This is a note to those in my life and beyond who say out loud or think: “Let’s wait and see,” or “We don’t know what Trump will do,” or “Maybe this won’t be as bad as it seems,” or “This is just more of the same,” in a bravado tone, “I have survived x y and z presidency and this will be no different.”
This is for all those, who are not doing or saying anything post-election to the people around you or in your institutions or on your feeds or through your actions.
This is for those who allow CNN, MSNBC or the New York Times be your main lens through which you interpret this crisis. This is a note for all those who are still only reading about what is happening and not actually doing anything.
With love in my heart, I ask you to please stop. I know many people are in various degrees of shock. But it is weeks later and it’s time to pull it together — even if it’s just for one day and then one more and then one more.
We do know what is happening. There is no amount of denial that can erase the ample evidence of what the lifelong agendas of his appointees have been and are. And the stakes are plain: A corporate elite, with racist, sexist and anti-LGBTQ social agendas, anti-Muslim and xenophobic anti-immigrant ideologies, will assume governance over a 3.8 trillion dollar budget (20% of the US economy), a military, and the executive, legislative and potentially judicial branches of the US federal government.
President Donald Trump — who is in charge of nuclear weapons and exercises extraordinary influence over markets — has the emotional stability of a four-year-old (no offense to four-year-olds). We know what this will mean and I believe it is an irresponsible exercise of your power to suggest otherwise and not act.
Anyone who reads history will tell you that there are significant breaks in history, momentous times, epochs. This is one. This is an intensification of a global re-consolidation of economic neoliberal agendas that will affect every person who is not buffered by wealth. This time will go down in history.
And so will you. Your silence, your denial of the gravity of the situation (coping skills), or the blind spots created by your privilege, your inaction, or your reliance on corporate media for analysis is slowing down what has to be an immediate, smart, and better all-in response, on a daily basis. If you have the privilege to look away or be silent, and you do so, you are occupying the same position as every person in the past that allowed fascism to take root and snowball.
Your values can no longer function as window dressing or moral crutches, you must live them, every day and with great courage. It is time to change daily habits if you haven’t already. It’s time to do something, one thing, every day — creative or resistant. “Let’s take this crisis as the clue that certain modes of living are obsolete,” my friend Valentina writes to me. These times call for new days.
1. It’s time to get your self-care plan together for the emotional/political/economic/social realities that we will be subjected to for a long time. Your health is no longer personal. It’s not a New Year’s resolution to be broken. Your well-being is central to the health of all human life and the environment. You are somebody. Sleep. Don’t try to find the bottom of the internet. Hydrate. Feel your feelings. Eat greens. Meet with friends and loves who nourish your heart and soul. And if you don’t have those, find ones who do. Meditate or exercise or do both. And please, be incremental to set yourself up for success.
2. It’s time to commit to adopting a sober analysis and shake off the shiny happy nonsense of American consumer culture. The multi-billion dollar advertising executives that are hired by multi-national billion dollar corporate executives are invested in you feeling certain ways. If you feel certain ways, you desire, think and consume in certain ways.
Corporate media is funded by those advertisers and corporations. They are invested in shock value, getting your eyes on their programming and advertisements, creating sensations, creating and limiting certain forms of desire. They create happy la-la lands as well as faux crises, not because they care about your health or the health of democracies or people, but because they seek profit. They want you to buy their things and so invest in emotional distractions from the realities of how hard life is.
They are not invested in you feeling what is actually happening. They are not invested in you developing a sober analysis. Stay away from things that seek to manipulate your feelings, desires and critical thinking abilities. Once you commit to non-corporate analysis and face the gravity of the situation, you can access more effective coping mechanisms.
3. It’s time to find real forms of joy and pleasure — not quick fixes. Choose that which clarifies over that which numbs or deludes you. There is a real difference and it’s important to think about how joy and pleasure operate in your life.
4. It’s time to use different lenses when you analyze. Get good as zooming in and out. As when using a camera, to see different things you need macro and wide angle lenses.
Read historians and others who have a historical analysis.The long picture matters and changes how you problem solve. If you think the year 2000 or 1980 or 1960 was a long long time ago, you will need to adopt a wider lens. The current economic and social conditions can be better understood in 100-500 year increments.
Artists are experts of the future, they often occupy it. Sociologists and organizers are experts at the power dynamics of the moment. And so on. Make sure your information is coming from all sorts of perspectives.
5. It’s time to connect to elders and local organizations who have history and experience in fighting oppressive practices and policies, a history of being creative or artistic. They are your new experts, so be in touch with your humility. If you have not been on the front lines before, don’t think you know what is best if you haven’t been doing the work.
6. It’s time to do work and be together every day, online and in the flesh, with some breaks built in. Show up. With a sober analysis, it becomes evident that your time must now be filled with new forms of work together.
Thing is, no one wants that.
Everyone is stressed by the work they already have. Most people do not want to phone bank, go door to door, collate, make protective circles during raids, go to meetings or open mics, compromise, go to city council, sign petitions, listen to people who have different emotional and ideological investments, etc.
But that is where we are. You will have to shift your schedules and reprioritize who and to whom you give your energy. But as a bonus, the work itself will be a form of dealing with your anxiety and you will meet amazing people, therefore contributing to #1 and #3.
7. It’s time to give money, if you have any, to people or groups in your life whom you respect and who are working on pressing matters. And or hold fundraisers to get money to those who need it.
The power and privileges we currently have, however, small they may feel, will need to be redistributed and reformed if we are to create the connective tissue needed for a new body politic.
8. If you are part of an institution, it’s time to pay attention to how your institution is perpetuating, resisting, reinforcing, etc. the new values and policies of the Trump regime. If you hold any power within the institution you will have to use it. You will need to hold institutions accountable. (Mid-level managers will have to stand up to upper-level managers, and upper-level managers will have to stand up to boards.)
9. It’s time to be loving and open in the fiercest ways possible. The warring and ugly nature of this era demands toughness and strength, which easily slips into toxic forms of masculinity and meanness — that any person might embody. It is not easy to be subjected to ideological and physical assaults and remain open; so you will need a plan that centers love and tenderness in strategic ways.
10. It’s time to learn how to liquefy and congeal, to be tender and fierce, quiet and loud, leaders and led, loving and angry, soft and strong. Doing and undoing, doing and undoing. Collapsing and reconstituting. Loving repeating. Multiplicity, heteroglossia, and biodiversity are antidotes to fascism and autocracy. If we are to succeed, there will be no one right way, no one right answer, no one dominant language or plan. If we are intentional and lucky, our hybrid utterances will develop into a patois.
These daily acts will add up — but not if so many people are in a perpetual state of shock and delusion.
So snap out of it. The time to act is now.