trevor Project, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
- 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.
- 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.