We are the new normal. Young, old, urban, rural, professionals, students, blue collar workers. We live under the facade of everydayness, persisting through our daily grind of life and work, but we are also revolutionaries and President Trump’s populous nightmare. Some of us might play a public role, but most of us will never be known beyond our circles. There is nothing distinguishable about us, no logo or safety pin, just our unwavering commitment to fight for core American values. Sometimes we run into each other on the train, at the store, or at work and we whisper about our post-work activism and bond over how to juggle our pre-Trump identity with our new one. We sit in front our computers, in a constant state of disbelief and dissonance, trying to compartmentalize our work responsibilities with the urgency to react to the latest executive order.
This is us. This is our reality. And we are just getting started.
More importantly, we need more of us. So, how do we do this and sustain it over the long-haul?
1 Prioritize self-care. By committing to activism, you are adding another layer of responsibility and complexity to your life. The outcome of the presidential election was a culmination of longstanding systemic, institutional, and political failures. We will have some immediate wins (we have to!) but we need to sustain our energy to fight for the next four years and beyond. Remember this is a long-game. As such, we have to take care of ourselves and continually energize our spirit to stay on course.
2 Pick your cause. In his first week of office, President Trump signed executive orders on healthcare, the environment, and immigration. These changes are bringing multi-dimensional and horrific consequences on a cross section of people, particularly in vulnerable communities. Trying to process all of this is overwhelming! But we must not allow our mental or emotional overload to translate into action paralysis. Identify an issue area that you are most passionate about. What makes you tick? Then, make that your mantle for activism – and be prepared to be an ally to activists of other issues. You will not be able to make a difference in everything, but you can make a dent in at least one area.
3 Act strategically but quickly. We are living in extraordinary times where the sense of urgency for action is palpable. Don’t wait until the dust settles to see the full effect of policy changes to become engaged. The time to act is now! Get informed on what is happening in your community. Social media, particularly Facebook, has been a powerful mobilizing force. In just the last two days, outcry from the public influenced the Trump administration to reconsider some aspects of the new immigration policy affecting current permanent residents. We are ways to go from meaningful change, but strategic and quick actions do make a difference.
4 Join the global movement. Last week, the Women’s March brought together nearly 5 million people to march in solidarity with communities most affected by hate, intolerance, and acts of violence. People on all seven continents stood up for democracy and freedom for all. Since then, march organizers, including myself, have developed an activism plan for the first 100 days of this administration. Another key organizing toolkit has been offered by Indivisible. Whether you marched on January 21st, abstained, or chose another means to express your activism, there is a global community that exists to give you the blueprint for sustained engagement. Take advantage of this!
5 Be prepared to clean “house.” Today’s progressive movement is elite-led, primarily by politicians. This must change! We, everyday, ordinary people should own and drive the agenda that reflects our reality. In order to do that, we must hold our elected officials accountable. Public service, in its essence, is about the people yet we have a political system that has been professionalized and tenured, with restricted points of access. In 2018, all 435 seats of the House of Representatives will come up for election. We have to look beyond traditional party affiliations and vet both incumbents and new candidates on their track record and policy stance. Think about the people in your community and actively recruit those that exemplify core American values and commitment to service to run for office. It may even be you! An organization called New Politics is working to build a new pipeline of political leaders and currently has programming in 14 cities across the country including in Jacksonville, Houston, and Detroit. We need new leadership in this country and the time to prepare is now.
The path to change is going to be treacherous and exhausting. But there is no other way out but to join the revolution.