It was the day I broke down in tears on the phone to one of my Senator’s offices, calling to ask him to finally do something about the assault weapons killings hundreds of people in this country, to step up to help the people in Puerto Rico quickly running out of water and food, and to reinstate funding to provide millions of low-income children with health care.
I started crying because I knew he wouldn’t do anything, no matter how many times I called or how many people called. I cried because that list of horrible things wasn’t even close to everything that needed to be addressed, fixed, and made right by decent people in charge, if there are any left.
A white supremacist movement that feels empowered by the President of the United States (holy sh*t); travel bans and border walls; Trump announcing employers can refuse to cover birth control on religious grounds in the same week that the House of Representatives voted to criminalize abortions after 20 weeks (the inspiration for which, Republicans unbelievably said, was the Las Vegas massacre, while they refuse to take action on guns); scrapping the Clean Power Plan; threatening to annihilate an entire country with nuclear weapons; an attack on the First Amendment by the President, who is sworn to protect it.
And even that isn’t the full list. (And while I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on all of these issues, I desperately hope we can all agree that a threat to our free speech and freedom of the press is terrifying.)
As I ran through this list in my head, my tears dried up. It’s easy to become so overwhelmed that we give up, to believe that we can’t make a difference. But here what I remembered:
There are so many ways to fight to protect the things we believe in, and to keep fighting for those things that we haven’t achieved yet—because let’s be honest: not everyone in this country is as free as I am as a white woman; far from it, in fact. Now is not the time to sit back and think, Someone else will do this. Because we all know that’s just a pretty lie.
If you’re feeling burned out and hopeless, remember that you are not alone in this fight. Trump lost the popular vote by millions, and his poll numbers are continually slipping. And then get creative with your energy to stay strong through this fight:
1. Call your representatives, and then post their phone numbers on your Facebook page with exactly what to say, so that more people will feel empowered to call. There are lots of people out there hungry to take action, but they’ve never called their representatives because it seems scary. Arm them with contact information and talking points. And not all Senators and Representatives are as deaf as my Senator Daines. Some, like my other Senator Tester, make it a point to actually serve the people who elected them, and they will listen.
2. Give to organizations fighting on the ground. We can’t be everywhere at once, and giving to those groups that are watchdogs, mobilizers, fighters, and whistle-blowers to enable them to keep working is no small thing. If you want to get on the ground yourself, call them and ask them what they need.
3. There is a legitimate effort underway right now to reform the electoral college—that outdated system that has allowed two out of the last three Presidents to take office who didn’t win the popular vote—by demonstrating in the Supreme Court that its unequal treatment of citizens’ votes in this country is unconstitutional. Support it.
4. Support the public figures calling it like it is—the reporters, talk show hosts, experts, and scientists who speak up on a daily basis in public forums. They’re fueled by vocal support from the people. Show it in likes, retweets, comments, anything that quantitatively demonstrates your agreement.
5. Remember that you don’t have to cover all the bases. Give the most of your energy to things that you feel like a blow to the heart, and let the others organizing on the things they love tell you when and where to stand up. You can fight for everything to some degree, but only if you lead in some fights and let others lead the charge in the rest.
The one positive thing to the last train wreck of a year is watching my people wake up. An entire mass of people that have never had to fight for anything is waking up to what it means to fight for good in this world, for the things that matter, joining those that have been fighting all their lives.
So the next time I hear those words, “This is the new normal,” I will respond: “It isn’t, because I refuse to normalize it. And I am one of millions.”
Take care of yourselves out there. Go cry when you have to and take a break when you need to. And then stand back up, because we the millions will support you.
And we are powerful.