What Can I Do?

Donald Trump’s administration has quickly revealed its naiveté, ugliness, and disregard for common sense as many expected. Sadly, it seems doubtful that President Trump has learned anything from the mistakes he made during his first week in office.

Republican Senators, you can make a big difference: switch sides or become independent. It only takes a couple defections to mitigate this lunacy. What about the rest of us? What can we do? Doing nothing is a poor choice. It’s far better to get involved. Even if what you choose to do is not directly related to politics, that’s okay. Do something for your community. It may be volunteer work; do anything to make things better. Once involved, get to know leaders in your town or get to know people who know people. You don’t have to run for mayor. Simply influence others to be more accepting, like you are. Don’t be judgemental; instead, show people, by who you are and how you behave, that being against Trump’s proclamations is a rational, pragmatic, principled reaction.

I get e-mails, several times a day, from various groups asking me to sign electronic petitions. I don’t believe doing so is harmful, but these e-mail petitions are probably not effective for anything besides fundraising. Before giving these groups money, check them out. What do they actually do besides gathering signatures for petitions? Politicians know that there will always be opposition to government proposals. E-mail petitions just confirm this. Instead of signing the petitions, write directly to your Congressperson, mayor, commissioner, or school board chair. Make a phone call. Better yet, show up and speak out at a meeting. This shows you are serious and your vote is at stake. If enough people express their views directly, your representatives will notice.

I gave a bit of money to some presidential and senatorial candidates last year. I wish the money were spent on other things besides simply trying to win the elections. People who live in counties dominated by one party, like I do, have to do grass-roots organizing. We must do more than simply try to win elections. If you give money, look for groups you know are directly involved in the fight for human rights. I am a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. I haven’t always agreed with the positions it takes, but generally, the group is on the front lines of the battle, taking steps to ensure everyone is treated equally under the law. Join other groups that are effective. Spread the word; encourage people to join or help fund groups in your community that make a difference.

Marching may be effective, especially since Donald Trump seems to pay attention to his level of popularity. Peaceful marches that make the news are best. Violence distracts from the issues. A strong show of support for the oppressed can make decision-makers rethink their positions or modify their policies. Marches draw attention to issues that may otherwise be ignored.

I loved the humor we saw in the Women’s March on Washington. Humor can provide a means to begin a conversation about taboo topics. It can encourage people to watch a video they would not have watched otherwise. It can expose otherwise invisible contradictions. Humor personalizes the marchers holding the funny signs as well. The marchers, observers realize, are their next door neighbors, just like them, not radicals. Ridicule can be a powerful weapon too. The reaction to ridicule may be negative at first, but it forces people to think. Keep in mind that marches can’t be seen as the last step. We have to try to push forward and invite others along on the long journey. Trump wants to make America like it was thought to be by some privileged people in the 50s. We must make America become as it should be for everyone in the 2010s and beyond.

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