With just days left before the new year, and only weeks left before Trump’s inauguration, many of us are thinking about what we can do, right now, to shore up our movements, strengthen progressive organizations and defend our values.
But where to start? The threats are many, the challenges are huge, and it can be tough to navigate the sea of organizations and actions out there.
Here are four basic principles to keep in mind when you’re deciding where to put your energy and direct your support.
Strengthen local leadership. When you think about a threat like climate change or war, think about the people who will be most affected. And think first of those who are most marginalized, because of their gender, sexual orientation, race or other identity. They will not only suffer the worst of it, they will also have firsthand experience to innovate new defenses and solutions that protect those most in danger. When local people play leadership roles, set priorities and make decisions, they build skills and resources that serve them and their communities for the long-term. Don’t rely on outside assumptions about what’s best for a community. Support efforts to reinforce — rather than replicate — the work of existing groups.
Recognize that our struggle is global. It can be tempting to divide the threats we face into domestic and foreign. But you’ll have a clearer view of the problem if you focus on the links between abusive policies at home and abroad, and if you remember that the election of Trump wasn’t an isolated incident. Countries worldwide are in the grips of resurgent rightwing nationalism. Trump needs to be understood in that context. By mobilizing with progressive activists and movements around the world, we see the problem in full and can craft better solutions. Support efforts to exchange ideas across borders, recognizing that our best strategies are at once global and local.
Address the root causes of the crises we face. The way to create lasting change is to move beyond tackling symptoms. For instance, we need to defend people targeted by violent extremists, both here in the US and in communities worldwide. But we also need to understand and uproot the conditions that give rise to radicalization. Another example — we need to help communities adapt to the ravages of climate change, while fighting for new policies that reduce the threat and ultimately find alternatives to ways of life that created the crisis in the first place. Support efforts to provide urgent aid and protection, while working to create lasting change.
Learn our shared history and embrace new ideas. We owe it to ourselves and the communities we seek to protect to draw from the best of what came before us, by turning to activist leaders who can reveal the lessons learned from their losses and who generated the progressive wins we benefit from today. And we must open room for the innovations and leadership of the next generation, to give ourselves the flexibility and nimbleness to respond to our current threats. Our strongest solutions will come from that space of exchange. Support efforts to build strength by sharing our best strategies across generations and movements.
Unlike a crisis response with a clear end-point, tilting the world towards justice is an ongoing, often slow-moving project that entails changing how you think and live. It’s a tall order and some days it may feel impossible.
When it does, remember that you already know how to do an essential part: help someone. That’s the best way to stop feeling helpless. Reach out to others in defiance of the us-versus-them mentality of the incoming Administration. Doing that won’t be an act of charity; it will be a way to hold onto your own humanity and cut through the dehumanization of others needed to justify repression.
The more you do that, the easier it will be to overcome the impulse to contract into a defensive posture when you’re afraid or overwhelmed. Instead, you’ll gain strength by being expansive and generous. And that’s the starter step to seed the resilience we’ll need to defend our communities, safeguard our rights and prepare us to do the hard work ahead.