“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” —Assata Shakur
I admit, I’m terrified.
(Usually I write blogposts several days ahead of time and put them through several rounds of edits. This one I wrote and posted this morning, because even though I’ve been thinking about, and listening to others’ thoughts about, a Trump victory, I didn’t actually think it was going to happen.)
We don’t know what happens now. We don’t know if all our much-acclaimed checks and balances will keep the status quo of the country (already a totalitarian nightmare of police check points, deportations, stop and frisk, and mass incarceration for many of its inhabitants) intact. We do know that this nation elected an “unelectable” racist demagogue who quotes Mussolini, brags about sexually assaulting women, and isn’t even a very good businessman.
We also know that the Republicans control the house and senate. This isn’t unprecedented: George Bush, Jr. came into office with a republican majority congress as well. Which didn’t go so well for anyone, at home or abroad, though most of us survived it.
But, at least in rhetoric, Trump makes George Bush, Jr. look like a beacon of tolerance and love.
There are a lot of things that might happen. The status quo might lurch along, drifting towards the right. An emboldened white nationalist populism is likely to strike out against Muslims, immigrants, gender minorities, and visible members of the Left. Trump might fulfill his campaign promise to turn America into exactly the kind of country 400,000 Americans died stopping Germany from being in World War II.
Any or all of those things might happen. But political struggle does not begin at the ballot box, and it certainly doesn’t end there.
What do we do now?
That’s up to each of us, as individuals, small groups, and communities, to decide together. We need to be brave (it only counts as bravery if you’re also afraid) and we need to be prepared to act.
Some possibilities to consider, which may or may not appeal to you ethically/politically:
- Only leave the country if you feel like you need to. If you feel like you need to, don’t let anyone shame you for making that decision. But don’t leave the country “in protest.” Stay, in protest.
- Connect with others who share your marginalization. Tell each other you have one another’s backs. Have each other’s backs.
- Talk to co-workers, neighbors, and others who are marginalized in ways that you aren’t. Tell them you have their backs. Have their backs.
- Remember who your enemies are and aren’t. Avoid pointing fingers at one another. Point your fingers at your actual enemies. Remember that only something like a quarter of voting-age Americans actually voted for Trump. Remember that even many Trump voters will balk if Trump enacts authoritarian rule.
- Have uncomfortable conversations with people who supported Trump who consider themselves to not be bigots. But don’t let empathy blind you to actual ideological divisions, and don’t be afraid to see people as enemies if they are in the process of doing harm and cannot be reasoned with.
- If you are a pacifist, keep your commitment to nonviolent resistance focused on resistance to the greater source of violence (the state, the police, and the populist Right) rather than those engaging in community self-defense. If you’re a pacifist and you’re not committed to active resistance, then you’re doing pacifism wrong.
- Stop pretending like neoliberalism is a reasonable thing to advocate. Fight for what you actually believe in. (I believe in anarchism.)
- Fight rape culture. Stand up to its proponents in public and in private. Practice consent with one another. Organize with people to teach consent.
- Research the history of underground abortion access. Figure out how you would help provide abortion access in a country that denies it.
- If you make enough money to meet your basic needs, then financially support organizations to the best of your capacity. If you’re someone with a high income potential, consider maximizing that income and funneling the money directly to antiracist organizations, prisoner support projects, abortion providers, self-defense groups, and the like.
- Think about what your skills are. Think about what you’re good at. Figure out how to apply those skills to protest, organization, and other tangible means of resistance. Don’t be limited by what you see as your strengths. If you’re a writer, do more than write. But write too.
- Organize against the populist Right. Research the various white nationalist movements in your area. Counter their propaganda. Counter their organizing. Counter their demonstrations. Up In Arms is a free, book-length report on how to counter the Patriot movement. Portland’s Rose City Antifa offers resources for antifascist organizing.
- Make resistance to any rising fascism visible: organize demonstrations; pass out leaflets; hang posters in public places. Graffiti.
- Be prepared to put any privilege you have on the line. This means tangible things. If the government registers all the Muslims, and you’re not Muslim, consider registering as Muslim anyway. Interfere with street harassment of every sort. Do not be a bystander if the country slides further towards totalitarianism. Videotape the police. Refuse to comply with police orders and searches. Go to jail alongside people. Prevent people from being taken into custody if necessary.
- Connect with people who are already fighting against the existent nightmare. There is already a border wall. There are already armed militias policing our border. There are already deportations. There are people who have been organizing against this, and other atrocities perpetuated by the US government, for decades. Find those people. Learn from them. As humbly as you can, help them.
- Organize for community self-reliance in case things escalate. How would you take care of yourself and those around you if existent institutions no longer serve you (if they ever did)?
- Consider being ungovernable. If you say “Trump is not my president,” then what does that mean? What will it look like to disobey?
- Develop contingency plans for various emergencies. How would you escape the country? How would you help others escape the country? Where would you hide people in your house?
Maybe, hopefully, thinking about this kind of thing will look like an overreaction. But if Trump is as bad as he claims, then it’s better to be over-prepared than under.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
—The litany against fear, Frank Herbert
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
(Yes, I turn to sci-fi and fantasy for my courage)