Finding Your Role in the Resistance
I just watched Melissa McCarthy nail her parody of Sean Spicer in the Saturday Night Live skit that aired last night. Spicer is the White House Communications Director for the Trump Administration. McCarthy was, as always, a master of comedic performance, taking down Spicer with a complete physical transformation and tangible rage.
It was perfect.
Just as Alec Baldwin has given America a comedic take on and break from the most frightening administration much of America has ever seen, McCarthy seems utterly suited for her role.
But what’s yours? Or mine, for that matter?
Here in this new America, where hate, propaganda, and fear seem to guide our governing body, there is no shortage of problems. There is literally something we need to be fighting against every day.
And if there is one good thing to take away from the presidency of Donald Trump, it’s this: people are getting involved.
In the past two weeks, I’ve called more senators and congressman, met with more local groups, and made more donations than I have in my entire life. And I’m not alone. It is, thankfully, happening everywhere. People, myself included, have woken up. We have a massive problem on our hands and it seems we are taking action in an almost unprecedented way.
Not unprecedented because we are taking action — certainly Civil Rights and Women’s Suffrage activists made leaps and bounds with their legendary work — but with the scope of the action. We’re not taking action on behalf of civil rights, or women’s rights, or immigrant’s rights or LBGTQ rights or student rights or any of the other rights currently being threatened by this administration. We are taking action on ALL of these rights. And that’s a whole lot of action.
And if, like me, you’re kind of new to this kind of action, then maybe, like me, you’re starting to get a little overwhelmed.
Do you take part in the 10 Actions/100 Days from the organizers of the Women’s March in D.C.? Do you participate in the action items sent weekly from Wall of Us? Do you call your local representatives every day and follow the script from 5 Calls? Or do you wait for a reminder from Daily Action? Do you meet with your local Democratic Group and volunteer to be a committee member or do you create a local group of progressives to work on bettering your community? Do you go door to door handing out voter registration forms in preparation for the 2018 races?
You do these all these things. And you collect coats for groups like the Narenjtree Tree Foundation and you knit hats for marchers and you protest and you ask your friends to make donations to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation or The Committee to Protect Journalists in lieu of giving you birthday presents this year. And maybe next year.
You do everything you can do to resist normalizing the abnormal.
But at some point, you may find yourself in a conundrum. How do you reconcile your new-found (and insanely important) activism with your goals? Your hopes? Your dreams?
Before Donald Trump rose to victory, I had goals that had absolutely nothing to do with calling my senators. Now, my every waking thought seems to be what I can do to help. What I can do to resist. What I can do to make the world better.
Many of us have to be feeling the same way. Do we keep trudging? Of course. The question is how.
We need to not just commit to resisting but to finding our respective places within the resistance. More than ever, it needs to be clear that making a difference isn’t a one sized fits all situation. We need to work to our strengths.
Melissa McCarthy might be doing all the things I’m doing. Making calls. Making donations. Making whatever change she can as a human being. But she’s also doing something unique to Melissa McCarthy. She’s taking her ‘great thing’…her ‘gift’ if you’re so inclined…and she’s using it to make change in a bigger way.
In an eight-minute, seven second skit, McCarthy gave us the invaluable. Laughter, absolutely. But also the reminder that we are not alone, that there are thinking people in the world who are with us, that hate is the loser every time. It was funny, yes. But it was also motivational. Who doesn’t get fired up when they see someone act that way?
A friend of mine is considering a run for Freeholder in our notoriously red county. And I’m tempted to join her. I’ve always been a big believer in change from the inside. And while running for office is a noble and worthwhile endeavor, and while we absolutely need more Americans to get involved in politics, it’s not the only way to get involved. It’s not the only way to make change.
And I’m not totally convinced it’s the best place for me.
And it might not be the best place for you either. Maybe your resistance comes in another form.
For Melissa McCarthy, there’s resistance in being an actress. But that’s not the only choice.
One of the best tweets I saw after Donald Trump made his surprising win in November was in response to people saying they were going to leave the country. It said something like (and I can’t find it so bear with me), “Instead of leaving the country, get a job teaching school in the Midwest and start educating people”.
Teacher as resister.
Before the Women’s March on Washington, there was a public call for art to be used in march posters and advertising. A few days later, I read a piece from pastor John Pavlovitz, continuing in that vein, in which he said, “Let art be your defiant resistance.”
Artist as resister.
My cousin Brittany, an attorney, is married to a serviceman. She posts Facebook explanations on the constitutional legality, and patriotism, of protesting.
Lawyer as resister.
When Trump put a Muslim ban in place, Starbucks CEO pledged to hire 10,000 refugees.
Businessman as resister.
When Trump ordered the National Park Service to temporarily stop using Twitter, anonymous employees within the Park Service created new feeds, to continue to educate the public on science, the environment, and our place in all of this, despite the fact that the new administration seems to think that global warming is a hoax.
Park rangers as resisters.
I’m not sure where my role is. There is so much work to be done, though, that I know I need to get clear on where I’m best suited to make the most impact. Do I stick it out at home educating my children on democracy and making phone calls from my armchair? Do I go the extra length and run for office? Or do I do what I’ve always done and continue to write about what I see?
We can’t stop making calls. We can’t stop donating. We can’t stop educating ourselves and staying true to democracy and doing all the things we’re already doing to resist Trump. But if we do those things to the exclusion of our own innate talents and gifts, if we do those things instead of the things that we’re potentially meant to do, we could burn out.
As a writer and artist, I can’t help but think of William Faulkner’s Nobel Award Acceptance speech, in which he said,
“The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
We all have a place in the resistance…it’s up to us to find it. And find it, we must.
Because the world needs us all now. And it needs us to resist.