Why Activists Need You in this Resistance

Now is the time for all of us to get involved in protecting democracy, in any large and small way we can. We need legions of people raising their voices. This must be the most widespread, urgent, collective effort we have ever seen in the United States.

One of the reasons it is imperative we all collectively mobilize NOW— even if you aren’t used to doing social justice work or activism or speaking up in your community— is because we need to create a climate where we can keep our activists and social justice writers, intellectuals, artists, and scientists out of jail and alive. We/you need these folks alive and doing their work of resistance because they are the ones prepared with the skills to understand violent, fascist, racist regimes. History tells us they are the first to be imprisoned because they pose such a threat to authoritarian governments.

Yesterday we already saw journalists covering the protests who were arrested and facing possible felonies and 10 years in prison. 8 states are proposing laws that would effectively criminalize protesting. Scientists yesterday started being banned from distributing information to the public on climate change. Humanities funding and National Public Radio funding are already being threatened. And the very countries we bombed, we are now about to disallow immigration from: these folks are in humanitarian crisis in part because of our imperial violence.

These are all very serious steps of our new fascist government, all in less than one week since inauguration. Fascism is here, and we all must take part in the fight.

I am asking you to mobilize and educate others in any way you can on what is happening to our dying democracy— organize in your places of worship, at mom’s groups, at your jobs, in your schools/classrooms, in your neighborhood, at your local coffee shops, in your barber shops, in your yoga studios. That collective, swift response is essential because it will help keep the leaders of the resistance here to lead us; because in effect, there will be too many resisting to imprison us. So, hone the networks and resources and skills you have access to. Take a deep breath and focus on your spheres of influence, even as you stay informed about the larger picture.

The reality is that once this government leads us into even more war, it’s going to be even harder to have any kind of due legal process. Our resistance leaders will just disappear. Please organize now in the ways you can, or this kind of violence will happen. I myself am under no illusions that as a writer under a fascist government I will come out of this ok; my own health would make it very hard to survive long term imprisonment like so many activists/writers have had to endure under authoritarian governments. Having white privilege and access to financial resources (because of friends/families with resources) gives me a significant level of safety, but I am also very aware of where my own vulnerabilities are with my specific health conditions/disability if I were put in prison down the road. Those of us publically resisting fascism are taking huge risks, and we need the collective support of all of you to protect our work and our lives.

When I see the resistance rising up yesterday happening in the national parks service, with the Scientists’ March on Washington, amongst Jewish-Muslim coalitions, in churches, I am hopeful we can also use that momentum to keep BLM and Standing Rock activists supported and alive. Understand that folks of color and indigenous peoples are already on the front lines. Our system is already set up to target and imprison them as business as usual. But also understand that fascism is going to come for all of us, if we don’t use every means possible to fight and to support the folks on the front lines. We don’t need to go forth with fear. But we do need to understand how fascism works and how imperative it is that we combine large and small efforts to create a ripple effect of resistance, and to keep our leaders supported, nourished, and alive.

7 Practical Step Takeaways:

  1. If you are white with a savings account, and you haven’t already found ways to financially support activists of color in your local community, please do so now. Recognize those activists are already exhausted; they have been in the fight, on the front lines, for years, day after day, and likely without their labor ever compensated. Do whatever you can to support them.
  2. Write a list of your spheres of influence. Where in your week do you see the same people? Who is your community? Do you know who in your neighborhood you can partner with in resistance efforts? Find your people.
  3. What are the skills you have to contribute to the movement. Examples: Can you take care of an activist’s children? Can you cook healthy food for someone on the front lines? Do you have extra spare bedrooms to give reduced rent to activists? If you are a doctor/nurse, can you start organizing amongst your fellow professionals to stand up for affordable health care, or even to provide free health care to those who will need it on the front lines of the movement? Do you have legal skills to help bail activists out of jail?
  4. If you are white, look at your bookshelf and see how many books by writers of colors you have on that bookshelf. Commit to 2017 being the year you read the work of writers of color. This other medium article I wrote has a reading list to get you started.
  5. Curate your Facebook page so you stay informed as to what activists are doing. Follow Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock organizations/activists. If you do this planning upfront for yourself, it will be easier in the long game to stay informed. We might not always have Facebook, but while we have it, let’s use it.
  6. Keep alive the flames of hope. Hope and imagination are necessary for all resistance work. In the brilliant words of Valarie Kuar: 
    “Yes Rabbi, the future is dark, on this watch night, I close my eyes and I see the darkness of my grandfather’s cell. And I can feel the spirit of ever rising optimism (in the Sikh tradition ‘Chardi Kala’) within him. So the mother in me asks, ‘What if? What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?…. What if this is our country’s great transition?” (Full 5-minute speech linked here.)
  7. Convert feelings of overwhelm into building coalitions with others. I know we are all overwhelmed. Fascism is moving fast. So many human rights at once being attacked. BUT, realize this is our moment of great collective resistance and coalition building. This is our moment to realize none of these injustices are isolated from one another, and we will need to unite to fight for a democracy and for a planet for our children. So, breath into the overwhelm (it is so real) but also try to convert it into the fuel of collaboration and synergy. We need one another desperately, and we have one another.
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