It has always been my regret that I was not of an age to join the Selma to Montgomery Freedom March. Well, be careful what you wish for. While our country has been no stranger to protests, rallies, and marches before and since that time during the Civil Rights struggle, we are now facing something perhaps even more pervasive. These are dangerous times. And the appointment of a certain Alabamian for attorney general puts me right back in those shameful times when I was a kid growing up in Mobile. I was safe, I was protected, I was white. But today, I fear we are all under attack.
Our country seems to be caught in some surreal Saturday Night Live skit. If only it really was Alec Baldwin. I am fortunate to live in a bright blue city—doesn’t change the outcome of the election—but I am sure grateful for the camaraderie of commiseration. Since November 8, I cannot get enough of the news—I am drawn to it like a car wreck. I never rubberneck at a roadside tragedy (unless there is an opportunity to lend a hand); it is morbid and in poor taste. Yet, this is different and, as one friend put it, we are in that car that just crashed.
Railing is fine if constructively channeled. It is truly important that we take our activated outrage and use it to mitigate whatever harm this administration might bring to our democracy, environment, diplomacy, and relationships with other countries. Perhaps as I write this, things will have begun to simmer down at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and the president will rethink and resolve to take a smarter approach to governing … or not. Do I see all this as glass half full/half empty or just plain toxic? Well, I am certainly not going to sip from it. But, can I, can you, find a way to filter this glass and make it more palatable? YES! As Barack said, “Yes we can.”
Marching and attending rallies, protests, sit-ins, and other public forums orchestrated for taking a stand against the negative and beyond-the-pale policies and cabinet appointments have set records since the election—but some do not make me particularly proud. Any group that “acts a fool” does the cause they support harm. Vandalism only fuels the opposition. If you really want a march or rally to have cred, then do not deface someone’s property with posters that are next to impossible to remove without damage. Do not place flyers and posters over existing graffiti unless you want to be associated with property damage. Be grown-up, and get permission to place placards and/or clean the signage up yourself immediately after the event.
Also, consider the photo op that hopefully will happen. It is important that a march be seen and reported on social media, television, and newspapers—otherwise, you are merely preaching to the choir. So, be prepared to make a statement with your appearance. Take a lesson from the participants of the Civil Rights era: they wore suits and ties, dresses, and practiced respect. Do not give the “other side” any excuse to dismiss your cause, efforts, and/or candidate. When phoning or emailing senators about an issue, imply that you might be cut from the same cloth and politely, but firmly, let them know that if they want your votes in the future, they must consider your concerns. Don’t just preach to “your” choir, also try to persuade the folks who are not in your political party (face it, they have the power right now).
When marching on Inauguration Day, Boyfriend and I dressed in conservative business clothes. Our hope was that those watching would identify us as two of the many mainstream citizens who did not support the new president and who intend to hold Republicans’ feet to the fire. While we are both to the far left of mainstream, it didn’t hurt to present—by appearance—an example of the broader picture of dissatisfied voters.
I want to ask those of you who sat out this election, “How’s this working out for you?” and, “You still think there’s no difference between him and Hillary?” I get that many feel the system is rigged, and certainly the Electoral College makes you feel disenfranchised, but you cannot, must not, remove yourself from participation in this country of ours. Nothing will disenfranchise you more than your lack of participation. The next four years are crucial for the strengthening of a progressive voter base. And, like it or not, the only viable counter to the alt-right will be a Democrat. Sure, it would be great if we could vote a Green Party candidate in to the White House, but it simply—sadly—isn’t going to happen in the next four years. However, we can start supporting and growing the Green Party now on city and state levels and seek positions in the Senate and House. Start locally, and then race hard and steady towards the national scene.
It is time to start thinking about the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, most of which will be held on Tuesday, November 6. Beginning now, pay close attention to who will be running and who you want to support—and remember, this is when every vote counts, as there is no Electoral College for these. You and I can make a difference. Let’s start turning our red states blue. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be up for grabs, just as 34 out of 100 Senate seats will be challenged. Also on the 2018 ballots will be 39 governorships along with many additional state and local elections. (Louisiana’s next gubernatorial election is 2019.) We need to work the system—such as it is—and call, write, and speak to elected officials, both Democrat and Republican. Be heard. Support our free press—subscribe to newspapers and magazines that stand tall and report the truth. Read and stay engaged. Our country is depending on us.