My Activism Buddy

I originally posted this on Facebook on November 19, 2016. I have made a couple of edits.

The past week I’ve had several conversations with people who are organizing resistance and concrete daily actions to take as we enter into this period of neo-fascism under Trump. These people are skilled with history and organizing movements, or currently doing lots of work to become skilled. It’s taken extra effort to use my free time to expand my network like this, I’ve had to push myself because what I really want to do is shut all this off and act like everything is normal.

I’ve been very glad to have had these conversations though because I’m learning how I can live my life differently. I’m going to keep sharing these conversations here because I think it’s urgent and important that we are all awake and paying attention.

Today I spent a few hours with a friend of mine, Stephanie, who I know from my four years in Cambodia because she lived there too. She and her family now live in Seattle and she is teaching me what it means to be an organizer. I consider her my “activism buddy” because she sends me links I must see or read and she holds me accountable to taking action and continuing to analyze the best way to be involved in our changing political landscape. Our conversation went like this:

She’s seeing three main channels of activism on social media right now: (1) Making phone calls to different leaders and their offices, (2) Donating to different non-profits doing great work and (3) Protesting in the streets.

While all of these are very important, they all encompass one concrete action that people can do, then follow by saying, “Okay I’ve done my part now I can move on with my normal life.” The problem with that is that activism under Trump must now mean changing our daily lives to be constantly acting and living in a way that sets us up to resist if and when really bad things come our way.

Infamous leaders from our history as humans have not swooped in with the scariest measure first, they’ve incrementally encroached on freedoms, so that each time they go a step further, the masses accept it because it’s been normalized. We are already seeing first signs that Trump may follow this same sort of path, just look at the way he’s treating the press, protesters and every marginalized group in our country. And, look at the way we’re already normalizing Trump after he’s said so many heinous things and pushed people into living in fear.

To stop nightmare scenarios from happening we must kick and scream every single time the Trump administration encroaches on a freedom of our neighbors or ours. I ask myself and I hope you ask yourself too, are you ready to kick and scream? How can you prepare yourself to do that and what will it look like? It’s important to ask right now because these next few weeks may be our free-est to have breathing room and really think. Once January 20 rolls around, we may need to be kicking and screaming, not just thinking about how we’re going to do it.

Some questions about hypothetical actions we considered in worst case scenarios: Will you help employees of Trump hotels find new jobs to help boycott? Will you marry someone if it means saving them from losing their home and life? Will you register as a Muslim even if you aren’t in fact a Muslim? Will you hide someone if they fear for their lives? How will you identify and know those people and what can we do now to get to know the marginalized of our neighborhoods? Will you set up a technology channel to facilitate any of the above or any other resistance?

We’re worried about the number of guns in our country and the lack of control over them. What happens when we have another terrorist attack? Does Trump use that moment to inspire “vigilante justice”? Does he use it to galvanize even more hate against certain communities? What if he instates a curfew that’s never lifted? Is that even possible and what do we do?

I know this sounds alarmist, and it sounds crazy to me to even be typing any of it, especially the word “fascist”, but we can only believe someone at their word and the words are worth believing because we’ve not seen anything to tell us he won’t follow through with his plans. We’ve only seen action to support that he will follow through, most notably the selections we’ve seen so far for key White House and cabinet positions.

Some immediate and easy steps we identified that can help all of us:

(1) Follow people you trust on Facebook and other social media. I’m now following Dan Rather, Shaun King, Black Girl Dangerous, New York Times and The Intercept (get a subscription to at least one real journalism publication).
(2) Make sure people of color and people from other marginalized communities within your social media networks are flagged to show up first in your newsfeeds. Their voices are of utmost importance to staying alert and keyed into moments when we need to kick and scream.
(3) Take time off work to sort through your thoughts and formulate a plan for action for yourself that fits your interests and skillsets. The friend I spoke with today and I are both taking days off in the coming weeks to make sure we’re all set. We’re planning to attend all meetings of our newly formed Neighborhood Action Coalition (NAC).
(4) Make time to reach out to members of your community who you don’t know yet, especially the most marginalized. Invite new people over for meals, and do it often.
(5) Make sure your passport is prepared for worst-case scenarios. Make sure it’s current and has more than two years left on it, same for your kids and loved ones—before January 20.
(6) Find alternative channels for community organizing like Slack or other social/technology channels.
(7) Identify people who are organizing near you and join the conversation now. We do not have time to waste.

I write all of this because I am interested in hearing from anyone else (anywhere in the world or other parts of the U.S., or right here in Seattle) who are interested in brainstorming day-to-day actions we can take. I’m interested in ways we can build a community structure in our immediate neighborhoods, and also in online communities, that can be put in motion to communicate and move as one powerful group if and when it’s time to kick and scream.

I would say I’ve now left the stage of shock and sadness, I’m now squarely in the anger stage. Let’s all be thinking and connecting because people outside our umbrella of privilege could use our ally-ship now and especially under Trump.

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