As we round the corner into the 18th month of Donald Trump’s so-called presidency, the resistance is burned out. We’ve been working hard since before the 2016 election to avert catastrophe and the constant barrage of scandal and cruelty is starting to feel normal. It’s tempting to check out; but it is essential that we stay engaged.
I’m struggling with this myself, so I thought I’d share five of my favorite ways to cultivate a sustainable resistance practice without losing my mind in the process.
Grief is the body’s natural way of processing loss. If we are to move forward, we must fully grieve the setbacks we have sustained and the setbacks still to come.
Grief is different from despondency. Despondency is a perpetual “freeze” state of unfeeling numbness. Grief is like a river that you can feel pouring through your heart and it clears the air like a thunderstorm on a humid day.
Fascists like to mock our grief. They call us “snowflakes” and wear “fuck your feelings” tee shirts. Their mockery isn’t just cruel, it serves a purpose. They know that depressed and despondent people are easier to control. They want us to freeze, so don’t let them win. Cry. Grief is a revolutionary act.
2. Practice Shame Resilience
When we become aware of our own complicity in state violence, notice the temptation to check out, or find ourselves on the receiving end of online and offline bullying from MAGA trolls, we might find ourselves feeling ashamed.
Like grief, shame is a natural part of being human, but it is so painful that many people stuff it down and try not to think of things that might bring it up. Like grief, shame is something we must allow ourselves to feel fully to function in the world.
My favorite thinker on the topic of shame is Dr. Brené Brown. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with her work, you can learn all about her shame resilience theory here.) In brief, Dr. Brown argues that to cultivate shame resilience, we must notice our shame, think through why we feel that way, and then share our feelings with our most trusted confidantes. We must be vulnerable with ourselves and one another if we are to get through this with our sanity more or less intact.
It is worth noting that Donald Trump has absolutely no shame resilience. This is why he can never be wrong and why he requires constant adulation and validation. Without these psychological crutches, he feels no sense of self worth. Don’t be like Donald. Develop shame resilience.
3. Remember that the “new normal” is not okay.
There are a lot of anti-authoritarian pundits that are reminding us that none of this is normal, but it is human nature to adapt to new circumstances. We wouldn’t survive if we responded to the routine as if it were new because we’d be running on a state of high alert all the time.
You will inevitably catch yourself adjusting to the new normal. That’s human nature. But remember that “normal” does not necessarily mean “okay.” You can stop being surprised by something, but don’t lose your moral compass in the process.
4. Use your anger, but don’t linger there
Anger is a powerful emotion that motivates us to change our circumstances, but sometimes circumstances are so much bigger than us that we cannot immediately, personally make the change we want to see.
If we remain in a perpetual state of anger about the things we cannot change, we will become numb to the motivation that anger provides and grow complacent.
When you catch yourself feeling angry, take action. Call your legislators, donate to SwingLeft, go to an Indivisible meeting, act locally by extending kindness and fighting for justice on issues impacting your hometown. Do something that you can do and then let it go. Remember that you’re an individual and it is not on you alone to solve this. Do not let the fascists steal your joy.
5. Focus on what we’re for
Resistance is a perpetual state of “no” by definition. It’s very easy to get caught up in what we’re standing against, but this will keep us stuck in anger and overwhelm.
We need to define what we stand for and continually move forward on those priorities wherever we can on a local, state, federal, and global level.
For me, those values are:
- Democratic norms
- Global stability
- Human rights
- Scientific truth
Since our Federal government is FUBAR at this juncture, the Federal level of action needs to be focused on taking back the House of Representatives this November. We need to be registering voters, promoting Democratic candidates in flippable districts and pushing back on voter suppression efforts through the courts. On that front, I highly recommend that you engage with SwingLeft and support the ACLU’s voting rights program.
At a State level, we can stand with De-Escalate Washington and focus on getting their police accountability initiative over the finish line and regroup and push forward on passing a carbon tax here in Washington State.
Locally, we can get behind city and county-wide efforts to address our homelessness crisis. Call your City Council member today and let them know that you support the Employee Head Tax before their vote on Monday. Reach out to King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office and let him know that you support the $400 million annual budget to address homelessness.
So to sum it up…
A sustainable resistance practice requires us to:
- Feel our feelings fully so that they don’t weigh us down.
- Connect with other people so that we don’t feel alone in our grief, anger, or shame.
- Define our values in terms of what we’re for rather than what we’re against.
- Adapt to the new normal, but hold onto our understanding that the new normal is not okay.
- Use our anger to propel action that centers our values every level of government.
- Rest. Remember that it’s not all on you to solve. We’re in this together. You are not alone.
Writing songs, speeches, and essays, researching and synthesizing information, and organizing and performing at protests are all emotional labor. Please consider making a contribution to my work.