I have always loved politics. I was raised on a diet of Conservative talk radio and have debated politics with my dad for years. Although my specific political views have now shifted, I still have a keen interest in the events occurring in Jefferson City and on Capitol Hill. (I’m that person who can spend hours watching C-Span and listening to live audio from the House of Representatives. This stuff is entertaining to me–some of these politicians crack hilarious jokes! It’s like reality TV!) But maybe you don’t find politics as riveting as I do. Maybe politics bore you. Well guess what?
This is not a valid excuse.
NOW is the time to get involved for history lies on the balance. Our country is on the precipice of absolute mayhem. You can no longer use the excuse of “I don’t know how to get involved,” because this guide is going to give you multiple ways to get involved in this resistance against the Trump administration.
Perhaps you feel helpless and isolated in a conservative, Midwestern, deeply red state. And like me, you’ve been told that there is nothing you can do but wait it out for four years. This is a lie fed to you by the same people who say, “He is your president so you must accept his policies.”
This is a lie fed to you by the same people who say that disagreeing with the people in power makes you unpatriotic.
Patriotism does not mean blind acceptance. Dissent is patriotic. It is upon the shoulders of dissent that America’s greatest social justice victories have been won. Fighting for the values of freedom for all is patriotic. Fighting corruption in politics is patriotic. Fighting racism is patriotic. One of my favorite James Baldwin quotes says just this.
For this is your home, my friend, do not be driven from it; great men have done great things here, and will again, and we can make America what America must become.
You do not have to accept Trump’s destructive policies. You can resist. And if you are sharing articles, angry statuses, or getting involved in heated debates on Facebook, now is the time to get off of your computer and onto the battlegrounds. It is time to stop the social media rants and show up.
Guys. I have social anxiety that is sometimes so bad that one time I went into Walmart to buy toilet paper and couldn’t find it so I panicked and left without buying a single thing. If I can do this whole resistance thing, anyone can. I attended my very first protest immediately following the election. I found a few friends to go with and we showed up. (I was such a protest n00b that I didn’t even know that I was supposed to bring a sign!) But it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life–I stood in solidarity with hundreds of compassionate people against an incoming administration that threatened to marginalize our country’s most vulnerable citizens.
The second protest I attended was in January after the immigration ban. None of my friends could go with me and I was absolutely terrified to go alone but I went anyways. The thing to remember when going to events like protests alone is that everyone there feels as strongly as you do and this fact makes it very easy to make new friends. And FYI: nothing cultivates solidarity amongst a group of people like getting flipped off dozens of times by passing cars.
In February I attended a meeting of my local Indivisible chapter (read more about Indivisible below) and although I initially dragged my friends to all of the meetings so I would not have to go alone, I gradually began to make friends with fellow resisters. Now when I show up to a protest, I recognize almost every face there. Whether you are aware of it or not, there is a community of dissent in your city, you just have to seek it out. The amazing thing about the resistance is that there are so many ways to get involved! Here are some of the ways that I have found to fight Trumpism.
- Pick your issues. This is the single best piece of advice that I have received recently. Sure, you are probably appalled at everything that this administration is pushing but you cannot effectively fight every policy. Instead, pick the issues that matter most to you and commit to fighting for justice in these areas. My issues are immigration, civil liberties, and civil rights.
- Stay informed on those particular issues. Track bills in both your state legislature and the national legislature, find podcasts, news sources, Twitter users, hashtags, whatever it is, that will help you stay informed on what the administration is doing to harm those things that you care about. Don’t just read the headlines either. Be well informed on both the facts and the counter arguments. This makes you a more powerful and effective advocate. There are many ways to stay informed including newspapers, Twitter, and activism groups. One of my personal favorite ways of staying informed is through podcasts. Every morning while eating breakfast or getting ready, I listen to 2 different news podcasts: The Daily from the New York Times and Up First from NPR. Both inform me of the latest news headlines and both are usually under 15 minutes long. I also enjoy The Bernie Sanders Show, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, Pod Save America, Code Switch, and the NPR Politics Podcast. (I plan on doing a full blogpost soon on podcasts so stay tuned.)
- Call, email, or write letters to your state and national representatives. Once you find particular bills that jeopardize the issues that you care about, then you are morally obligated to take action. Look up your state representatives, state senator, national representatives, and national senators, write down their contact information and commit to contacting them regularly. A recent article in the New Yorker, argues that all methods of contacting your reps are effective as long as you are a constituent, not following a script, are informed, and are polite. This article also points out, however, that this strategy of personally contacting representatives will only work if used as a long-term strategy. Be consistent. Commit to making a round of phone calls or writing a set of emails once a week. Although the Missouri General Assembly 2016 session has just ended, you can still call your national reps and you can use the summer recess to research how things work in Jefferson City.
- Attend a lobby day. So you have picked your issues and are well-informed about what your state representatives are doing to help or harm your cause. The next step is to attend a lobby day. Just type the name of the issue and your state capitol into google and chances are, an advocacy group in your state probably has a lobby day scheduled. Sign up and then show up. Back in February I attended my first lobby day and speaking with the first few representatives was absolutely terrifying but by the end of the day I had personally spoken to 8 different representatives and had my spiel down. It’s scary to talk to your representatives in person but if you are well-informed and passionate about having that conversation, then you have a higher chance of being an effective advocate. (The 2016 Session in Jefferson City is over now, but start thinking about what issues you want to advocate for now so when the general assembly is back in session you will be prepared.)
- Find a local Indivisible chapter. Now you have two powerful tools for making your voice heard, but perhaps you feel isolated, alone in your fight. Indivisible is a national grassroots organization that focuses on resisting the policies of the Trump administration at a local level through local chapters. Go to their website, type in your zipcode, and then attend a local meeting. You’ll find a community of fired up citizens who are fighting every day just like you. My local Indivisible chapter provides me with crucial information about local protests, lobby days, legislation, etc. Do not underestimate the power to be found in community and in solidarity. There is a whole tribe of people who care just as much as you do who are waiting for you to join them. The wonderful thing about my local Indivisible chapter is that not only does it provide information about bills and protests, but it also keeps me informed about local non-profit work, canvassing events, advocacy training, other activist groups, and just about every channel of resistance you can think of. Find your local Indivisible people and unite.
- Go to a protest. As I said before, it can be scary but like I said above–if I can do it, literally anyone can do it. Protests are perhaps the most fun and creative way to express dissent. I went to a die-in (like a sit-in but instead you lie down and pretend to be dead) a few weeks ago, to protest the repeal of the ACA. We all laid on the ground and held signs shaped like tombstone that had our pre-existing conditions written on them. It was a paradoxically hilarious and somber experience. While it can be nice to share that warm, fuzzy feeling of solidarity with other dissenters, it is also really important to show to the rest of the community through social media and the press that the resistance is alive and fighting hard. Sometimes it can feel like there is no point to showing up but the more people show up, the more of a public impact these protests have.
- Know when to rest. This is really important because as many of my friends in my local Indivisible chapter keep pointing out, “The Resistance is a marathon-not a sprint.” Remember to take some time off, away from social media, and away from the news. Set up your hammock in your favorite park, go read some fiction in your local coffee shop, go for a walk with a loved one. I learned the importance of rest the hard way. The other night I could not fall asleep. I had just read a chapter from The New Jim Crow, a book on the mass incarceration of black men in America and I could not stop thinking about it. When I finally did fall asleep, I ended up waking up twice- both from nightmares. The first dream was me arguing with someone about the fact that only 13% of prisoners are incarcerated for violent crimes. I woke up so upset that I couldn’t convince my friend of this fact. The second dream was some terrible yelling match I was having with a senator about immigration. Guys, don’t be like me. Learn to rest. Learn to take time for yourself so that you can actually sleep at night.
- Cultivate conversations with people who may disagree with you. I have recently discovered the importance of asking friends and family their opinions on current events and hot-button issues. These conversations are imperative for so many different reasons. Firstly, once you’ve found your community of fellow liberals, it is very easy to isolate yourself into a progressive lined bubble. This might not seem like a bad thing but how can a nation this divided ever hope to unite when we refuse to even speak to those who think differently than we do? Secondly, listening to the opposition is useful in developing strategies for mobilizing, organizing, and communicating most effectively. There is a reason why politicians knock on doors to talk with potential voters every election season. As activists we must also attempt to understand why our communities vote the way they vote.
- Donate to a non-profit. Some weeks are hard-full of non-stop sucker punches of executive orders and breaking news stories. Maybe you’ve already called your reps, attended a few protests, and ranted with your Indivisible friends, and now you are exhausted and things seem hopeless. I was recently at a seminar hosted by Missouri State Representative Stacey Newman where she said something that has stuck with me. “If you feel helpless you aren’t doing enough.” I think this is good advice but I get it-in the midst of particularly heavy weeks sometimes it feels like you cannot possibly do anything more. My solution? Donate 5-20 dollars to a cause. I have friends who like donating to campaigns or political organizations but I, personally, have charities that I like to donate to when there seems to be nothing good in politics. There are so many good causes so pick something that speaks to the issues that you care most about. My two favorites? The Preemptive Love Coalition which provides medical care, food, and shelter to displaced persons in Syria and Iraq. And my favorite local non-profit-The Ozarks Food Harvest. (For only $20 you can fill 80 kids’ backpacks with food for the weekend!)
For me, the greatest motivation to continue fighting is considering what the seventy year old me will feel when she reads about the Russia scandal in the history textbooks, or the AHCA’s concrete and catastrophic results, or the rise in race-related hate crimes. Seventy year old me will be able to tell younger generations that I did not sit idly by in the face of a national catastrophe. I will not have to remember the events of history with a keen sense of shame or responsibility because right now, in this moment, I refuse to normalize the callousness, the lack of empathy, the corruption, and the hate of Trumpism.
Friends, if there is one positive thing that has come out of this election, it is the increased participation in democracy by the American people. If you are angry or upset, stop posting on Facebook because there are so many effective ways to get involved. Join me. Resist.