Every day since the Inauguration, I've woken up with a renewed sense of dread - what bad news will greet me and the rest of the world today?
It's difficult to not feel demoralized after reading countless articles and headlines discussing the fuckery of this administration - the unabashed lying, the rumors of party infighting, the ill-crafted policies, the woeful ineptitude of the inexperienced and the power hungry leading our country - it's been only 2 weeks into the new administration and this barely scratches the surface of it.
For a brief period of time I couldn't bring myself to read the news, and I found myself growing increasingly resentful towards what I perceived to be the source of these issues - if only Trump voters weren't so uneducated and ignorant, if only self-righteous progressives didn't waste their votes on third-party candidates, if only the media hadn't spent several decades questioning and undermining Hillary Clinton's accomplishments, if only, if only.
Eventually I realized that I was only assigning blame because it was easier to wrap my head around than the prospect of battling an unqualified leader and corrupt government that appears at risk of turning into a dictatorship. I'm just one person. What can I do? And while it's tempting to bury my head in the sand for the next 4 years, blame and willful ignorance doesn't serve me, nor does it serve the country.
The Atlantic recently published an interesting and terrifying piece that looks at what forces could lead to an autocracy under Donald Trump, including citizen apathy - it's a long read, but it's balanced, intelligent and thoughtful and without the sensationalist fear mongering that I've seen in similar articles. I highly recommend it.
I also wanted to share some of the things I've been doing recently to combat my post-Inauguration blues, in case it's helpful for anyone else that's been feeling similarly overwhelmed.
Find your elected officials and contact them to voice your support or opposition to issues you care about.
Former Congressional staffers have shared great advice on how to make your voice heard - Emily Ellsworth shared tips and insight on how to effectively talk to your member of Congress, including attending town halls, calling their state offices, sending letters, etc. Mark Jahnke also shared a really useful FB post on how to make your calls to Congress quick and effective.
Last week one of my good friends organized a call-a-thon where we left voicemails for our Senators and House Representatives on 7 key issues, including Steve Bannon's appointment to the National Security Council, the Muslim Ban, the wall, and more. My friend prepared scripts for each issue, and when we encountered full mailboxes for our reps' DC lines, we called each of their state office lines until we found mailboxes that weren't full.
Collectively we made over 100 calls that night, and the next day, we were pleased to see Senator Kamala Harris tweet this:
Click here to find your elected officials.
Learn about your local state and city council representatives and get involved in local elections.
I've never voted in a city or county election before, and I honestly couldn't name a single person I know that has. But there's an election coming up on March 7 in LA and you better fucking believe I will be there. Voter turnout in local elections tends to be low and skew older and more conservative, so to make a difference at the national level, we have to start getting engaged in local elections and voting for people and policies that align with our values.
Try to follow news sources without bias.
After the election I think it became clear to a lot of liberals that we were living in media bubbles not unlike the ones enjoyed by viewers of Fox News. While many media outlets do tend to lean left, I've stopped following a lot of far left /progressive news sources and reporters (i.e. Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Shaun King, etc.) and stopped watching clips from John Oliver and Trevor Noah, because I realized that constantly feeling liberal outrage and superiority was counter productive and, again, not unlike the conservative outrage stoked by Fox News. Forbes recently published a good list of journalism brands to follow for fact-based reporting, and I've used tools like AllSides to find news sources that are a little more centered.
While I was bored during my funemployment, I decided to look up volunteering opportunities and volunteered at L.A. Kitchen for a few weeks. It was a really awesome, uplifting experience, and since then I've been determined to set aside more time in my life to volunteer - I'm currently waiting to start volunteering with 826LA, a literacy non-profit dedicated to supporting students with their creative and expository writing skills. Finding a cause to support and volunteering is a great way to battle feelings of futility - click here to find volunteer opportunities near you.
Donate to organizations whose missions you support.
I'm technically still jobless so I haven't been able to do this yet, but once I have a steady income again, I'm planning on setting up a monthly donation to ACLU and Planned Parenthood because they're two organizations whose missions I strongly believe in and support. Jezebel also posted a great round-up of pro-women, pro-earth and pro-immigrant organizations to donate to if you need some extra inspiration.
Understand that changing minds takes time and patience.
I personally have never had my opinion swayed by someone yelling in my face or belittling me, and because that's what you'll often find in the comments sections of Facebook posts or news articles, I usually try to avoid them. Productive, intelligent political discourse rarely happens on social media, and because of this, I think bridging the cultural divide in America can often seem like an insurmountable task. For those that feel that way, some recommended reading:
- The New York Times published an article last year on how to change voters' minds - spoiler alert, you have to talk to people 1-on-1 in a respectful manner
- The Atlantic recently published an article on how you can persuade conservatives to support certain issues by "morally reframing" them, using language and values that align to their ethical code
These are just a few of the ways I've been dealing with my own demoralization and depression, but if you feel the need to take even more action, check out the Resistance Toolkit for more inspiration and advice.
I strongly believe that the only way we can combat the adverse effects of this administration is to stay informed, stay vigilant, and stay engaged in ways that both foster open dialogue and avoid the trap of "othering." I have no doubt that the next four years will continue to get worse before they get better, but, with any luck, I have hope that the recent spate of political activism and non-violent protest will galvanize more people to show up and stay engaged.