The weeks since the Trump inauguration have been frightening and devastating for progressives, to say the very least. After executive orders were passed to revive the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, ban the entrance of refugees from Muslim-majority nations, and direct funds toward the construction of a wall on the U.S./Mexico border, prospects of future American inclusion of marginalized groups seem dubious. As many of us feel outraged by these policies based in fear and hatred, we are left with one question: Where do we go from here?
The initial response by those in opposition to the Trump presidency has proven powerful and inspiring. The Women’s March on the day following the inauguration included an estimated 4.8 million impassioned people fighting for women’s rights, immigration reform, affordable healthcare, protection of the earth’s environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights, among other critical causes. The march sought to signify unity and opposition to Trump’s discriminatory and disastrous policy proposals.
Today, we are still in the midst of resistance and outcry against the actions of the new administration. While this movement has gained significant traction, it is most effective as a long-term pushback effort, rather than a short-lived period of anger. In the next four years, remind yourself every day that this is not normal: we must continue to fight.
Political indifference in our current situation is far more dangerous than hope – such indifference inspires inaction in the face of injustice, whereas hope elicits powerful political action. Those who remain complacent in times of adversity and exclusion are typically those unaffected by the resulting hardships, who often excuse their apathy in later decades with lines like “hindsight is 20/20.”
It will certainly feel very easy in these next four years to fall into the trap of “slacktivisim,” limiting your political involvement to sharing NowThis videos.
We must adamantly reject this attitude; instead, we should rely on our foresight to know what to expect and be able to respond with vigorous action. Movements can only be powerful when ordinary citizens recognize the frightening dangers and abuses while they are happening, rather than after the fact. We must not normalize Trump’s rhetoric or policies; we must instead ask ourselves every day what an equal and inclusive democracy would look like. At the same time, we must avoid hopelessly giving up and instead continue to fight for our values with passion and hope.
It will certainly feel very easy in these next four years to fall into the trap of “slacktivism,” limiting your political involvement to sharing NowThis videos on Facebook and signing online petitions. Unfortunately, the long term struggle for social justice will never be that easy. These actions are nice gestures but should never function as excuses to avoid more substantial activism.
Alternatively, one of the most effective ways to be heard is to call your senators and representatives, who get daily statistical reports of the most-called-about topics for that day. Republican callers typically outnumber Democrat callers 4 to 1, which has often pushed those in Congress toward the right, even in states as blue as Oregon.
Moreover, public demonstrations that urge political progress are the very cornerstone of our democracy. Even in our current authoritarian and borderline militaristic administration, public outcry from ordinary citizens has prompted change. For instance, in the wake of galvanized opposition to the immigration ban, courts ordered a partial stay of the ban for those with valid visas and ensured that green card holders could get back into the country, just before a district court froze Trump’s order entirely.
After the pushback against lack of transparency in essential environmental issues, the administration reinstated climate data on the EPA website. The American Civil Liberties Union raised $24 million over just one weekend, in comparison to their average $3 million to $4 million raised per year. The resistance to governmental abuse that we have already seen is compelling evidence that not all hope is lost.
Remember that together we are a majority: Just 26% of the American electorate voted for Trump, and Trump’s disapproval ratings exceeded fifty percent after a whopping eight days in office. If we further unify, we know the monumental difference that we can make.
Yet, in a sense, there is a certain amount of privilege associated with feeling hopeful. The past few weeks have ostracized certain communities that have been historically oppressed and powerless such as Native Americans, Muslims, and those suffering from chronic poverty.
These communities are certainly not hopeful; instead, they are living in fear and hopelessness as those in power continue to deny them of their basic human rights. Hope is not entirely realistic. If you feel demoralized by the chaos already induced by Trump’s presidency, know that you are experiencing a natural human response.
The most effective empowerment, instead, comes from the perspective that is somewhere in between unrealistically optimistic and fruitlessly defeatist. Hope and empathy are not two mutually exclusive concepts, but having one without the other is dangerous. In the next few years, the hope and empathy of seemingly ordinary people can and will make a change.
At times, fighting for your values may feel impossibly difficult. Remember that continuing the fight makes a difference on both a micro and macrocosmic level. Kindness and political advocacy can inspire those around you as well as support a larger-scale political movement that pushes for global progress.
By contributing to non-governmental organizations that fight for human rights (e.g., Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, International Refugee Assistance Project) if you have the resources, continuing to engage in educational discourse surrounding political action, or participating in public demonstrations against xenophobia and ignorance, you are a member of the movement.
If we give up, there is an indisputably guaranteed chance that our democracy will be in ruins and that nationalistic and militaristic rhetoric will prevail, allowing for discrimination of all kinds along with further commodification of the earth’s environment. However, if we continue to fight and unify against hatred, then we allow ourselves the momentous opportunity to progress together, laying the groundwork for a brighter future.