Transforming Fear and Anger into Action — or, How we Survive the Trump Presidency
So, it’s here. The day we thought couldn’t possibly, really, actually come. The day the world changes. The day the car takes a sharp right turn and starts careening toward the cliff. Yes, it’s actually happening, and no you’re not going to wake up from a dream.
Inauguration Day is the day the orange king of terror puts his small fingers on the U.S. nuclear codes, the day the bully president steps up to the bully pulpit — yup, that guy. The one with the fragile but massive ego who has no interest in actually being president starts winging it and inflicting damage along the margins against those among us who need help the most — and takes over from the smartest, classiest, well-intended President in recent memory. The one who caters to our worst fears takes over for the one who pushed us to be our best selves. (Not to mention just about all of his inept, incurious, out-of-their-depth Cabinet nominees are going to be confirmed).
Yes, he’s the President of the United States now. . . . So what do we do? Will you be silent, wringing your hands, while the ship sinks?
Ranting and raving, complaining, out-witting the new President, stooping to his level, posting videos of Elizabeth Warren…will it make you feel better? Sure. For a nanosecond. But then what? Will it stop the car from careening out of control? No.
Those of us who are fearful today cannot be lulled back into complacency and inaction tomorrow. No. How do we start defending our values and our republic now imperiled by ineptitude and enmity?
It means starting by taking a bit more ownership over our democracy and our shared values, rather than sitting back and expecting someone else to take care of it for us. A bit more ownership over how we live and how we treat each other.
Here are 10 ways to get started:
- It starts by not just showing up during an election. It especially means not expecting a medal just for simply showing up. And showing up for state and local elections, not just the big ones. Or expecting others to show up for you. We don’t get everything we want all the time, but we can and should defend our values and our institutions always.
- It means speaking out. It means actually calling your Senators and Representatives — yes, call them, it works — and tell them you support them when they oppose these crazy plans and people. Call them and write them. More than once. Call out the ineptitude as much as the policies you oppose. Call out the corruption. Be loud. Let the world hear, at every turn, that the Trump Administration does not represent all Americans views, if it doesn’t.
- It means protesting and boycotting. Actually showing up, not just accepting an event invite on Facebook. Make your voice actually heard. By using it and using your feet. It starts tomorrow with Women’s Marches all over the country.
- It means running for office. If you don’t like how things are going, go collect some signatures, raise some money, and run for office. I wish more of my opinionated, smart, non-octogenarian friends would run for office. Imagine how much better off we’d all be if apathy were overcome by some new ideas from your friends?
- It means educating yourself — not just listening to your social media echo chamber. Pick up a newspaper and support journalists who are doing the important, critical work of educating our population and who keep those in power in check. Subscribe to a few newspapers. Give one to a family member. Read more than tweets. Follow people like Dan Rather on Facebook. What you don’t know might surprise you.
- It means educating others. It means actually coming up with some better ideas, articulating them, and sharing them with people who voted for the President and his Republican allies — and then sharing them with the people who begrudgingly voted for Hillary. If you’re really right, and you have the data to support it, I bet you’ll convert some people. Write a letter, write a more thoughtful post. Get your ideas out there.
- It means putting your money where your mouth is. Support some organizations who really, really need your support and who are doing the hard work you can’t do every. single. day. I’ve supported the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and there are so many more. Help those most in need and whose rights are most at risk.
- It means serving others. Don’t wait for a big moment, or for your time to do your big thing. It might not ever come. The influence of doing good comes in the small actions and the ripples of good you send out by doing good whenever you can, however you can. Just start by doing good in your own community and just being a nicer person. If we all turn inward and against each other, and blame others but don’t look at ourselves and our own decisions, what good does that do? It takes just as much energy to smile and say “thanks” as it does to grimace and scowl and complain. Some of the most powerful people in history changed history not from a position of power, but from a place of influence. They those who oppose them by doing good and being good. So we don’t vilify so much, so fast, those who want something different.
- And speaking of different: it means, perhaps, being a little bit more open to different ways of doing things. The next week, month, year, are certainly going to be jarringly different. But out of the insane mess that’s about to be inflicted on the world, maybe there’s something useful we can learn and take and use for our own good? Our own campaigns? From this abyss has to come, will come, some new, (dare I say, maybe even better?) ways of doing things that we can all learn from. Millions of voters seemed to think so and seem to crave it. Think about how different your life is now than it was just 4 or 8 years ago. Doing the same thing for years doesn’t always work.
- It means being focused. Let’s not get distracted by tweets about Meryl, Melania’s fashion choices (or speech editing skills), and instead focus on what really matters. Don’t fall for the trap. Focus on the impact and actions, not the bluster. Focus on the massive conflicts of interest, the inconsistent and erratic policy changes.
Let’s not be the ones who so strongly adhere to the past, or fear, or are so set in ways of doing things that we lose sight of new ways forward — even those that might emerge from the darkness and chaos of the next years. Defend our values and our institutions, sure. But let’s also keep our eyes wide open.
After all, we’re going to have more elections to run and win, and hearts and minds to reach before long. We’re going to have a heck of a mess to clean up in a few years. But making it less of one starts today.