We need to focus. Let those words ring arund your ears a bit. […] Okay then, enough of that. Has the full weight of what they mean set in? We need to focus. As a nation, as a people, as individuals, we need to decide where we see our future and how we will get there. I have implored anyone still reeling from the election of President-elect Donald Trump to – please – calm down.
[Cue the howler monkeys]
To say that this is an unprecedented election, to say that a Republican White House will unravel our democracy, to say that we are doomed to become a racist, bigoted, tyrannical Nazi abyss (such is the long storied goal of the Grand Ol’ Party) is, well, partially unfounded.
These claims do nothing to further any particular cause and largely dole out pure fear to those already most afraid. My meaning by “pure fear” is the apprehension elicited to the most susceptible among us without a single solution or goal offered. Suggestions of repealing the Electoral College, seceding California from the Union, or the expectation that electoral representatives will bow to riotous acts by switching their vote are not realistic solutions. These are half-baked notions in need of further consideration, not to be taken lightly, hyped by a media (primarily social media) in severe need of a time-out.
I recently had the opportunity to sign a Change.org petition calling on the Electoral College to acknowledge the popular vote in their final December 19 decision. I leant my signature to such a cause not because I expect a legion of faithless electors to come forward, but because I believe in opening the conversation on national voting policy and practices. That is a debate I look forward to in the near future and it starts with a seed. Perhaps this petition is that seed.
A topic for a different day, indeed. My point being that petition, written protest, organized discourse, and active support of an organization either financially or vocally – these are solutions that yield goals. They perhaps lack the immediate satisfaction of a riot or the destruction of public and private property, but their reach is farther and far more sustained.
Fear is a powerful resource.
It can build an army overnight without a thesis or even a leader. I am not against organized protest, nor do I lack the single ounce of empathy required to understand why so many are angry and frightened at the thought of what four years under the hand of the most controversial right-wing politicos our country has enabled could produce. The promotion of this individual overzealous business tycoon, along with an entourage of seething opportunists, to the highest offices in the United States of America has the potential to be detrimental – not “All is lost!” bad, but certainly too conservative for comfort.
Yet, as it pertains to how Americans on the whole can come together and demand higher standards among their leadership, we can do better. Loud riots in the streets of major metropolitan cities can reap screen time – and are also useless without follow through or a benchmark for the success of the movement. I have yet to identify exactly what these current strand of protesters want to happen other than a coup – which would, in fact, unravel our democracy. Contrastingly, gloating from the safety of a Facebook comment section while resorting to juvenile name-calling, or demanding respect for the President-elect, fully aware that your own News Feed contains some choice “He’s not my president”-like posts over the past eight years, is equally as insufferable.
We need to focus. What has become apparent about the realities of Millennial America during the Election of 2016 could fill a Florida swamp to the brim, along with four and a half million Clinton votes. But, to pull one major trend from the murky depths: we have lost the ability to organize a successful political movement. Yeah, we know how to make noise, write catchy slogans, chant in unison, show up to the rallies – all the hallmarks of a political statement. However, ask two simple questions of any participant, and the clamor for an answer becomes like watching a six year-old asked if he shit his pants.
What do you want? How do you expect to get it?
Before any self-congratulatory Trumpers (Trumpets?) insist that I am obviously misguided because – they won! Allow me burst a few bubbles. Up until the polls opened on November 8, a substantial faction of “loyal” supporters (currently basking in afterglow) were still on the fence as to whether or not they would openly back Trump. Polling data does not skew itself. And while the result of the election may have been due in part to a strategic emphasis on key states that amplified voter turnout, unfortunately, those same voters still cannot seem to muster much more of an answer to my questions than: “To make America great again,” or, “…because he says what he means, and he’s going to stop ISIS, and he’s going to clean up Washington.” The specifics on “how” remain a mystery even to President Trump himself.
This, however, is not an attack piece on Trump or his support base. This trend of shit-pants movements is common across a myriad of ongoing activism, including but not limited to: Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ equality and representation, proponents for the right to bear arms, both sides of the immigration issue, and now, the “anti-Trump, pro-anybody else” call to action. These causes are valid and worth the effort to discuss and act upon with urgency. And for a good deal involved, there is an evident “what” as to the purpose of their movement. Again, the elusive “how” is why I am left with a mild case of slack-jawed awe at watching such fervent young souls reach for a change they vociferously desire without even a stepping stool.
I do applaud those involved in these political conjectures. I bare witness to their passion and their ardent political awareness. There is real energy in their ranks. I reprimand only that so many are content to participate in the louder realms of activism, without so much as an afterthought to strategy. Anyone who has read my previous ravings (bless you, truly) knows I am an adrenaline-dosed cheerleader for strategy and foresight. In this case of anti-Trump rallies raging through intersections, and in the case of all ongoing societal shifts – a show without a script is a lesson in folly.
The demonstrations have our attention – now use it. Guide your audience and support your claims. With written word, with petition, with legislature, with donations, with some form of action that produces a result. Protest is not the action, protest is the introduction. In recent days, various gestures have made headlines by individuals who have in some way lead by example. Performer Katy Perry made a sizable monetary donation to Planned Parenthood, invoking onlookers to follow suit. Comedians Kate McKinnon and Dave Chappelle used their platform on Saturday Night Live to assuage panic and provide both encouragement and context. HBO personality John Oliver concluded his recent television season with a segment advocating an end to identity politics, a plea to support journalism other than politically-affiliated editorials, and a laundry list of organizations to which a donation of any size can ensure rational voices are heard.
Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris have vowed to work within a Trump presidency to protect the half of our nation not represented in the current political majority. They have even gone as far as to offer their esteemed services to the President-elect during his tenure.
What it comes down to is this: anyone marching on the streets should be just as willing to donate, work with opposing groups, listen before speaking, speak before shouting, and use their platform to its full potential.
Otherwise, this is all a farce.
“So my friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary, let us not lose heart, for there are more seasons to come. And there is more work to do.”
– Hillary Clinton, concluding her concession speech to supporters November 9, 2016
We need to focus. Our efforts need to match our purpose. We need to know “how” just as much as we need to know “what.” We need to stop using fear as a weapon, and begin utilizing our resources. This is not a war, and it is not unprecedented, and it is not as simple as red or blue. Stand up, sure. But be ready. Ready to speak, ready to plan, ready to lead. If you step foot on the stage, you sure as hell better perform.