GETTING (AND STAYING) NASTY

On Tuesday, November 9th, Donald Trump was elected President of these United States. Timelines and newsfeeds are aflutter with post-mortem reports. Some are calls for unity. Others, calls to arms. I’ve come out somewhere in the middle… As we usher in this new and scary era, I’ve decided to renew my commitment to this country by learning what I can from the moment, and taking the following three steps. 

1. I WILL NOT DISCOUNT ANOTHER’S PAIN.

Post-election, the only thing I’m sure of is that there are a lot of people in pain in this country. We know that. We cannot deny that. 

For many, many reasons, the modern American economy has left many behind. But the modern economy has also made it difficult for those left behind to pivot. For more toxic reasons, modern American society continues to marginalize, stereotype, and overreact. There are numerous issues afflicting America – many of which are rooted in racism. This racism can be seen in the statistics. For instance, blacks are incarcerated at six times the rate of whites, and hate crimes against Muslims rose 67% from 2014 to 2015. (source / source)

I’m checking my privilege here - because it’s easy to write these words not having been subjected to racism, and I do not want to misstate things. (Please reach out if you feel that I have.) But everywhere around us, there are people in real pain. This election has proven that our country will go nowhere but backwards if we discount our neighbors’ pain. This poem by Pastor Martin Neimoller drives the point home for me...  

First they came for the Communists - And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists - And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists - And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews - And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

2. I WILL EXERCISE MY CIVIC DUTY ON DAYS THAT ARE NOT TUESDAYS IN NOVEMBER.

Since obtaining voting age, I’ve taken pride in showing up to the polls. I voted absentee through college. I researched candidates. I raised my nose at voting blindly by party lines. But, that was ...it. That was all I did. I care deeply about criminal justice reform. I care deeply about climate change. I care deeply about reproductive rights. But I took for granted that someone I voted for was “taking care” of all of that. And if they weren’t, well gosh darn it they’d better be shakin’ in their boots because I’ve got a yellow Scantron in my hand and I’m not afraid to use it! Then November 9, 2016 happened. We can no longer sit back and relax.

Voting is absolutely the start. It is a necessary condition to participating in and sustaining a democracy; but it is not sufficient. Sustaining our democracy will require the following:

  • Heavy involvement in local policy through grassroots activism and collective citizen action. (We are, in fact, #StrongerTogether.)
  • A reversal in the apathy directed towards down-ticket or down-ballot positions. (Our county recorder can and will make change, damn it!) 
  • Getting very, very familiar with the staffers at your Senators’ and Congresspeople’s district offices. (Remember: They work at the pleasure of the people.)

Consider contributing your time, talent, and treasure to existing organizations that play a role in the conversations you’re interested in. Check out your local Planned Parenthood chapter, your local Legal Aid Society, and nationwide organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or the NAACP - and get involved.

If you’re interested in getting the ear of your local Senator or Congressional Representative, heed the advice of a former congressional staffer: Get organized and, en masse, call their district office.2 This will also apply to state legislators. Find your state legislature’s website and identify your representative. You can also follow your state legislature’s activities by subscribing to digests from sites like Gongwer. This is an area where we can learn from each other, and learn together, so if you subscribe to other newsfeeds or digests, please share by leaving a comment below.

3. I WILL SPEAK MY MIND.

Donald Trump rose to popularity by “telling it like it is,” having zero regard for “political correctness,” with his tiny middle fingers raised real high.  And people ate. it. UP. His lack of professionalism and playground insults were viewed as … refreshing. ( :-| )

Meanwhile, hi, I’m the most chickenshit confrontation-avoidant lawyer you’ve ever met. But I’m taking a page from Trump’s playbook, and will be changing all of that. I was raised to be respectful, and I will continue to be respectful. But I will outwardly challenge positions that I find to be based in falsehoods or moral depravity. I will be vocal about my views - and not just in the echo chamber/trust tree I’ve created for myself on Facebook (which has it’s place - like in community organizing), but in real life too.  

Donald Trump does not speak my truth. That’s up to me. I’m going to rise to the challenge. I would love for you to join.