New mothers often receive this advice when their newborns arrive: “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Anyone who has cared for an infant knows such guidance is easier said than it is to follow, yet it’s some of the best counsel. With a slight modification, the same recommendation applies to those of us involved in resistance to the actions and policies of the Trump administration: “Rest when you can.”
Women have taken to the streets and to the phones since the election, many engaging in activism for the first time. We haven’t won on every issue, but our actions have made a difference, including slowing the administration’s plans to dismantle health care and deport millions of people.
Now, the challenge is to stay active as the initial energy subsides. Here are some things that can help us keep the momentum and avoid burnout.
She goes into more detail about these five suggestions:
This year’s 4th of July celebrations stretched over an entire week on the rural island where I live. Many tourists from the mainland took advantage of a midweek day off from work and turned it into a vacation that reached across weekends on either side of the national holiday.
We crowded both sides of the street running through our village for the annual parade, this year dedicated to our local solid waste and recycling center.
People attended concerts, cookouts, and the Farmers Market; paddled and cycled, joined the Lions’ Club Fun Run/Walk, perused used books at the Friends of the Library sale, and lazed on the beaches.
Except for the annual community fireworks display at 10:30 PM, there was a noticeable (and blessed) absence of whistling and exploding firecrackers at private events. Evidently people responded to the dozens of reminders posted along island roadways that all personal fireworks are banned in our county.
I’ve long felt ambivalent about 4th of July festivities. Too often, much of the celebrating focuses on the use of violence and war to protect our “freedom;” nowhere is that more evident than rockets bursting in the air, often over fragile wildlife habitats and bodies of water.
But this year, my emotions included grief. Ever since the vitriol of the 2016 Presidential race and the resulting election of Donald Trump, I’ve worked to manage the anger, fear, and sadness that shadow me. As I re-read the U.S. Declaration of Independence this week, I was struck by the explanation of the reason for this declaration:
“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States.”
That statement is followed by a long list of “facts” to prove that claim. Many of the examples resonate with actions of our current President, this one in particular:
“He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”
So, yes, anger, fear, and sadness shadowed this year’s 4th of July for me.
A couple of days later, I received word from writing friend and teacher David Oatesthat one of his essays had been published in Terrain.org’s “Letter to America Series.” Through this collection, the online magazine presents “urgent, powerful, and beautiful post-election responses from writers, artists, scientists, and thinkers across the United States.” The series began on November 17 when Alison Hawthorne Deming published her Letter to America in response to the election. Her instructions about how to respond were clear: “Think of the great spirit of inventiveness the Earth calls forth after each major disturbance it suffers. Be artful, inventive, and just, my friends, but do not be silent.”
People have followed Deming’s instruction in the form of poems, photographs, traditional letters, and more. David’s response took the form of a condolence letter. As good sympathy notes do, David’s words consoled me—and reinforced Deming’s urging to not be silent. I recommend you read David’s entire essay; this especially spoke to me:
“Each of us wants his or her own way. But we are unhappy–lonely, abandoned, miserable–unless we are profoundly woven in with others. The tearfulness and sorrow of our present moment come from a feeling that in this dimension we have received a profound wound. And we’re all bleeding. David James Duncan calls it our civic grief.
Here we aim for possibility, a more perfect union. Here in our striving and imagining we know vulnerability, this heartbreak, this civic grief.
Let us miss it so fiercely that we become real again, re-inhabit our skins, our plazas and public places, our words that once rose above us like a phalanx of bright spearpoints. Let us grieve as long as necessary and remember as hard as we can.
And then act.”
Four years ago when David was guest faculty in my writing program, he became an example for me of how to overcome fear of speaking out through my writing. “Be grounded in your process as a writer so that your writing isn’t dependent on what others think.”
There’s much comfort and sustenance in the Terrain.org series, and it’s all just a click away. It’s another place I turn to remember the earth’s and our nation’s great spirit of inventiveness. It gives me strength to act.
This is just one more issue needing our attention. If it calls to you, please add your voice.
*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers.
After a sleepless night following the 2016 presidential election, I awoke the next morning with many questions: How? Why? What will happen? A few days later, I carried one with me to a workshop about active hope. That question was directed at me: What am I to do?
In January, I continued to grapple with the question in the online course We Were Made for This Moment, taught by Quaker teacher, writer, and activist Eileen Flanagan. In the company of 100 other participants, and with Eileen’s knowledge and skills with social change, clarity, and empowerment, I felt strengthened and heartened to discern and offer the skills and gifts we have to offer.
For me, that discernment took some time.
As I tried to remain open to direction about how to respond to the election of Donald Trump, I tested out a few actions. In the first three months of 2017, I sent more letters, postcards, and emails to state and federal representatives than I had in the previous, oh, twenty years. For the first time in decades, I lobbied state legislators and rallied at the state capitol for the Salish Sea, the water that surrounds my home and is threatened by increased oil transport between the U.S. and Canada.
I watched and listened to the ways the election energized people all over the country to speak out and become more politically involved. Some responded to the election results by urging people (particularly women) to run for office. Two such efforts that offer support and direction are She Should Run and Emily’s List. According to a Feb. 9, 2017 article in New York Magazine, those efforts have worked—13,000 women are planning to run for office.
I never dreamed I’d be one of them.
And then, in March, I learned that the rural health clinic in my community was in danger of closing. The hospital that the clinic had partnered with for nearly thirty years had decided to end the relationship, an action that would significantly decrease financial resources needed to keep it in operation. The nonprofit (Catherine Washburn Medical Association) that owns and maintains the clinic building and equipment went to work to find a solution and learned that if the voters approved creation of a Public Hospital District, the district could levy a property tax to help fund the clinic.
In Washington State, Public Hospital Districts are community-created, governmental entities authorized by state law to deliver health services. An elected Board of Commissioners governs such districts. Believing that the creation of a Public Hospital District was a sound and wise approach to preserve the outstanding health care available in my community, I wanted to do my part to assure that care continues. So, having recently retired from a forty-year nursing career, I threw my nurse’s cap into the ring to serve as one of five commissioners.
The first hurdle was to gain community approval of creation of the Public Hospital District. Clearly, I’m not the only one who values the clinic’s services. We needed 749 votes for the election to be valid, and then a simple majority of those votes for the measure to pass. The election result this week was stunning.As an unopposed candidate, I was voted in. Four other commissioners were elected, too, and all of them bring the kind of expertise the district needs to assure that the tax money is spent appropriately. Once we’re sworn in, we’ll be hard at work to assure a smooth transition from the current partnership to a new structure.
I know that my candidacy for elected office won’t impact the dangerous and harmful repercussions of the Trump administration. But, it will affect my family, friends, and neighbors, and those are mighty good reasons to run.