What Now

 
 

What now?, you ask.

As a country, we've never been here before. We've never had so many of us share this sense of hopelessness and fear--though certain segments of the population know this feeling quite well. Indeed, looking to their histories is a necessary part of preparing for the future. Bone up on the abolitionist and civil rights movements, on native people's activism, on all waves of feminism, on the successes of the AIDS protesters and marriage equality pioneers. Make sure you know about the atrocities we've committed against our own people in the past before you caps-lock your hyperbole about the present.

Do that out of respect for how those communities fought and recovered, and because their stories provide perspective and concrete lessons for resistance. 

And of course, we have some political tools. The Indivisible Guide is indispensable as a large-scale vision for how to use the Tea Party playbook to progressives' advantage. Daily Action will send you a text every morning with a specific ask to make of your local representatives. We need to quickly adopt Moral Monday movement from South Carolina so that there are regular group protests calling attention with their physical presence near the halls of power. There are others! This, in some ways, is the easiest part of the agenda.

You should become an educated media consumer. Read, watch and listen widely as well as deeply. Don't decide which organizations you trust based on whether or not you have perfect ideological alignment, look at their track records. Have they broken big stories that stood the test of public scrutiny? Have they published stories that went against the grain of the dominant narrative of the time? But don't discard a source because it got something wrong, even really wrong: How did the publication or organization handle the mistake? Did they accept responsibility and correct themselves? If it was an institutional bias, did they make changes to make sure it doesn't happen again? 

When a news organization gets something wrong, let them know. Let your friends and family know. Do your best to put out the fires of false information. When a news organization does something amazingly good -- something brave or eloquent or important -- let them know you saw that, too. Push that out to your social circle. Support that source in whatever way you can (subscribing, a letter to the editor of praise, a Tweet directly to the reporter). That shit matters, too.

Don't restrict your opinion journalism reading (or Twitter following) to people you agree with. Seek out smart people whose clever defenses of things you don't like might make you angry. Take them seriously, even if you suspect them of shading the facts (because, spoiler alert, we all do that). Read them because they might find holes in an argument or a story that you're too fond of to see critically. Listen to them because it's important to not be blindsided when your side does get something wrong (oh, also acknowledge that you can get things wrong). Let them know if they've swayed you or made you think. You might up having a conversation or, God help us, even making a friend.

Which brings me to: Connect. Always connect. That is going to be how we survive, by not losing sight of each other, by keeping each other in our hearts. Authoritarian regimes survive by atomizing their citizens and turning them against each other, by making us suspicious and scared. Gaslighting is only possible in isolation. Reality is checked when you have someone else observing the same phenomenon.

In my experience, the most effective form of connection involves service. To put someone else's needs before your own is a brake on both selfishness and self-pity, it offers up the purest possibility of connection. So find a form of service that is less about a purely political objective and more about filling a specific and tangible need: Walk animals at the shelter. Visit the elderly. Tutor the young. Sort coats at the thrift store. If finding an organized volunteer opportunity seems too complicated or too much of a lift (though it is decidedly not, really), look for ways to be of service in the smallest of ways: give up your seat, buy a stranger coffee, leave an extravagant tip, donate the stuff you don't use to the local refugee assistance center. It's kind of important that it cost you something, actually. Your time or your money or comfort or convenience. You have to give up something in order to appreciate the thing you will get in return: a smile, a "thank you," the knowledge that you have made someone else slightly happier than they would have been.

This will sustain you, in ways that might seem impossible now. Service will bear you up with the weight of tragedy falls, whether that tragedy is personal or political. I have lived through my own grief this way; I know many of you have as well.

Don't forget to take care of yourself in quotidian and practical ways, of course. Being physically healthy and mentally fit is just as important for absorbing and then reflecting back the blows of the powerful. Not too sound to much like mom but, still: eat healthy. Walk instead of drive. Snuggle with your loved ones. Both of those things happen to be good for the planet as well, and I happen to believe it's no accident that our resistance is a whole cloth.

Last piece of advice: Pray 'em if you got 'em -- not because it will necessarily find the favor of God, but because prayer is a reminder of what is possible. Pray because it is a reminder we can't do this alone.