Confessions of an Uneasy Activist

It’s been two months since the election and the feeling of shock and revulsion has not worn off, for better or for worse. For better because I want to maintain this feeling and, with it, the sense of urgency that propels me to act against the impending doom of alt-right America. For worse because…alt-right America.

That is the terrifying specter that stays on my mind and convinces me not to drift back to my normal way of being.

 As a feminist, one of my goals is to resist agents of oppression whenever possible, and that’s exactly what I believe the GOP and the Trump administration are. That’s what motivates me to do what I can to minimize the damage they will undoubtedly wreak upon women, people of color, the poor, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, the environment, and so on.

When I was 13, I was captivated by a romanticized notion of the anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights Movements. I devoured books and movies on the era, I idolized the activists, and I self-interestedly lamented that my generation would never experience what they had. I didn’t understand the full reality: that inequity and injustice hadn’t gone anywhere and that a fight was still crucial. This election has simply highlighted that truth for me, and the past few weeks have been one gut punch after the other. We’re currently up against a proposed administration of torture enthusiasts, racists, and anti-choice zealots who threaten not only civil liberties but also the legitimacy and constitutionality of our democracy. All of this is predictable, yes, but alarming and unacceptable nonetheless.

I was optimistic about the might of the opposition this past weekend as I voted for local Democratic Party Delegates who will become voting members of the party. While this election has brought a lot of ugliness to the surface, it has also inspired many; nearly 800 people turned out who don’t usually vote for delegates in my district alone.

The whole venue was humming with excited people, and we all (I assume) walked away feeling proud and pleased with our community, and ourselves, for giving a shit.

I drove away smiling and enjoying the beautiful Southern California sun, ready to resume my day…until a huge Trump-Pence billboard crossed my vision, looming above me on the street. In Southern California. Just another reminder against complacency.

There is no shortage of those reminders that there is always more that can be done. Despite revering activists, their tactics often fall outside of my comfort zone, and I find myself so overcome by how much needs to be done that I forgo doing what I can. Thankfully, incredible people and groups have created resources and tools to help us ease into action. Below are some of my favorite resources that make political activism easy and manageable, giving me one less excuse to do what I know I have to.

  • Pathways to Activism flowchart (courtesy of Dr. Peter Levine at Tufts University). The first step is deciding where you will focus your time and energy; both are finite, so concentrate on an issue and solution that you are particularly invested in and driven by.
  • Daily Grab Back website provides a new call to action or resource on their site every day. Each action is focused on promoting progressive causes or resisting right-wing tomfoolery, and each takes as little as 5 minutes to complete.
  • The Injustice Boycott, modeled on the Montgomery Bus Boycott, seeks to end police brutality by exerting organized pressure on cities and businesses. Sign up now to begin receiving daily emails with easy-to-do action items.
  • Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda is a comprehensive guide to grassroots organizing and working with elected representatives to oppose right-wing extremism. This is a great tool for anyone who wants to work within the established system to enact change.
  • Daily Action Alerts provide information on an urgent issue via text and even routes you directly to your elected representative to speak out. Text “DAILY” to 228466 to sign up.
  • The Women’s March on Washington (or a sister march in a city near you!) is coming up on Saturday, January 21st. Many cities will also host activism workshops following the march, a great opportunity to get looped into local activist networks.
  • And finally, just for fun: Make America Kittens Again, the Chrome extension that replaces photos of Trump with photos of adorable kittens. That picture at the top of the page? All I see is a pretty tabby.

Put the glasses on! Put 'em on!

Online feminist communities have been major influences on me in my understanding of feminism, intersectionality, and the world in general, and I consider them extremely valuable. The areas of the internet I frequent often find a way of answering questions I am too afraid to ask out loud, and many I don’t even know to ask, and they continually expose me to new ideas and ways of thinking that I really think make me a better person overall.

With that said: writing introspectively and positively, even about something I care about, is pretty intolerable right now. I have dealt with grief, depression, mental illness, and yet I am unaccustomed to the kind of heartbreak that came with this election and its aftermath.

I realize how lucky that makes me in some respects.I have not had to handle real pain. It also makes me incredibly naïve. I had a lot of emotional weight riding on Hillary and on the assumed triumph of good over evil, but this loss is only one portion of the emotional pain. The pain is coming from the horror at this outright rejection of feminism, and multiculturalism, and of the most basic levels of humanity. More importantly, it’s painful that I really didn’t see this coming.

As time goes on, I’ll use this platform to talk about social issues and happenings as they related to gender, sexuality, poverty, and race – and I think there will be plenty to say as things progress. 

Talking about the intersection of all of the issues, and horrors, and real life situations we’re dealing with is important in this new territory. For now, I’ll start the conversation with some thoughts on our brave new world.

A lot of people know and probably won’t soon forget the feeling upon waking up after Election Day. I felt like I had taken too many sleeping pills and had woken up anyway, against all odds, too heavy and despondent to enter the world but without the basic will to sleep. Later, when I decided to venture outside, it felt like a foreign place. I’ve heard so many versions of this from friends and strangers I’ve spoken to since. For all the division we keep hearing about, it seems like a lot of people are experiencing the exact same thing.

I’ll borrow the perfect analogue from Jenna Wortham on the Nov. 10th episode of the Still Processing podcast (highly recommended): walking around that day was like a scene from John Carpenter's They Live, when the characters put on sunglasses and suddenly see that half the “people” around them are actually alien monsters. The only difference is that, in our reality, there is no way to differentiate between the monsters and the decent folks.

It still feels like I’m wearing those glasses, walking around in a world that looks generally the same but is somehow, almost imperceptibly, off.

A lot of people are recognizing that strangeness, looking around and wondering who is safe. As a white, able-bodied woman living in Southern California, I am not in any real danger regardless of who is around me.

Sadly, people can’t tell if I’m a monster, either.