Like many of you, I’m shocked, depressed, and mad as hell about the election of Donald J. Trump. In fact, to keep myself from spewing hateful vitriol on the subject, I sat in the lotus position for several days before writing this essay. It’s important to take time to grieve, cry and regroup. I also screamed into a pillow for awhile.
There is, of course, plenty of blame to go around for the mega-mess we’ve gotten ourselves into: Uneducated, white, blue-collar workers went with fear and their baser instincts to swing many States. Many overly-educated millennials pouted and sat out when Bernie busted. Bafflingly ignorant third party candidates somehow siphoned (and earned) crucial progressive votes. A significant number of Latinos (30%) and white women (53%) voted for a candidate who didn’t even try to hide his sexist, misogynistic, racist views. Privileged white men (like myself) – desperately trying to hold onto their status in an ever-changing melting pot – are also clearly to blame. Sec. Clinton didn’t do herself any favors with a litany of blunders that eroded trust and caused “an enthusiasm gap” … whatever the hell that means. And worst of all, nearly 47% of all eligible voters didn’t even bother to ring in (and now should remain silent about the president-elect).
While Democratic Party operatives will need to adopt new strategies and policies to be successful in the future (besides giving away free college tuition), I’m far more interested in the IMMEDIATE steps that can be taken to get my mind off the sad fact our divided nation just elected a bullying blowhard to the World’s Most Important Job. Despite the (non-majority) election of Trump, we can still engage in the issues that made us support the democratic ticket in the first place: an interest in women’s and minority rights, veteran’s care, closing the gap between rich and poor, and helping to respect and protect our neighbors – regardless of religion, race or sexual orientation. The potential for doing good doesn’t stop just because a jack-ass now runs the cluster-fuck that is D.C.
While I respect those who have recently taken to the streets in non-violent protests of the election (as a Greenpeace and anti-apartheid activist from U.C. Berkeley – I’ve done my time being inappropriately maced and chained to giant redwoods), I’m now a more practical fellow. Don’t get me wrong – marching, holding vigils and direct action are important, effective tactics in bringing about awareness and societal change; nevertheless, at this point in time I’m looking to put my energy into more specific, organized and concrete agenda items.
Fact is, most of the vital issues in our lives play out at the local level.
While bloated governmental projects take up most the news cycle (and our tax dollars) – equally important issues are right at hand. And while I won’t solve racial tensions between our African-American community and law enforcement officers by my lonesome, each of us – regardless of race – can participate in diversity workshops, join the historic NAACP, attend inter-faith and multi-cultural gatherings, even make introductions with local cops and organize a Ride-Along. On the environmental front, while I may not halt climate change alone, I can take the time to gather signatures for a Save the Bees petition, contribute to one (or a dozen) of the inspiring environmental organizations battling on our behalf (i.e. Pollinator Partnership, go solar, eliminate the use of pesticides at home, buy organic fruits and veggies, grow a pea patch at the school. Adopt a bee farm!
I’m not naive – there are real problems that have been unearthed in the recent election that won’t solely be solved by boycotting Monsanto, wearing a safety pin, or drinking fair trade java. Systemic racism must be acknowledged and addressed in institutions, Global Warming requires immediate and difficult steps, we must reign in our foreign wars which wreak havoc (and eat up a majority of our tax dollars), we must broaden the two-party system and overthrow Citizens United, and we must reinvent and innovate in a World economy that’s shifting and eliminating American jobs, causing a massive gap between rich and poor. Individuals smarter than me will need to address those large scale conundrums and propose solutions to act upon. I’ll remain informed, active and vigilant on these tectonic fronts, but am drawn to solutions within my grasp: What is right in front of me? What can I do in my immediate reach? What will I lend a hand to? Whom can I touch? How will I personally begin to bridge the many divides?
The most powerful way to move the needle in the right direction is to take a single step. To find a group or cause or like-minded flash mob and begin collaborating for positive change. Below is what I’ll calling The Liberal-Listicle (aka The Trumpsickle). A vetted and broad-based list of grassroots organizations doing incredible work on behalf of the progressive movement – now more in need of assistance and support that ever. Get involved with Common Cause. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Drag your kids to the food bank. Hold a fundraiser for MusicCares at your house with wine and weed and some indie-rock band you always wanted to meet. Or create an organization or event of your own design. Hell, one lady decided to travel the planet giving out hugs to whomever she meets—-and the “Hugging Saint” is now single-handedly fighting hatred and xenophobia via her embracing vision. Perhaps kissing is more your thing…but don’t give it lip service—pucker up!
The Liberal Listicle:
The Veterans Assistance Program puts you in touch with veterans in your town who could use some help – with simple errands, taking them to appointments, house and yardwork, or playing chess!
Moms Rising is an innovative grassroots and on-line group over a a million strong (with over 1000 bloggers) that works to end discrimination against women and mothers and create health care for all.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been kicking ass for almost 100 years now, defending individual rights and liberties. If ya don’t think we’re gonna need some folks working to protect our personal liberties (read Free Speech, immigrants rights, LGBT rights, etc.) during the Trump administration, ya need to get another triple espresso in your system and snap out of it!
350.org creates and supports a wide range of local and international campaigns and projects to combat climate change. Here in the States, for example, groups are getting public institutions to divest from the fossil fuel industry, as well as putting a halt to the Keystone pipeline.
Religions for Peace. Eighty percent of people identify with a particular religion – and Religions for Peace works with all faith communities to solve local and global problems in 90 countries on five continents. Respecting differences…there’s a thought!
Planned Parenthood. You know who they are. And you know they’re wonderful. They also have a million ways to get involved.
Wanna get the hell outta this country? You can help overseas! Join The Peace Corps.
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) works to achieve LGBTQ equality through changing hearts and minds, as well as laws – to make sure individuals are safe from workplace discrimination. People can get involved through over 400 chapters across the country.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence works with religious groups, health professionals and child-welfare advocates on sensible laws that keep communities free from gun violence.
The Prison Industrial Complex, sadly, is alive and well. Thankfully, organizations like The Innocent Network are attempting to reform criminal justice. Plenty of places to plug into the network – even if you’re not a lawyer.
Music Cares provides health care and other critical assistance to the music community in times of need. (In addition, you can buy music, attend local shows, and toss a fiver in a hat when you’re impressed by a busker.)
Greenpeace isn’t a cliche, they’re a vibrant organization hosting events and educational forums where activists can meet, collaborate and get involved at all levels. And yes, that means if you really want to get in one of those rubber Zodiaks and run interference between a whale and a harpoon boat – you can do it!
The United Cerebral Palsy Organization provides support services for people with a spectrum of disabilities and works to advance productivity and life without limits for millions.
Maybe ya wanna legalize marijuana in your State. Do that.
The Red Cross doesn’t just want your blood every time there’s a mega-disaster. They would be happy to have you comforting the aged, teaching others how to prepare for emergencies, or help a displaced family in your own town.
Local homeless shelters and food banks are a wonderful way to engage in real change. Many of our most needy are veterans, children, and mentally ill. In addition to acknowledging and showing respect to homeless men and women, you can provide food, clothing, even gift certificates (who doesn’t want a Starbucks card?)
Nothing you like so far on the list? Here’s 500 More!
So onward, resilient peeps! Continue to channel your anger and anxiety about the very real Orange Menace – into vibrant activism. Plant your foot firmly on common and sensible ground, and begin engaging in steps to combat hate and divisiveness, and better our communities. There’s much to be done! The experience will not only build an unbreakable framework for our future, it will most definitely make you feel better.
Michael A. Stusser is a Seattle-based journalist, hosts Higher Ground TV (www.highergroundtv.com), and writes on Digital Madness for GMP.
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