I originally posted this on my Facebook page, in response to seeing despair from a lot of friends. Maybe it can do some good here as well.
You’re exhausted by the news. You’re by turns baffled, angry, and weepy about the things that are happening. You feel helpless as you watch your country lurch down a path you never dreamed it would consider, and you grow despondent as you realize that we are only 10 days into the new administration.
In short, you’re in a “Trump Slump,” to borrow the brilliant turn of phrase coined by a friend. It’s no fun, but take heart: you are not alone. Here are some ideas on how to break out of it.
First – and this is important: accept that you can’t solve this problem alone. None of us can. You should feel no shame at all for feeling like you aren’t able to make things better for people who are being harmed, because the reality is that except for a very few people who already have power, it’s just not possible in most cases. The key is that there is tremendous power in many people doing small things. So the right question isn’t, “why can’t I fix this?” The right question is: “am I doing more than I used to?” If you are someone who used to just show up on election day, do a little more now: give your Senators and Representative a call. If you used to do that, then also show up at some protests. If you’re already an activist, spend extra time talking to your non-activist friends and helping them think through how they can be more effective. If everybody does more than they used to, big things can and will happen.
Second: pick your battles. A lot of outrageous things are happening very quickly, and it can easily become overwhelming. There are places where we can reasonably expect to have influence, mainly by calling our elected officials, and there are places where we can’t. For example, I would describe the appointment of Steve Bannon to be a principal on the National Security Council as both outrageous and something that we probably cannot expect to change. The White House has a lot of leeway in setting up those structures; Congress presumably could pass a law changing it, but the president of course would veto it, and we’d never muster a 2/3 majority to override. Instead, choose places where your voice can make a difference. I called my Senators today telling them to vote “no” on every single nominee, and to do whatever they can to slow down Senate business. I did that because (a) I think it’s the right course of action, and (b) neither of them has yet committed publicly to it, so they are probably still deciding what to do. That’s exactly when they need to hear from constituents. If you have Republican Senators, your voice is perhaps even more important, because they need to know that their constituents don’t support what is happening.
Third: do your research. This is a corollary to the second point. If we all start emailing and calling based on every half-baked thing that bounces around Facebook, we’ll exhaust ourselves without getting anything done. Look into sources – in particular, be suspicious of anything whose source you can’t identify. Just because a post says “Senator Warren said…” doesn’t mean it’s true. These things are usually pretty easy to verify, either by going directly to the claimed source or by a few Google searches. Instead of doing a lot of things, do a few carefully-chosen things that have impact.
Fourth: reach out. You don’t have to do this alone – in fact, you can’t. Talk to friends and family. Find out what they’re doing, and offer your well-researched suggestions to them in return. Join a group dedicated to taking action, or start one yourself. This guide – which you should absolutely read cover to cover – has great ideas on how a few people getting together can be very effective.
Fifth: be mindful that all the “shock events” (to use the phrase from this now-famous post) are part of a longer-term strategy that depends, in part, on panic, confusion, and chaos. They are counting on your being discombobulated by the pace of unexpected events, and they are counting on your getting exhausted and losing energy. (“Sure, they’re protesting and calling their Senators now, but give it six months and it’ll die down.”) Pace yourself, and keep your eye on the long game as well as the immediate crisis. Think ahead; put yourself in their shoes. If you were them, how would you hope this would play out, and what would your next step be? And give yourself time off when you need it – you have other stuff in your life that needs and deserves attention.
We’re all in a Trump Slump right now. Don’t lose hope, and don’t let it deter you from taking action. If millions of people do a little more than they used to, in a thoughtful and well-directed way, big change can happen. We’ve seen it before in this country, and we will see it again. Coraggio.