Note: This post will be political. If you're tired of political posts or if your political dreams have recently come true, you may want to skip this post.
It's been a week since the results of the US election. I was out of the country on Election Day (though I voted before I left). It was surprisingly difficult to be so far from my home and loved ones at such a tense time. For some people, the intervening week has been a time of jubilation. But for many people, this week has been marked by anger, fear, sadness, and despair. Hoping to witness the shattering of a glass ceiling, expectations shattered instead.
So what's next? How do we move through the next days, months, and years with integrity, living our deeply held values?
Step one has to be self-care. You need proper food, exercise, and rest. Binging on junk food while you don't sleep isn't going to help anyone. Take care of your physical health. And take care of your emotional health as well. You may feel rattled, depressed, uncertain. Do something that feeds your soul. Maybe you pray or meditate or take long hot baths or walk in the woods. Give yourself permission to do that as much as you need to do it. (If the depression lingers or begins to have a significant impact on your work or relationships, please seek professional assistance from a counselor or from your primary care physician. Bubble baths don't cure depression.)
As you care for yourself, you can begin to reach out:
- Be informed.
- Be involved.
- Be aware.
- Be open.
Step one: Be informed. Make sure you stay abreast of what is happening in your community, your country, and the world. You can't make a difference if you don't know what needs to change. Don't limit yourself to soundbites or brief reports. Read long-form journalism from a variety of sources. Check out the references cited. Read. Watch. Listen. Learn.
Step two: Be involved. Become part of the solution. During the election season, I heard a lot of people complaining about the system. To be honest, complaining about the system in the weeks preceding the election is like deciding to remodel your house two weeks before you host Thanksgiving. You don't have time to make the changes you want to make in the time available. But now there are two years until the midterm elections and four years until the next presidential election. So, if you didn't like your choices this time, get involved at the grass roots level. Volunteer. Vet candidates. Even stand for election yourself. Be part of the solution.
Step three: Be aware. A lot of people are worried and frightened. Be attentive to the needs of the people around you. be on the lookout for people in need of help, a kind word, protection. It's easy to stay in our own thoughts and to hole up indoors, away from the challenges. But easy rarely makes the world a better place.
Step four: Be open. Listen to people who don't agree with you or whose lives are unfamiliar. Go to a new church. visit new places. Go to places outside your comfort zone. Learn about others' concerns and hopes and fears. You may never agree with them, but you can grow in understanding. Understanding can help to facilitate finding a solution.
But you need to find practical ways of moving forward in light of the new administration -- ways to help.
- Be gentle with the earth. Be very intentional about recycling. Limit your use of energy (turn off the unused lights, turn the thermostat own and put on a sweater, walk or bike instead of driving). Compost and garden if possible. Buy less and look for ethical sources of food and other goods, even if that means spending a bit more.
- Look at your budget to free up more money to donate to charities that help people who see their safety net become suddenly less safe.
- Put your talents at the service of the common good. Be attentive to the needs around you and look for ways to fulfill them. Strive to go beyond your comfort zone. Maybe serve as an advocate for abuse victims or children in need. Many parents may face deportation and separation from their children. Can you get certified as a foster parent to care for these kids? Are you willing to serve as a guardian? Are you an attorney? Can you help to develop guardianship agreements so that parents will not have to relinquish their children to the care of strangers? Can you help the extended families who will need to care for those left behind?
- Help to fight voter suppression by offering assistance with forms, rides to ID centers, financial and practical help in tracking down birth certificates and other necessary forms. Assist released felons in regaining their voting votes if permitted by the state.
- Don't let your elected representatives skate by without attention. Go to town hall meetings. Read their emails and websites. Check their voting records. Call and write to let them know what you think. Demand accountability. They work for you!
- Refuse to normalize hatred in speech or in action. If someone says or does something that diminishes, demeans, or dehumanizes another person or group, SPEAK OUT. Repeat after me: "I find that language/behavior offensive and insulting. Please stop." If the person doesn't stop, end the conversation and walk away -- every time. Silence is not golden. Stand up for what is right.
I'm not going to pretend that everything is going to be ok. Having a civil society is hard work. We have to stand together and be our best selves, caring for the least among us. The road ahead is frightening and it has unknown obstacles, But we can face them together.