Like so many who believe the election of Donald Trump to be dangerous and harmful I have been going through the various stages of grief coupled with a lot of worry and fear.
As a life-long environmental and social activist it’s easy to focus on the pain. The specter of increased assault on our Earth hurts, a lot. So does the ramped up trampling of Native American rights in pursuit of even more fossil fuel. And the incredible discrimination against Muslims, Mexicans and others.
The Eco-warrior in me wants to fight, to hit back. But the Spiritual-warrior cautions.
It is so common for activist movements to take up the language, rhetoric and tone of war. And yet rarely, in either left leaning or right leaning causes, has that really worked. Just consider the War on Poverty, War on Drugs, War on Terrorism. How are any of those battlefields working for us?
Just consider, Trump’s “War on the Media” is currently actually increasing ratings for cable news networks! I know I am watching more of the dubious stuff as I try to keep up with developments and refuse to be informed solely by the Twitterin’ Chief. Although given what I learned first hand about the dishonesty, intentional or otherwise, put forward in sensationalist “Breaking News” I won’t allow myself to get sucked in (even though it can be tempting!).
These are definitely serious times that demand serious responses. Part of that will certainly be standing up to misguided, dangerous and just plain ugly behavior and rhetoric. But while I think standing against is important, it’s also essential we make the firm commitment and do the work to stand for something better.
Recently I posted a response from an Iranian friend of mine when I reached out to tell him I was thinking of him in the hours after the Muslim travel ban. His words really moved me (still do). I share them again here because I think they express both resistance and standing for.
Here is some of what he wrote:
“Our new President has become our teacher, perhaps not the kind we sought or were waiting for but nevertheless he is teaching us with every action he has taken and every order he signed in the past week. He is teaching us we need to be more engaged and involved if we want our country to live up to its constitution and to our core values; that fearmongering works and discrimination and racism is well and alive; that a democracy can only be democratic if its citizenry is engaged and informed; that you can completely derail an established system of government by misinformation and alternative facts.
We have also shown that we are excellent students and learn quickly. We demonstrated that people power overcomes hatred and bigotry; that there are so many people in this country who care enough to come together to have their voices heard and support those who are suffering; that hundreds of attorneys have set up shop across the country in numerous airports and are offering their services pro bono to those in need; that love and compassion are greater than any executive order and humanity cannot survive without them. ……..
While we go through the harsh winter of this political season, we also know that spring will come sooner or later. We’ll work together to plow the snow off the streets and sidewalks so we can still move and function even in the midst of winter.”
I know that putting more violence and hatred into the world will not achieve the peace and healing we activists want. Our resistance movement has an opportunity to lead our country through this learning moment in a way that increases kindness, compassion and healing. To do so, the focus must be on evolving and elevating ourselves, our neighbors, our culture rather than tearing down the other.
One thing that will help us have the spiritual discipline to stand up while staying above the ugliness is to celebrate successes every chance we get. It is so easy to get overwhelmed and depressed by always focusing on the problems we’re tackling and the never-ending work to be done. But this only disempowers us.
I was recently blown away when I took a look at all the successes the resistance movement has had in recent weeks.
- First was the incredible, unprecedented mobilization for peace that we saw in the Women’s marches all across the country and world. It was the largest civil action in U.S. history!
- This is mow mushrooming into an unprecedented level of progressive action movements including Indivisible, Pussy Hat Movement, Movement Match and Movement2017 among others.
- People standing up for Veterans forced the Trump Administration to back off a hiring freeze on open federal positions at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
- People standing up for justice and fairness sent the American Civil Liberties Union a record-breaking $24 million in one weekend to support ACLU efforts.
- People standing up for environmental protection and climate action forced Trump to back down on his plan to scrub all climate change information from the Environmental Protection Agency website. Climate change information is once again posted on the site.
- The GrabYourWallet campaign to boycott companies selling Trump products is gaining steam. Nordstrom’s, Neiman Marcus, Shoes.com are just some of the companies that dropped Trump brands.
- Other companies are providing powerful leadership. Kellogg’s stopped advertising with Breitbart News, and Lyft pledged $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years.
- And then there’s the tremendous victory in halting Trump’s Muslim ban. First Microsoft, Amazon and Expedia took the ban to court. Then, last week a federal judge in Washington State temporarily blocked the ban and just yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that block by a bi-partisan unanimous vote.
Powerful stuff! In order to build momentum for ongoing, effective action we will need to celebrate successes. We will also need to take care of ourselves and one another. I recently heard Marianne Williamson address a crowd of regular meditators about how they can take action during these challenging times. She said, “Even people who sit must stand!” I loved it! And yet, it got me thinking about how many activists don’t take very good care of themselves. So I am flipping it and saying those of us who stand must also sit sometimes!
In order to stay healthy and keep our Resiliency Muscles strong we will need to find quiet time and rest. We will need to play and laugh. If you’re one of those who feel such things aren’t productive I’d urge you to reconsider. Burn-out and depression are occupational hazards for committed activists young and old. And right now we just can’t have that! Take care of your inner environment so that you can do your very best work on behalf of our outer environment.
So here’s to you activists. And to the long haul, the arc toward justice and a long, prolonged, multi-hued and faceted victory march.
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