There is nothing normal about this. We live in a time school children of the future will learn about as a horrifying cautionary tale. They will wonder how this happened and they will ask: what did you do? And so, we ask ourselves, what will we do?
We must realize that trying to live normal lives while dealing with an immensely abnormal government will not serve us. We must accept a new normal for our lives that allows us to mount sustained action. In other words, welcome to the resistance. Your training begins now.
The initial phase of this struggle will last at least two years, until the next election (and given the line of succession defined in our constitution, there is no short cut). It may last longer, but for now, let’s think in terms of two years. Here are six things that will be required of us if we are to sustain ourselves.
First, sustained resistance will require you to be in the very best physical, mental, and spiritual condition available to you. Given the tremendous diversity of the human condition, it will be important for each of us to recognize our own limits and respect the limits of others. No one can do all the things. Everyone can do something. So prioritize your self-care: Sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Go to therapy. Take your meds. Pray, meditate, or walk in the woods. Make time for rest and relaxation. Nurture your relationships. Give yourself time (and permission) to experience delight and joy. The beauty and wonder of the world is threatened, not destroyed. Honor it.
If the challenges ahead are not to exhaust you, self-care must be a priority in your new normal.
Second, sustained resistance will require us to build partnerships and support one another. The threats and impending threats to immigrants, women, People of Color, the LGBTQ community, non-Christians, people living with disabilities, those needing health care, folks on the economic margins, and all of us who value science, the environment, our democracy, and basic civility have been well articulated elsewhere. They need not be repeated here. Rather than being overwhelmed by the list (which goes on and has many nuances), we can choose to see our work as a broad human rights struggle. Though our hearts may break for all these concerns, each of us will be called to certain areas of action. Our challenge is to do the work we are called to while also finding ways to support those working in others areas. Rather than working against each other, can we see the intersection of all oppressions and find ways to collaborate so that we are all stronger?
If the challenges ahead are not to destroy us, we must evolve new and effective ways to support one another across our causes.
Third, sustained resistance will require us to build the movement. We need all of us. If you are new to activism, great! Glad to have you! We need your energy and enthusiasm and fresh ideas. Remember that there are lots of folks who have been at this a long time. Be sure to honor their service and their hard won wisdom. Learn the history of what has happened in the past – both the good and the bad. If you are an ally be sure to listen to the needs of the community you wish to support, lest your well intentioned actions have harmful unintended consequences. Historically marginalized communities have important perspectives and insights that must be heard and respected.
If the challenges ahead are to make us stronger, we must build on lessons learned and take our lead from those most impacted.
Fourth, sustained resistance will require us to be fearless in the face of an authoritarian regime. There will be risks, real risks, and there will be losses, real losses. Bad things, terrible things, will happen. When they do, we will mourn. And then we will fight on. We will do things we have never done before. We will do them more often. We will each decide what risk we can take in each situation understanding that those with more societal privilege can often engage with less risk. Don’t take privilege for granted. Use it for good.
If the challenges ahead are to be met, we must keep moving forward, not just in spite of the fear, but because of it.
Fifth, sustained resistance will require us to build the movement. (Has that been mentioned?) We need to make room for new activists. We need not waste time condemning them for not coming to the party sooner. We have the opportunity to nurture them into stronger allies. More and more people of conscience and compassion are feeling compelled to get active in ways they have not before. Over time, more will join in. If we hold a vision of unity, then we must hold out possibility that anyone could choose to join the struggle for a peaceful, just, and sustainable world. Without being foolish, we are served by keeping our hearts and minds open to the possibility of transformation in others.
If the challenges ahead are to be met by ever larger numbers, we must keep making room for all those who would join the struggle.
Finally, sustained resistance will require community building and relationships. We must connect and build a dense web of interconnections. Meet people. New people. Different people. Listen to them. Keep learning. Respect differences of passion, skill, experience, perspective, and engagement. Support one another. Be humble. Know that until the tide turns, the building of communities of resistance is the win.
If the challenges ahead are to give way to the future we dream of, we need one another.
We must never normalize what we are currently seeing in our nation’s capital. We must normalize a way of life that will sustain a bold and vibrant resistance.