Just about a year ago, I wrote a post called “Fifteen Things You Can Do When The World Is Shitty and Terrifying.” Last year, I was sad and angry about the death of Laquan MacDonald. I was outraged that a man with an assault rifle began to shoot up a Colorado Planned Parenthood. I was heartbroken about the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
That seems almost quaint today.
This year, an openly anti-semitic, alt-right propagandist has just been appointed to the White House’s chief strategist. This year, hate crimes are higher than they were in the wake of post-9/11. This year, I have had to explain, with tolerance and with patience until I have become so worn down with tolerance and with patience, that political protest and hate crimes are not the same.
This year, this is my neighborhood.
This year, this is my friend and my neighbor. Not in some global “we are all neighbors” sense. This is my actual friend, my actual neighbor.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. This is what has been happening in my country that I love. This is my neighbor’s truck spraypainted to read “Trump Rules, Black Bitch.” This is my neighbor’s car, where keyed into the side, “It’s our pussy now, bitch.” This is my friend who was spat upon and called a fucking cunt.
This is not normal. This is not normal. This is not normal.
I have thirty thousand followers of this blog. They’re not all going to read every post. I’m lucky to get a few thousand, on a very good day. Still, this is what I have, and I’m going to say it, and maybe some of you will listen. It’s a very small part of what I can do.
Of those thirty thousand, some of you are from other countries. (To those of you: I am sorry that my country has placed leaders in positions of authority who have immense power to do harm, who have demonstrated immense selfishness and greed. I am sorry).
Of those thirty thousand people, a lot of you are in America. And it is within reason to assume that some of you voted for Hillary Clinton, and some of you voted for Donald Trump, and some of you voted for a third-party candidate, and some of you stayed home and didn’t vote at all.
And if you are a reader of my blog and you voted for Donald Trump, I am going to make an assumption about you right now.
I’m going to assume that you voted in your own best interest. That you were screwed by Obamacare, and repealing it would make your life better. That you wanted to pay less in taxes. That you wanted a better job. That you want to make more money. That someone was here who promised to do all of those things, and you wanted those things, and so you voted for him. That you want good schools, and good roads, and safe communities, and clean streets.
And …. you know, I get that. I do.
But…. we all want these things. White people. Black people. Muslim people. Disabled people. Veterans. Old people. Children. LGBTQ people. Trans people. Straight people. Immigrant people. All people. Everybody wants good roads and schools and homes and communities. Every-fucking-body wants those things.
If you voted for Trump and you read this blog, I am assuming that you aren’t the type of person who is out spraypainting swastikas on park benches, or threatening Muslims with racial slurs. I am assuming your basic kindness, goodness, and decency. But I am also asking you to consider that your vote for “good jobs, good schools, good communities” has come with a price: the safety, security, and equal rights of black people, women, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ people, and immigrants. Your vote comes at a cost.
I am asking you to stand up for what is right. I am asking you to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I am asking you to do something on this list to make the world safer, better, and kinder for all of those who are deeply afraid right now.
TWENTY THINGS YOU CAN DO WHEN THE WORLD IS TERRIFYING.
1. Remind yourself: This is not normal. Remind others: this is not normal. If you feel as though this IS normal, please do some homework and then realize that no, this is not, in fact, normal. Repeat after me: this is the only election within our nation’s living memory where a campaign was fueled by hatred, fear, and bigotry, and the hatred and bigotry seized power, and this is not normal. Remind yourself of this fact, as often as you need to do so, because human beings have an amazing capacity to adapt. Don’t get comfortable. This. Is. Not. Normal.
2. Check your sources. Do not read anything unless it is from a reputable news source. Do not share anything unless it is from a reputable news source. If you are not sure where to begin, try reading what foreign countries are saying about us: BBC, The Guardian, and Al Jazeera are good. The New York Times and the Washington Post are good, too. Snopes.com and Politifact are your friends. Stop sharing and believing clickbait sites, even if they back up your pre-conceived notions.
5. Wear a safety pin on your shirt and know what it means to do so.
It literally costs you nothing. It’s a symbol to say “I am here, and I am safe, if you are being threatened or attacked.” And then — and here’s the key part — actually be helpful if someone is being threatened or attacked. I know a bunch of people have been throwing some shit around on the internet re: the whole safety pin thing, but here’s the deal: if you are going to wear this pin, be ready to deal with the consequences of what that symbol means. If you see someone being attacked, being assaulted, being abused, it means you fucking stand up for them, and make sure they are safe. It means you step outside your own safety zone. It means that you are educated enough to know how to respond to trolls and troublemakers, that you will have the right words when they are needed. It costs you nothing. But it’s also not the end, a magical “I didn’t vote for Trump!” get-out-of-jail-free card. It means that you are prepared to defend your black, latinx, LGBTQ, immigrant, minority brothers and sisters.
6. Call your representatives. This is a good way to find out how to actually do that in a way that will make a difference. Have a clear message. Research the hell out of whatever legislations are being passed, and be ready to call and voice your thoughts.
7. Talk to your white friends. Do your homework on privilege and bias and supremacy. Be prepared to have those difficult conversations, in ways that do not attack. No one can feel anything but threatened or defensive when they feel as though they are being attacked. Be bigger in your empathy. Be relentless. Be firm. Recharge your batteries as needed.
8. Donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
9. Talk to your children. If you don’t have children, and if you’re good with children, find opportunities to talk to some children. Big Brothers, Big Sisters is a great organization, and VolunteerMatch.org is a good way to just plug in your skills and interests, and see if there’s someplace that could use you. This is a really important time for kids, who see and feel everything that is happening. They are going to have some big, tough questions. Let children of color know that they are treasured, valued, and worthy of love and respect. Let children of immigrants know that they are treasured, valued, and worthy of love and respect. Let children of varying abilities know that they are treasured, valued, and worthy of love and respect. And let white children know, and impress upon them the importance of this, that ALL children are treasured, valued, and worthy of love and respect.
10. Train as a volunteer with your local suicide hotline.
11. Artists, make art that is not for you, about you, or for those who already think like you. Do not preach to the choir. The choir is going to be just fine. Make art about empathy, make art about understanding the “othered” America, and then figure out a way to get that art to the people who actually need it. Theatremakers, take a show out of your season and use your funding sources to try something radically new. Don’t do fucking “Carousel.” Don’t do fucking “South Pacific.” Don’t do fucking “Romeo and Juliet,” and don’t you dare fucking pretend that if you are doing any of those things, you are making a difference in the lives of anyone but yourself and a very small, select handful of people. Think bigger. Think beyond your grant cycle, your subscription base, and your board of directors. Think beyond your ego. Hire an education director. Hire someone to reach out to low-income communities and schools, and think about impact, not about your intent. Start making children’s theatre like yesterday, and figure out how how to get arts teachers into classrooms who need it. If you are an artist or an arts organization who owns a building, offer your rehearsal spaces and gallery spaces and any space that you have to smaller grassroots organizations who need it.
12. Start setting up community funds. We’ve been doing this for years in my own community of Philadelphia artists. Everybody’s poor. So when someone’s bike gets stolen, we all chip in a few bucks until their bike can be replaced. And when someone gets mugged and needs emergency dental work, we Venmo some money to one another until their teeth can be fixed. And when someone breaks a leg. And when someone gets doored by a car. Look, this should all be stuff that is covered by the American safety net, but it isn’t. Take that informal system, and begin to formalize it. Start socking money away for when someone needs it.
13. Take a self-defense course. If you already know self-defense, offer to teach others what you know, for free, in low-income areas or your nearby community center.
14. Share your resources. Can your restaurant provide extra meals to the homeless, or coffee to protestors? Can your small business stay open late during a protest so that there is access to restrooms? Do you have an extra office in your building that could host someone working for a smaller nonprofit? Does your home have a spare bedroom to house a gay kid who has been kicked out of their living space? Think about what you already have, and think about ways that you can share that with others.
15. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.
16. Go to your bookshelves. Grab the good stuff. Go to the used book fairs at your church libraries, and grab the good stuff from there too. Think more James Baldwin and less Nora Roberts. Look at this list, figure out where your nearest location is, and get those books into prison libraries.
17. The Trevor Projects handles 45,000 calls a year from suicidal LGBTQ teens throughout the country. Volunteer for them.
18. Ask your boss if they can sponsor an anti-racist training program in your workplace.
19. Purchase a magazine subscription to a publication that is outside of your knowledge, and educate yourselves on what people in other communities outside of yours are thinking and feeling. Ebony. The Islamic Monthly. Out Magazine.
20. Think about the audacity of hope.
Think about the bravery of hope. Think about the resilience of hope. Think about the teeth-gritting, voice-shredding, sore-feet-stamping, full-body scream for hope. Think about the need for hope: the desperate, aching need to hope that those who are suffering will be saved, those who are hungry will be fed, those who are sick will be healed, those who are weary will find rest. Think about the legacy of hope, and how it is connected to a legacy of sorrow. Separate hope from blind optimism.
Having hope is not the same as doing nothing.
Having hope is the reason to get off your ass and do something.
And because twenty things isn’t enough, here’s more. Donate to every fucking cause that you can think of, if you have the money to do that right now. Make room for everyone on the street, the roads, the subway. Cut people a break; everyone is struggling. Express your sorrow and your anger and your rage, and don’t take shit from people who will try to tell you how to feel. You are not alone. Remember that mental health is important. Downsize your Christmas presents and give that money to people and causes who need it more than you do. Patronize locally-owned small businesses run by minorities and immigrants. Stop buying anything from anyone on this list. I know there’s more. Leave ’em in the comments.
Love thy neighbor as thyself. With thy whole self. With thy whole grieving, angry, furious, human, flawed, diverse, complicated self.
I love you.