Everything feels terrible but there is work to be done right now so let’s do it

Everything feels so bleak right now. I wondered the point of writing a blog post – something the internet does not need right now is another “hot take” from a white woman about what the fuck happened and what the hell we do next. But how do I write about anything else? Who cares what I ate for breakfast or how much I miss some old friends or what the definition of home might be or which trails I recommend you hike in Glacier National Park? I understand, logically, that if Donald Trump is to be president for the next four years then I am going to have to learn to write and talk and think about a few other things than his presidency, because if I cannot do that then I will lose my mind, and yet. “What else is there to talk about,” C. asked at dinner tonight, and I’m inclined to agree.

I have been trying to take direct actions every day, both because if there has ever been a time to act it is now, and also because it makes me feel better. It calms my anxiety for a moment, it reminds me that we as individuals are not completely useless, and it encourages me not to normalize what is happening. That second part is selfish and in some ways I feel guilty – for example, I’ve never called my representatives before last week, and truly, what was I waiting for? – but ultimately I have to remind myself that the actions themselves are (hopefully) doing some good, and so any motives I have for doing them are okay.

It’s okay to try to make myself feel okay for small portions of the day. That’s the first step in standing up to protect others, and that’s my priority in our new world. I am going to use my voice and my body to stand up against hate and racism and xenophobia and sexism and transphobia and homophobia in every way I possibly can. As a white cis Jewish queer woman I do feel afraid, but I know there are so many people who not only feel more afraid than I do right now, but have been feeling that way for a very long time. And so we stand up for one another, and those of us with less to lose put ourselves in front. There is no other choice.

Below I have compiled some direct actions I have been taking that you can take too. Nothing in this post is original but it is a compilation of the specific actions I have taken/will continue taking, and perhaps seeing this list in one place will encourage one or two or ten other people to do some of these things. I will make a follow-up post soon of the essays and tweets I’ve found particularly helpful and/or important to read and internalize.

But for now, this:

1. Support the Water Protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota

If you are unfamiliar with the Dakota Access Pipeline, the #NoDAPL and #WaterIsLife movements, and the Native American tribes who have banded together to peacefully (and legally) protect their land and water and who are currently experiencing intense police brutality in the forms of tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets, please please please read up on it. There’s been an intentional media blackout when it comes to covering these realities, and the reporters that are writing about it are often maneuvering the facts to obscure the truth. Click through these links to learn about what’s currently happening at Standing Rock, the context and history of the protest, and the pipeline itselfBitch also just published a thorough dispatch from the ground at Standing Rock (We Are Still Here, We Persevere: A Dispatch From Standing Rock) that will bring you up to speed on what’s happening and what’s been happening.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the human rights violations taking place at Standing Rock, make a donation to support the Water Protectors. It is the least we can do, especially this time of year when many of us have just celebrated Thanksgiving with our families which is, lest anyone forget, a holiday celebrating the genocide of Native Americans by white settlers.

2. Help Louisiana’s Democrat Senate Candidate Foster Campbell Win the December 10th Runoff Election

Presidential elections are super glam and enticing and it’s easy to forget about all the other elections that happen all the time in our government. But! Those other elections are also big deals, as the other branches of our government are just as important (if not sometimes more so) as the executive branch. There’s a runoff election happening in Louisiana for a Senate seat on December 10th, and we should all be making a huge effort to make sure Foster Campbell wins. Why? According to The Hill:

Electing Foster Campbell is the most immediate way to rebuke President-elect Trump. A Campbell victory would mean a 51-49 split in the Senate. This is the last best way to make a difference in 2016.

So what can you do? Well if you’re in Louisiana, vote for the man! Everyone else? You can donate money or you can donate time. You can phone bank from your bedroom and even $5 helps. Follow #FightForLa on social media to stay up to date with this race.

3. Talk To Your Family About Racism This Thanksgiving Weekend (And All The Time)

White people: We have some serious fucking work to do.

Systemic racism and white supremacy motivated this election. Systemic racism and white supremacy are what the United States of America is built on. Like it or not, if you are white, you benefit from that. It is incredibly fucked up and it needs to change. People of color have been telling us this for a long time and even when we think we are doing our best, to be honest, it is not good enough. Every one of us should be working every day to be a better anti-racist ally, and one of the ways that can look is to talk to our racist family over the holidays. And when I say “racist family” I do not just mean your Overtly Racist Uncle Mike, I mean that we are all racist because we have grown up learning racism, and I mean that we should all be talking about how to be anti-racist all the time. Please let’s hold each other more accountable. Please let’s have the un-fun, difficult conversations. It is our work to do and though we should have been doing it all along, if we have not already been doing it, the least we can do is start doing it now.

Showing Up for Racial Justice put together an incredible resource for talking to one’s family about racism, politics, Trump, and other hard topics during Thanksgiving, but it is absolutely useful 365 days a year and if you’re anxious about having these conversations I would strongly recommend checking out their worksheet. I’ve relied on it heavily while being home in Massachusetts with my family this week. We are lucky that SURJ took the time to create this resource, and we should all get brave and use it.

Here are some other guides that I have found helpful when prepping for hard conversations with family members and friends:

Also if you need to talk about having hard convos with your family, I am here for it. Email me [vanessa [dot] pamela [at] gmail [dot] com], tweet me, message me on IG…I am happy to be a sounding board and a person you can check in with. Truly.

4. Be Intentional About Who Gets Your Money When You Do Your Holiday Shopping

The way that December (and honestly the 3-4 months leading up to December, so I guess basically half the year…) functions as a consumer-based time disguised as the “holiday season” stresses me out at the best of times. I’m not above the consumer machine though and I certainly participate in the rituals of buying gifts for friends and family, as well as creating my own DIY gifts. I’m not here to shame anyone for gift giving or gift buying, is what I mean.

But if we are going to spend money on holiday presents, let’s be intentional about who gets our money. Personally, I’m focusing on supporting local artists, specifically people of color and queer women. Your specific focus might be different, but it seems meaningful to me to get out of big box stores and seek out artists and makers in our own communities who could benefit from our financial support.

5. Call Your Representatives, Or At Least Learn Who They Are

Trump hasn’t even taken office yet, and already it seems like I wake up every day to a new fresh horror that he is trying (and often succeeding) to enact. The actual act that got me to finally call my representatives (it took me long enough, jfc) was when he appointed Steve Bannon (white nationalist, alt-right leader, anti-Semite, and all-around hateful human being) to be his chief White House strategist and senior counselor.

That specific act lit a fire under my butt and I looked up my representatives and called all three of them in one afternoon. It was not my favorite task. I hate calling strangers and I got nervous and said “um” a lot and I didn’t practice saying Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s name before I called and then I realized I didn’t know how to pronounce his last name so I just referred to him as “Earl” (!!) but you know what? In spite of all of that, it was totally fine. To be fair, I do live in Oregon, and by the time I called all three representatives had actually already put out statements against Bannon’s appointment (bless my reps, and remember to say thank you if you call and they have done something good!), so I acknowledge that it may be harder when you are calling about an issue that your rep does not agree with you on. Still, you’ll be talking to a staffer, not the rep him/herself, and the truth is they are all elected officials who work for us. So we’ve gotta call.

You can find out who your representatives are here: www.whoismyrepresentative.com

Once you’ve got their names and phone numbers, put them in your phone and use them frequently.

Here’s a work-in-progress call sheet that suggests a weekly call to action. It is titled We’re His Problem Now because “all election cycle, Donald Trump has been our problem. Now, we’re HIS PROBLEM, and since Congress serves us, SO ARE THEY. Let’s use the best tool at our disposal (our elected representation) to show Donald once and for all that, in our America, ACCOUNTABILITY TRUMPS HATE.” I haven’t had a chance to look at it too closely but a few trusted friends have posted about it on Facebook so I think it’s worth checking out, especially if you want to call your reps more frequently but are overwhelmed about what issues you should call about or what you should say.

6. Check In With Your Loved Ones

This one is easy but also worth repeating and remembering. I started this post saying that everything feels very bleak right now, and that is true. Times are dark, and I believe they will get darker. We have to remember to take care of each other.

I consider myself a generally happy human being and I have been feeling extremely sad and scared since the election results came in. I have friends who are not generally happy who have expressed to me that they are doing particularly badly now. Hate crimes are exploding across the country with more frequency and brashness than before and marginalized folks (especially those who do not have various passing privileges) are feeling more scared and vulnerable, with good reason. This is when, if we are able, we show up.

  • Text or call your loves and ask how they are doing
  • Bring a friend a home cooked meal and hang out for an evening
  • If you have a car, offer rides to folks who may feel scared to walk alone
  • Be available to chat on the phone if someone needs a buddy system at night
  • Be explicit that you are a person who can and will help in whatever way is appropriate
  • Organize together, consider ways to become more self-reliant as a community
  • Say I love you to everyone you love, sincerely and frequently

***

These are just a few direct actions I’ve been focusing on the past few weeks. They are keeping me sane and I think they are doing some good. I want to hear what you’ve been focusing on and what you think we should prioritize. If you feel comfortable sharing in the comments, please do, and if you’d rather email me [vanessa [dot] pamela [at] gmail [dot] com] or message me on Twitter, I’d love to hear from you there.

I love you. Let’s get to work.

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