Donald Trump is President-Elect of the United States.
It’s hard. I know.
But three days later, it’s pretty clear there’s no waking up. This is the reality.
Here’s what that means for me:
I cannot remain cocooned in my comfortable life while I wallow in grief; there is real harm happening to real people RIGHT NOW, and they need allies.
I am struggling. The emotional pain is tremendous and it would be so easy to escape it.
I want to hide in a good book.
I want to pretend not to see the racially ignorant things some of my friends and family say.
I want to ignore the challenges that come at me from Trump supporters.
I want to shut it all out so that it will stop hurting.
But we are on the cusp of sweeping social change and, whether or not I want to take it on, there will be decisions made… and I will be accountable for which side of history I stood on.
Check out the Twitter feed of journalist Shaun King, who is sharing reports of racial aggression and violence happening all over the country, in the name of President-Elect Trump.
Effective Jan. 20, the inspiration for that violence will be in power, with a Republican Senate and House behind him, and a Cabinet that, at this point, looks like it will be filled to the brim with active racists, science deniers, corporate shills, and lobbyists.
President Trump will be virtually unchecked.
Given his authoritarian tendencies, it’s not unreasonable to think we will see sweeping, dramatic changes literally on Day One… Changes that strip rights from citizens, further disenfranchise already marginalized communities, cause irreparable harm to the environment, and literally put lives in immediate danger by reducing or eliminating health care access for those who need it most.
I’m not exaggerating, by the way. Here is PolitiFact’s summary of President Trump’s First-100-Days plan.
I don’t have to like this outcome, but I do have to accept it.
Trump is our President(-Elect), and no amount of #NotMyPresident is going to change that. Only by acknowledging it can we hold him and his administration accountable. Fact: You can’t fight something you don’t look at.
The Electoral College isn’t going to be abolished, nor will it save us. Yes, it’s an outdated clunker that should be on cinder blocks in a long-forgotten junkyard. But we can’t simply wave it away (at least not by Dec. 19, when they vote) and, honestly, we don’t want the structures of our government to be that vulnerable to public sentiment. And there will be no Hail Mary pass from the Electors… if they were to vote against Trump, they’d vote for Pence instead. No better.
But “accepting” does NOT mean letting it be. It means knowing what kind of action to take.
Acceptance is the last of the five stages of grief. I know some people who, even though they were strongly against Trump, got there almost immediately after the results of the election came clear. They talked about “radical” and “extreme” acceptance, and deep breathing, and centering oneself.
I think they do yoga.
Whatever the case, I admire this emotional self-control. It makes a solid platform.
A level-headed acceptance of reality is the best place to plan from. We have to see what we’re up against for what it is – not through the lens of partisanship or hyperbole, but as it really is. That way, when we take action, we can undercut the right things, and not lose time or energy tilting at windmills.
We need to build coalitions.
This is a team sport. We need numbers, we need skills, we need resources and energy and plans.
I am an introvert. This is the hardest part for me.
But that’s just too damned bad.
The day I have to look a friend in the eye whose (once upon a time) spouse is dying, but they can’t be with them in the hospital because their marriage was dissolved, I sure as shit am not going to say, “I sure wish I’d helped, but you know how I hate talking to new people…”
Remember that “unity” is overrated and consensus will not happen.
There are some perfectly lovely, pleasant, reasonable-seeming people who voted for Donald Trump. Everybody is capable of being lovely, pleasant, and reasonable… when certain conditions are met.
The same people tearing hijabs from the heads of Muslim women are likely respectful and polite in Christian church pew.
The USPS employee in Cambridge, MA, who screamed at a Latino to get out of our country because it’s Trumpland now, is probably a delight at dinner with White people.
The unidentified individuals burning LGBT flags in Rochester, NY may very well be wonderful and generous guests… at hetero weddings.
Roughly 60 million people – who are surely lovely in many ways when their special conditions are met – have just endorsed discrimination and bigotry. Most of them are not going to come around.
Social progress only happens when progressives MAKE it happen.
We literally had to fight a Civil War to abolish slavery.
Women went to jail, blew shit up, and killed themselves in dramatic fashion to secure the right to vote.
The Civil Rights Act was paid for in blood – Martin Luther King’s, John Kennedy’s, Bobby Kennedy’s, and more.
I am not calling for violence. Do not get me wrong. I AM NOT CALLING FOR VIOLENCE.
What I am saying is, even though it is incredibly obvious that slavery is wrong, women should have the right to vote, and all Americans should have equal civil rights, there was a large portion of the population that fought like hell against those advances.
Unity doesn’t happen. Change doesn’t get voted in by consensus.
Pundits in the 1860s and 1910s and 1960s argued that the concerns of the opposition were legitimate. That they feared for their livelihoods, for their families. They were scared. They didn’t have the jobs they wanted. Money was scarce. And so on.
Just because someone feels fear does not mean their position is legitimate.
Already, on the left, we’re trying to look into the souls of those on the right. It’s not hard to find opinion pieces talking about how we didn’t do a good enough job understanding where they were coming from.
But the fact that some people were worried or afraid, does not inherently legitimize their position. It doesn’t excuse what they endorsed with their votes, and it definitely doesn’t excuse their silence while their political allies are painting the nation in shades of hate.
We can have compassion for them, while still holding them accountable. We can love them, while still holding them to a higher standard.
Some of them may come to see what we see, and when they do, we will need them. They were important in electing Donald Trump, and they can be just as influential in shaping an inclusive and equitable future.
But many others will not be on our side, no matter how bad it gets or how obvious or blatant or horrifying. There are people today who deny that Trump ever said anything remotely racist… while the KKK holds a victory parade.
If we want to preserve the human and civil rights of our families, friends, and neighbors, we will have to do this work ourselves and we’ll have to live with an opposition that never goes away, never quits, and never comes to reason.
There is going to be a massive resistance.
69 days. That’s all we’ve got to make connections, create plans, and organize a sustainable, effective resistance.
This means making sure we have platforms to speak from, infrastructures to funnel and amplify our actions, experts to provide guidance and navigate systems.
We have to build a firewall around our democracy and freedoms, and keep it impenetrable. We do not have the luxury of waiting for the Trump administration to cause harm before we take action. Again, most of the opposition is not going to come around. There is nothing to be gained by waiting for President Trump to make the first move.
We were complacent for the last 18 months. No more.
I need to be ready.
Here are the steps I’m taking to help support the resistance:
- Restructure my social spaces: I’m safeguarding my employment by removing my employer name from all accounts and separating out or deleting professional acquaintances.
- Subscribe to newspapers: Trump openly despises free media and has threatened repeatedly to place strict limitations on the First Amendment. Free media is a crucial part of our democracy. To start, I’ve subscribed to the New York Times and Washington Post.
- Join or support organizations that fight oppression: Jezebel has a great list here. I am joining or donating to the ACLU, NAACP, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and Freedom from Religion Foundation.
- Find a tribe and work together: We amplify our message and impact when we have numbers. There are countless groups and opportunities – local “Pantsuit Nation” forums, SURJ chapters, Black Lives Matter, Muslim Advocates, and other peace-based groups. Beyond organized groups, there are volunteer opportunities helping refugee communities, low-income individuals and families, and so much more.
- Get involved in local politics: I am a proud Democrat but have never been directly involved in the local Democratic party. That’s going to change. We all need to be at the table and I plan to start showing up. If I wasn’t happy with the Democratic party, I’d check out other, smaller local parties, and help them grow. Every four years people complain about the two-party system – the way to change the two-party system is to get third parties to do more than trot out an impossible presidential candidate every now and again. Join up and run for anything and everything.
We are powerful.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Societies evolve toward justice because generation after generation, everyday people have made it so.
Every one of us is worthy and our cause is right.
We can do this.
Update Nov. 12, 2016: The next essay is this series is now posted: White liberals: Good morning. We all just woke up.