Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How to Respond to this Election - Part I "Everyday Activism"

The results of the 2016 election of Donald Trump had been affecting me for over a week before I found a way to articulate my sentiments about it. “Found a way” is incorrect; my emotions, one day, spilled out of me in a torrent of words that rushed like a river ice-floe. Along with many others in this country, I had been alternating between grief and helplessness, between anger and resentment, between despair and hope for seven days and then, finally, I spoke.

Though it was just to my partner Ben, alone in the car, what a relief it was to say:

“I’m despondent to live in a country who has elected a leader that, despite his feeble arguments to the contrary, has indicated that misogyny and sexual assault of women are more than OK with him. I’m terrified that my beloved compatriots from marginalized racial and ethnic groups can now be openly discriminated against and that all our efforts to reform police racism and ethnocentrism may be slowed. I'm sad that queer people might soon struggle to see same-sex partners in the hospital. I'm anxious for the future of our environment. And . . .” There were tears in my eyes now, “Last Tuesday I woke up believing that a woman could ascend to the highest position of power in this county. On Wednesday, I found, to my disbelief, that she can’t. Not yet. And perhaps she never will in my lifetime. I feel like women will be second-class citizens for much longer than I expected.”

I couldn't believe my own words, but there they were sitting between us as we speed around the curve of the 101 North into the Mission district of San Francisco. When we got to the Mission, I looked around at the brilliant multi-faceted community of that neighborhood. I thought of all the aspects of humanity that I love there. My thoughts went something like:

LGBTQIA folks of the Mission remind me that love and relationships can reach beyond prosaic boundaries. Thinking about them, I hear the opinions of Trump nominees like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions echoing around my head. Rich cultural traditions bring amazing art, food, spirituality, and diverse thinking to the Mission. My stomach turns when I think of the sheer panic that many immigrants will now live in. The variety of race, skin tone, ethnicity, and background in collaboration makes the Mission a space of kinship and appreciation across differing experience. I am filled with anguish about the highly racist environment our president-elect seems to be vivifying. According to recent scholarship, American Latinas (the Mission is a highly Latino and Chicano community) have "rapidly surfaced as prominent contributors to the educational, economic, and cultural wellbeing of not only their own ethnicity, but of American society and the consumer marketplace." Despite the dynamic, impressive contributions that Latinas make to my world every day, all I can think of is how to respond to the devastation those women must feel.

Ben and I sat at dinner in sullen silence that night in the Mission, depressed about our nation.We'd chosen a lovely little restaurant to eat at, but we could only stare out at the vibrant neighborhood that we love, which suddenly felt under siege.

Over the next few days, I had the luck to be researching for a Mediation paper. The research largely focused on the work-arounds, negotiations, and maneuvers women have used to navigate the age-old imbalance of power in a "man's world". In my research, I discovered Professor James C. Scott, a political scientist who argues that everyday forms of resistance "are an integral part of the small arsenal of relatively powerless groups." He gives examples such as "foot-dragging, dissimulations, false compliance, feigned ignorance, desertion" and more that can act as potent negotiating tactics for those out of power.

I loved this idea! While I cannot deny Donald Trump's impending presidency because it's happening whether I like it or not, suddenly, I realized I could respond to it. I could respect our government, but at the same time, I could find my own "everyday forms of resistance" in keeping with a long female tradition of doing so. I was heartened to see that Jill Filipovic in Esquire, Matt Taylor in Vice, Jaya Saxena in the Daily Dot, and staff at Seattle's The Stranger have all been publishing hope along similar lines.

So, I intend to use this blog post and my subsequent post to recommend some ways that those of us who feel powerless, who feel overwhelmed --who believe in our government, but not in the hatred and small-mindedness that it seems to be sanctioning-- can react and respond.

Part I "Everyday Activism"

Here is a small list of the #smallacts that have gained traction. Perhaps our small acts can make meaningful, loving, large ripples.

1. Consider donating to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence's name, as 50,000 people have done.
2. Learn how to talk to children about hate speech, as this new Equal Justice Society guide recommends.
3. If you live in California, consider volunteering/being an ally at one of the UC's AB540 offices, such as the Undocumented Student Center here at UC Davis.
4. Contact your senators to oppose Trump nominations and appointments of people who have disgraceful civil rights records (for example).
5. Support mayors who intend to keep their cities Sanctuary Cities.
6. Keep apprised of Trump's intention to scale back environmental regulation, and perhaps volunteer with orgs like the American Lung Association to raise awareness about clean air.
7. Remember that women all over the world are being oppressed, and may struggle with much greater persecution than people of female gender here in the US. Consider supporting women's rights in Rwanda, in Nigeria, in Bangladesh, and all over the world.

These are just small things, but they have helped me keep my chin up. I hope they help you too.

Stay tuned for Part II "Get Legal" !


Louise Trainor said...

Wow Kyle-Kate, what an artistic portrayal of your emotional roller coaster which followed the election result. This post, above all others, is one which many American women can connect with on a personal level.
I myself, found it extremely difficult to accept the outcome which greeted me in the headlines that bleak Wednesday morning. I shared similar pangs of disappointment and depression. I even felt somewhat betrayed by the result, despite the voters being persons of a different nationality.
However, I did not experience the extent of your emotional turmoil in the weeks that followed. I had the sanctuary of knowing that I will soon be returning to Ireland, the place where I hope to establish my future career and raise a family. I found comfort in knowing that my current Government is one in which I have confidence and trust. Nonetheless, this post struck a chord with me. I too visited the beautiful Mission District during my stay in San Francisco. I was enthralled by the alternative Latino-vibes and was absorbed by the colourful artwork.
Your seven tips for "everyday activism" make for an uplifting conclusion. I particularly enjoyed your final one alluding to women all over the world. America needs more optimism like this. Kyle-Kate for president 2020 (lol!)

Josie Zimmermann said...

Thank you so much for this list. I've been struggling since the election to find ways to respond and show my opposition to horrendous policies, while also being "above reproach" so to speak. While I do believe in the right to protest and the need for big action, these small actions are much more in line with how I operate. My life is still full of people who I love and care about, but who do not have the same political (and arguably ethical) beliefs as me. These small forms of activism are perfect since they are working from within the system. I can still say I support my country and my government while partaking in these actions.

Earnest Femingway said...

Kyle-Kate, thank you for this post. I really identify with your personal post election experience, though maybe I did not handle it so gracefully (*furiously deletes twilight hour tweets*). I took to looking for action quickly as well, not just out of a desire to help others but to help myself. I had to realize I would be of no good if I did not graduate law school and pass the bar. It is so important to stay up to date, take actions when you can, and support others who are taking on a larger responsibility. From confronting misguided family members, to donating to Foster Campbell's Louisiana senate election (still time to donate, the run-off is in a week: http://www.fostercampbell2016.com/), just doing SOMETHING has helped me regain some sanity.