By Liz Massey, April 2017 Issue.
Many of us in the LGBTQ community we can divide the recent past into the world we knew before Nov. 8, 2016, and the world – particularly the America – we knew after that. The election of our current president changed everything for us, and indeed for all marginalized Americans.
It’s not overreacting to be terrified by the political landscape we now face. So-called “religious freedom” acts are poised to sidestep decades of pro-LGBTQ legislation. The Affordable Care Act may change or disappear, taking with it a host of gay/trans-affirmative mandates. Most of Donald Trump’s cabinet picks have a record of hostility toward LGBTQ legal protections. And possibly worst of all, the new executive branch has already shown a scandalous disregard for our system of checks and balances, putting every American’s democratic freedoms in peril.
We did not get to this juncture overnight, and we won’t get out of it rapidly, even if Trump stumbles badly enough that the GOP-dominated Congress becomes motivated to impeach him. This is going to be what has been called a “long emergency,” a sustained crisis that will take years to reverse and mitigate.
The good news in this case is that much of the country – possibly even a majority – feels threatened enough to resist the new administration’s actions. The bad news is many of these new allies are first-time activists and extremely new to the dynamics of nonviolent social advocacy.
There are already indications that many new protesters are running on adrenaline, anger, and not much else. Our opponents are counting on being able to wear us out, then intimidate us into submission. We can’t let that happen. To win this current battle for democracy, we must be every bit as determined and committed as those who oppose us. We have to weatherproof our minds, bodies and even our souls in order to do the work awaiting us.
There are many ways to prepare ourselves for long-term advocacy and resistance. Those in our community who have been activists for decades are already practicing these principles. Here are a few ideas for building the endurance each of us will need to survive.
Acknowledge just how bad things really are.
It’s important to understand and feel the weight of what we’re fighting against (shredding of democratic norms, the scapegoating of marginalized groups and dissenters) as well as ponder the importance of what we’re fighting FOR (equality for all, democracy that works and reflects our values).
Connect with your superpowers.
Now, more than ever, our political protests must be focused, strategic, and smart. That requires many different talents to direct all the moving parts that make resistance strategies work. Talents such as creating databases, writing, talking to people on the phone, effectively managing email lists, even knitting (think of those Pussy Cat hats at the Women’s March) all have a place in creating our future victories.
Find a group.
Worrying by yourself will drive you crazy. Participating with local groups at live, in-person events are a great idea on many levels; not only can you impact your immediate environment, you will be surrounded by like-minded compatriots, and that can provide inspiration and opportunities for collaboration.
Ruthlessly evaluate your media intake.
Learn how to be a savvy news consumer, and be intentional about your time on Facebook, Twitter and the like. Is your “screen time” helping you do your part for the resistance, or is it making you too discouraged to continue?
Nourish your mind with books, magazines and newspapers. Visit the library and your local bookstore to gain ideas and inspiration from social reformers of other eras. And support a free and independent press by buying a subscription to media outlets doing good work.
Cultivate a real life.
Those of us doing resistance work need parts of our lives that tyranny cannot touch. Spend time with your friends and loved ones, enjoy and create art and music, engage in hobbies that provide you with pleasure. Mind your health with good self-care, and find a spiritual or philosophical niche in your life that sustains you.
Live and act with joyful hope.
Hope may sound out of place in a column about survival, but Harvey Milk was famous for telling audiences at his speeches that “you have to give them hope … Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great.” Hope, when undergirded by the previous activities, can also be a more sustainable source of activist energy than anger or terror.
During World War II, there was a phrase that was used to explain all manner of disruptive changes that were necessary to engage in a global conflict: “for the duration.” This concept is one that’s useful to ponder now. We each must consider what we will need to do to successfully endure the challenges posed by our present domestic crisis – and what actions we’re willing to take in order to survive and thrive.