Part V: Resistance, Rebellion, Radicalism

I’ve used a lot of combative words – fight, struggle, accomplice, engage, resist.

There are two opposing schools of thought in activism: That only nonviolent resistance works in the long-term, and that non-violence is nothing but bougie wheel spinning while actual people suffer. I don’t disagree with either position, and they’re both right and wrong.

I am Quaker — non-theist, but committed to nonviolence as the most functional form of creating progress. My commitment to nonviolence is extremely practical and based in observation of historical examples. Unlike most religious Quakers, I have no problems at all with defensive action and non-compliance resistance. I do object to direct, unprovoked, unequal, violent action, including such action taken by the state or its adjuncts. I’m 100% supportive of Black Bloc when they march with interlocking shields against cops in riot gear carrying their own shields. That’s meeting force with equal force. I condemn lone-wolf attacks or snipers because such actions tend to result in police and governmental over-reaction against activists. It cedes the moral and legal high ground. It’s indiscriminate, and it risks turning bystanders into collateral damage. It’s a reasonable use of defensive action to pick up and roll back a smoke bomb. Throwing it back returns it to the people who lost it, and it gets it out of the vicinity of people who do not have the respiratory and body protection that a force in riot gear and gas masks have. But a molotov is a different matter. Defensive action means we do not strike first. Practical non-violence is a complicated way of navigating a world. It’s not for everyone.

The relationship between the populace and the police is already asymmetric — while, in the US, we’re all allowed to have guns, they have more. They have a legal license to use violence, and as it stands now, they’re highly unlikely to be prosecuted or even disciplined if they use their weapons inappropriately upon us, while we’re extremely likely to be summarily executed without trial if we use violence against them.

Given that our goal is always to live to fight another day, we have to recognize that reality while working to change it. A martyr’s only purpose is to fill is a hole in the ground. To quote Buffy Summers on guns: These things, never helpful.

I no longer Black or Pink or Rainbow Bloc. This is practical; my activist and professional work requires a license. Also, I’m aging — I don’t heal as fast and my bones and joints are more fragile than they were when I was 18 or 20. Bloc-ing requires physical health and endurance, and youth is an asset. Those of us who are careful about not getting arrested are not conflict avoidant, especially the medical personnel and lawyers. It’s allocation of resources, like using your bishops, rooks and queen in chess to protect the king. Thus, I spend almost all of my time now on the bail team for protests, posting bail and retrieving arrested but uncharged members from jail. Bloc-ing has purpose, utility, and it’s thrilling if you’re physically and emotionally capable of doing the work. If you are spoiling for direct action, I’m going to steer you at Bloc, with caveats. If you’re responsible for other people, or need to keep a license, or are precarious — think hard before Bloc-ing.

Radicalism will feel attractive, and that’s the risk with Bloc. Radicalism is easy, after all — there are no moral shades, extreme violence is direct and fast and flashy. When it’s over, you likely won’t have to pick up the pieces — the chances are extremely high that you’ll be dead, and if not, you’re going to prison. Either way, you never have to worry about anything again. The Fuck You that you handed out is not just to the opposition — it’s to all activists. The rest of us have to clean up your mess and do our work in a political and legal environment that you have made worse. When my first activism was literally dying, we did not intentionally spread the virus or burn the hospitals or cause destruction. We cannot today give into extremism. The only change that has ever worked — even in times of war — is resistance. Extremism just gives the opposition more reason to kill us or let us die. We cannot afford to hand them ammunition. If Bloc’s your thing, do it. Don’t be stupid. Think strategically, act tactically. Come home at the end of the day. 

The truth in protesting is that sometimes we do get arrested. For the most part, it’s just unpleasant. That may change. Most responsible organizations that engage in civil disobedience have training on getting arrested. If you can find that training, attend. Preparation for anything makes it easier. Always aim to be arrested as part of a group, not individually. If you’re with a group, you have eyes on each other. It’s harder for you or anyone to get lost in the system, and it’s harder to become a victim of violence at the hands of the police.

Any action, protest or work session comes with the risk of outside agitators and informants. When you first enter activism, there’s a good chance others in your new organization will treat you with a degree of suspicion, because they don’t know you. That’s why new members get assigned to what feels like unimportant work — organizers need to know that you’re reliable, that you’re not taking names to narc, and that you can be trusted. If you can manage to run the copy machine without destroying a print run, we’re more likely to give you access to the email list or the schedule password. If you come into an organization wanting to break stuff and cause grief, you’re going to be assumed to be an agitator. You will be isolated and mistrusted. Action requires trust that must be earned.The longer you’re in your activism, the better you will be at identifying agitators and informants.

Right now, violence for the sake of fucking shit up is counter-productive. The time for fucking shit up is when we’re being conscripted into war production and being disappeared. Are some of us being killed for being the wrong color when a shit-for-brains cop gets adrenaline poisoning? Yes. Are some of us being killed for having pink bits that some dudes don’t think match who we present as? Yes. And do some of us go to prison at extraordinary high rates because white people don’t realize their own biases? Yes. From my non-violence perspective, these are causes for defense, not offense. Not quite yet. The response calls for accomplice-driven, collective action.  This can change, so don’t marry this idea that violence has no place in resistance, but right now? Date it exclusively. Make the other side escalate. It makes them look worse.

The difference between a defensive action and an offensive action is that defensive actions seek to aid targeted people in surviving, while offensive actions seek to forcibly un-target people through means other than the law and protest. Each circumstance is going to require a different set of defensive actions. The closest analogy I have is the frustrating advice about avoiding rape. The people who should be targeted in anti-rape campaigns are not the victims, but the perpetrators. This happens less often than it should. Instead, a broad class of people get advice about dating carefully and dressing in certain ways and getting self-defense training. None of these are generally bad advice for anyone wanting to defend themselves, but it’s not actually helpful because it’s targeting the wrong population. As activists and resistors, we need to offer our aid to our accomplices of color and our LGBTQ accomplices. It’s not ideal, and it’s the wrong target, but those who need aid and solidarity need it now, not when we can reform the criminal justice system or end homophobia. 

Practically, this means recognizing that we’re always safer and more powerful in packs. That’s just human reality. We tend not to fuck with each other when we clearly have backup. Especially when engaging in activism, don’t do it alone. But even in purely social environments, have wings. Be someone else’s wing. Tell your accomplices where you’re going, what you’re doing, who you’re with. Stay aware of those who have trusted you to have their back. If it feels hinky, get out of there.  It’s completely possible to stay sexy and not get murdered or beat. This is not victim-blaming — we should be safe with everyone, we should be able to drink and not be drugged — for whatever equivalent metaphor applies to drink and drug. But should and is are different things, and for now, being in a pack is our best defense.

The next, and adjacent, defense we have at our disposal is anonymity. Part of the reason Black Bloc dresses all in black (or Pink in pink, or Rainbow in rainbow, or everyone in white chem suits, whatever) is because a group without identifying features is hard to identify. (Yeah, I know, obvious, but for the most part, Black Bloc adopted black because most blacks match, and most people have a collection of basic black clothing. It has almost nothing to do with being intimidating.) More than a few Bloc’ers have beat their court cases because the cops testifying against them could not identify them. Anonymity in resistance also protects our most vulnerable — race and gender become less identifiable in a group where everyone’s in black with their faces covered.

This applies online, too. Resistance in the virtual space means protecting your identity. We have a troll problem. We have a doxxing problem. This isn’t going away, so we have to defend ourselves with VPNs, encryption, and separating our online selves from our real lives.

Non-violence does not mean compliance. It does not mean collaboration. Resistance is the opposite of collaboration, even when it’s done without direct, violent action. We have a lot of models for refusing to be moved, from the sit-in through passive and active resistance to social sabotage. It never hurts to know about tools like PVC lockbox or lock-on loops. (You want to resist? You get DIY. It’s kind of like BDSM that way — join for the kink, stay for the carpentry.) If you haven’t spent some time with the Simple Sabotage Field Manual pp 26-32, this is the manual for how to disrupt a hostile government or meeting. If nothing else, knowing the social sabotage techniques helps you recognize them when they show up in your workplace or activism.  Operation Rescue developed the Witchita Babystep — when being removed from their protest, they would not refuse to move, but they took tiny steps to waste cop time. As long as they were moving under their own power, they were technically cooperating and not resisting. Just because that tactic was used in service of misogyny doesn’t mean the tactic is flawed. (On the other hand, it has not been used recently, and early 90s policing was a different beast than today’s.) Resistance means putting our bodies in the way. The tactics are specific to the circumstance, but the philosophy is always this: No is a complete sentence.

Let’s never be afraid to show the damage being done to us. We have cameras everywhere now. We have quick and easy tools to distribute our images and video. When once AIDS activists had to take their dying selves to state houses, now we blog, vlog, tweet and stream it. We are the ones to whom injustice is being done. That is the prime reason we cannot give up our moral advantage and go on the offensive yet. When we begin to use the tools of the oppressors to do injustice to others, we’re no better than the oppressors. This is practical, not a moral judgement.

There are always gradations of resistance, and simpler is always better than complex. Resistance before damage before destruction, property before people. A bike lock on door handles is often more effective and faster and safer than breaking the windows or starting a fire. Keep in mind that local business owners are potential allies and accomplices, while corporations do not care. Assaulting a bystander or innocent is always counterproductive. Pick your battles — if you’re outnumbered and outgunned, retreat, remove, reform, re-engage. If you show up for an action and there’s a phalanx of cops in riot gear? Get your media person filming, and pick up litter. Be the better citizen. Show them as over-reacting. Make the opposition look ridiculous. This photo works because she makes those cops look like small cowards. The opposition fears us. Use that fear. 

Part VI: Where do we go from here?

As of today, the Electoral College has voted. Our clock is ticking, and it is virtually certain that there will be an inauguration on January 20 of someone who is completely unqualified and actively destructive.

Okay. This is happening. Denial is not going to help.

If you’re not done grieving, you need to work on that. If you don’t know what’s most important to you, you must think about it now. If your income, shelter, source of calories or meds is insecure, that’s your priority right now. If you don’t have your own self-care plan built and you’re not starting to implement it, you need to work on it now and start using it.

Are you angry? Good. We have a lot to be angry about. But we cannot let that anger consume us or turn inward. Focus it. Use it to motivate yourself to keep moving.

If you’re alone, if you feel isolated — reach out. Find your local community and start building your solidarity. Internet friends are wonderful — I love mine and would not trade my time with them for anything — but all action is essentially local. It must be. We have to defend the ground we stand upon first.

It took more than 70 years for American women to get the right to vote, and that right was not fulfilled until the Voting Rights Act. Property and autonomy rights took even longer. It took 120 years to break slavery and another 120 years to build effective civil rights protections. It was never perfect, and it’s always been fragile. But it took 25 years from the beginning of AIDS activism to the first legal same-sex marriage in the US. It took less than 20 years to go from Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to open service in the military. We have learned how to organize, how to resist, how to work the problem. We’re getting better at this egalitarian experiment we call our open society. We can put those lessons to work to preserve it. We must. The next two to four years are a setback, not devastation. The faster we get to work, the faster we will get this country back to the baseline of today and start to make progress again.

I cannot tell you what specifics apply to your circumstances. You can’t tell me mine. But we’re both here. We both care. We have work to do.

In some versions of the Pandora’s Box story, Hope is a curse, just like Wrath and Envy and Sloth. Hope is hot. It’s heavy. It’s hard to carry. It hurts when it’s broken and it hurts when it’s unfulfilled. Hope is the expectation that today’s circumstances will improve. Optimism is the expectation that future circumstances will be better than today’s. Hope is hard, and there are times when my hope flags. But Optimism is easier. Read some history. In the long cycles of time, humans do survive. We do rebuild. We do progress. We do improve. It has often taken longer than a lifespan for the changes to be visible, but every generation gets better at being both individuals and as a society. We do learn — slowly, painfully, with missteps and reversals.

I called this series the Butt-Eye Book because one of the most common responses to a need for activism always starts with “But I…” One of my elementary school teachers hated anything that started with “But I…” in part because sentences aren’t supposed to start with conjunctions, and because it sounds like an insult. She also found excuses disenchanting, at best. Humans are great at coming up with reasons we can’t do things. We will always get tired, hungry, insecure, uncertain, unsafe, overwhelmed. These are part of being alive. So is feeling energized, excited, satisfied, confident, triumphant.

So. Stop calling me Butt-eye. Don’t tell me what you can’t do. Tell yourself what you can. I believe in you. Please believe in yourself.

Is any of this easy? Yes and no. Activism becomes a habit. The longer you do it, the earlier you start, the easier it is and the quicker your response to adversity becomes, “fuck that, let’s fix it.” The first year is the hardest and the first step into an unfamiliar room is terrifying. I have the advantage that I really did start before my tenth birthday. I barely remember a world where I didn’t have some on my schedule. But anyone can be an activist and everyone should be, to the extent they’re able. There is always something that needs hands, even inexperienced ones. One of the advantages of activism — it builds skills. What you learn as a volunteer can become a job, that becomes a career that becomes security. The work is mostly just that — putting in the hours, learning from the experience, applying the skills. The more you do, the better you get. 

Over the next two to four years, we are going to prove one aspect of the opposition’s platform — the government is likely to become increasingly unreliable. Private charity, private work, voluntary effort will step into the the place of government services. It’s inefficient and time consuming and more expensive and results in duplication of effort and it’s the stupidest imaginable way to run a social safety net, but we’re going to prove the great libertarian fantasy. Alas. I believe that government should be the safety net, because it’s more efficient and cheaper and streamlined and it protects the most vulnerable from private prejudice. I want to keep what we have of the net and extend it to more people. But that’s going to be difficult given the quality of the coming administration. We have no choice — we have to take care of each other, and fight for each other’s rights. We’re going to spend a lot of time in court, and we’re going to make a lot of casserole. But if not us, who? And if not now, when? I’m not willing to give up on us.

TL;DR:

Be pro-social. Resist anti-social behavior. Focus. Be present. Do something, anything. Act locally. Have fun. Take care of yourself. Nolite te bastardes carborundum. 

Part II: The Radical Notion of Self-Care as Resistance

Early second-wave feminism coined the term self-care, to combat the idea that women who looked after their own needs were selfish. Self-care has a lot of short-hand phrases: you must put the oxygen mask on your own face before you can help someone else. You can’t put out a fire if you’re on fire. Don’t Be a Casualty. Attend the beam in your own eye before trying to remove the speck from someone else’s eye.

What any opposition wants is for the other side to go away. Whether they die or get bored or get demoralized or disengage — the opposition doesn’t care as long as we shut up and stop being noisy. The easiest way to make activists shut up is to exhaust them.

This is what makes self-care a radical form of resistance. Self-care means that we value our own lives and minds enough to ensure we preserve and protect ourselves to keep ourselves in the fight. Our goal is always to live to fight another day.

The model for self-care comes from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You cannot put someone else’s oxygen mask on their face if you don’t have oxygen yourself. You cannot help someone else secure housing if you are homeless. You can’t feed someone else if you are starving. Empathy and the work of empathy requires the emotional space and resources to share, and humans can get brutally selfish when we’re under stress. We have to recognize that in ourselves and others. This is especially true when an emergency lasts longer than a few days. We’ve all seen the lovely images of people cooperating and helping one another after a tornado. But those cameras go away, and we don’t see the acrimony and bickering over who used the last pack of batteries three weeks later. This isn’t to say survivors are bad people — it’s just that we get exhausted, and our tempers get short, and we lash out when we’re tired and hungry and haven’t had down-time. We have to guard against this in activism.

The first reaction most people have to hearing they need to do activist work is, But I’m already exhausted, under strain, have too much to do, don’t have time. Congratulations! Welcome to activism! The truth about activism is that no person anywhere ever became an activist because they were rich, content, healthy, safe and secure. You are not alone in this. We’re all in it together, and by being in it together, we support and help each other through the rough times.

The second reaction is usually, But I’m just one person, and the problem is immense — Again, welcome to activism. We have cookies. Activism is always about task management, because activism works by taking enormous problems and dividing them into incrementally smaller parts until everyone involved has one task to do. We don’t want to overwhelm our network anymore than you want to be overwhelmed.

And this is where self-care becomes the radical first tool of resistance. You cannot do your task if you’re tired, hungry, stressed, anxious, depressed or overwhelmed. So let’s take care of that, first.

The simplest way to ensure self-care is to build a routine and stick to it like it’s your lifeline. Because it is. To function as a human being, you need to

  1.  get enough sleep,
  2.  get enough calories in the right proportions for your body,
  3.  get enough water, 
  4.  get enough exercise and light, 
  5.  get enough companionship and positive interaction,
  6.  get enough alone/down/quiet time,
  7.  get enough health care, including mental health care, and 
  8.  get enough shelter, material goods and/or funds to cover material goods. 

Look at your life, right now. Can you say that all eight of those necessities are being met? If not, then that’s your priority, as your own activism. You need to fix those because you’re not doing anyone — including yourself — any good if you’re consistently hurting, yourself or hurting yourself.

If you’re sick, injured, depressed, anxious — it’s time to get help. That’s your full-time job right now. You must ask for this help, because the rest of us cannot know that you’re having a rough time until you tell us. You don’t have to construct your support structure — you have to connect with the ones that exist. If you’re employed and/or have health care coverage, then getting your care is relatively simple. You call your doctor, make an appointment, and show up. You get your scrip, go to your therapy sessions, do the work your therapist suggests, and take your meds. It may take time to get you the right meds; it may take you a couple of tries to find the right therapist. This is your priority. Don’t give up on it. You pay for it slowly, if it’s too expensive to pay all at once. Every health care provider is willing to take payments. They’d rather be getting $20 a month from you for years than send your account to collections.

If you don’t have insurance right now, then you need to get to a clinic. Every state has some form of health, including mental health, care for everyone. It may be ugly, and it is likely to be complicated and difficult, but it’s there, and accessing that care is your activism. If you’re disabled but not yet on SSDI, then getting your disability claim approved is your activism. It’s your full-time job. We cannot help you if you won’t tell us you need help.

If you’re in a place where you’re not able to access any care, where you can’t find work, can’t get an education — why are you there? What’s keeping you? You need to deeply consider this. It doesn’t sound like it’s a good place for you if your health, your mind and your prospects are all stagnant or suffering. This is also a form of activism. Self-advocacy is the first advocacy. It’s the only one you cannot abdicate to someone else. It is literally the choice between living and thriving or not. It’s time to think deeply about what you want, and how you want to get it. It’s time to commit to a course of action. Nothing will get better without your attention and commitment. If you’re single, you’ve got it easy. Sell everything except what fits in a backpack or what fits in the trunk of your car, take the cash and buy a bus ticket or fill the tank, and go. Pick a city with a low unemployment rate in a Medicaid expansion state. Working a basic job in a place with a lot of basic jobs is better than not working and not getting the care you need. You need to get your healthcare squared now, because it is very likely that if the ACA is repealed, the replacement will have a continuity of care trip-wire embedded in it. Which means if you have healthcare now or within the next couple months, you will be able to continue to access healthcare. If you don’t, it may be impossible to get it.

If you have a partner, now is the time to sit down and have a serious discussion on your plans, needs and goals. It’s time to decide where you want to be and what you value as a partnership. If you can’t agree on your goals, it’s time to negotiate, and if necessary, take separate paths. If you have children, know that it’s okay to move them to a place where they and you have better opportunities. I can’t tell you what your specific plans will be, because your plans apply to your circumstances. What I can tell you is that you must think about your needs and goals, and take action to meet those needs and goals. Nothing will ever improve or progress for you without your action. It can get worse if you do nothing. You need to think, you must communicate, you must act.

And if you decide that your priority is ensuring your personal and your immediate family’s security and comfort — that’s okay. I’m not going to fault you for that. I just ask you to focus on it. If activism isn’t for you, that’s fine. But please stop spreading the fear virus. We’re all well aware that shit’s about to get dire. Panic isn’t helping anyone and the internet is a really good vector for spreading fear. Pick one reputable source of news and stick with it. Don’t forward chain emails. Ignore whatever Alx Jns nonsense your conspiracy-minded relative posts to Book d’Face. Avoid fake news. Be as pro-social in your community as you can be. 

Okay, you’ve got your meds. You’ve got therapy scheduled. You’ve got a job. You’ve got a roof keeping the rain off. You’ve got calories appropriate to you. You have 168 hours per week. 56 of those are for sleeping. 21 are for eating and cleaning yourself and your space. 40 are for working/school. 15 are for getting to and from place to place. That leaves you about 36 hours a week for activism, recreation, exercise, therapy, socializing.

Which doesn’t sound like much. Here’s the thing — we’re combining some of these activities. Can you move so you can walk to work/school/necessary supply acquisition? It may be more expensive for less space. Well, that means you’ve got less to clean and less stuff to worry about, and perhaps can sell your car. Then you can combine exercise and transit. Activism and socializing mesh together. Once you decide on your specific activism, make sure it’s something you enjoy. It needs to be fun for your definition of enjoyable. If it’s unpleasant, you won’t want to do it. Can you combine your job and your activism? Sleep is non-negotiable, but everything else can be meshed and should mesh.

The important thing is to think about what you’re doing, what you want to do, and plan. You’re going to be sacrificing something in order to commit to activism. Pick wisely. Be willing to change your picks. Accept that there will be trade-offs — it’s perfectly fine to have a PB&J sandwich for breakfast if that means you gain 20 minutes. This may be easy for you — okay, I only get one 6 hour binge of Gilmore Girls a week, instead of five binges. Hooray! You found time! It may be more difficult — I have a 6 year old who needs lunch, clean clothes, and to have her every move documented on Instagram. Um. Yeah. Kid needs food and clean clothes. The documentary… less so. It’s not irresponsible parenting to get your kid helping you with making their lunch and doing their laundry — that’s how they learn to do these things. Being an activist is also a skill that children need to learn and witness. I came into activism at age 8, by building freezer casseroles for people with HIV/AIDS. I have never in my even moderately self-directed life not had a form of activism on my schedule. It is part of my self-care, because helping others helps me be part of my larger community. Bring your kid to a work session, or to the protest. This is how children learn to be part of the citizenry. Check your current priorities: Do you actually need 6 SoulCycle sessions a week, or 14 hours of hot yoga? Does your child actually need two sports, two instruments and four play dates a week? Does your employer expect 60+ hours of work from you, while only paying you a 40 hour a week salary? Either ask for more money — so you can support activism financially — or look for a new job, or figure out ways to work more efficiently and redesign the job to fit in the allocated hours. Examine everything. Take nothing for granted. Give no quarter just because that’s the way it has always been. The way it’s always been may not last much longer.

BUT — self-care also means not sacrificing what is truly regenerative for you. Activism is work, even when it’s fun and invigorating. Do not over-schedule yourself — that leads to burnout. The reason for building a schedule that you stick to like a lifeline is so that you don’t burn out. If you need time alone with your video game, or with a book, or on your exercise bike — don’t give those up. If you like fashion or woodworking or marathons of Yuri on Ice — do it. Schedule those. They’re self-care, too. Just don’t use them as avoidance activities to the exclusion of everything else. They’re your rewards and your reinvigoration.

Marx called self-care the regeneration of the worker, and Marx was very clear that it included food, sleep, hygiene, sex or attention, social time, beer, and all the other things that make life worth living. Emma Goldman is often misquoted as saying that if she can’t dance, it’s not her Revolution. Resistance, rebellion and revolution are work, and require regeneration, but that doesn’t mean the work itself can’t be fun. It’s not selfish to maintain yourself — it’s a requirement. The rest of us need you doing whatever you can do, and that includes keeping yourself healthy, fed, rested and mentally fit for duty.

There’s a fine line between self-care and self-indulgence. Self-care is making sure you have the emotional and physical resources to empathize with and assist others. Self-indulgence is diverting those resources back to one’s self to the exclusion of others. If you find that you’re having to increase your self-care routines to a point where they take up most of your time, but you’re still not recharging — or if you find that you or someone else is monopolizing another person’s time — there’s something else going on. It could be anxiety or depression. It could be avoidance. It could mean you’re overwhelmed or unhappy, and haven’t allowed yourself to admit it to yourself yet. That’s a signal to find a therapist and start talking.

Self-care matters. It really is radical. It is a commitment you make to yourself to live up to your best potential. Don’t sell yourself short. Because we need you being your best self for as long as possible, because we need every hand and head committed to this fight. Self-care is not selfish, because it is a means of preserving the collective human potential. If you cannot bring yourself to practice self-care for yourself, then do it for everyone else. Do it because you don’t want the rest of us to carry a casualty of exhaustion. Do it because you don’t want to be a burden. Just do it, and then come to the meeting. 

The Butt-Eye Book: Liberal Endurance and Resistance in the Face of Fascism

I have been trying to figure out how to say this for most of a month: yes, the next two to four years are going to be a hard fight. Yes, they’re going to suck and it’s going to suck most for the people with the fewest resources. I’m sorry about that. I wish I had a better answer, but all I can do is put my personal body in the civil disobedience ranks and get myself arrested or be on the bail team. I can only be right beside those who need help most. I am an accomplice. We’re in this together. I have some tools, gained in more than thirty years of resistance and activism. I can offer a path forward. It’s up to you to take it.

Just because a situation sucks doesn’t mean we get to not fight. Our suffragist and abolitionist and civil rights ancestors would have no patience with our collective despair and doom-singing. They would tell us to work the damn problem, work it in our own space and spheres of influence, work it face to face and day to day. And they would be right to give us the verbal warning. We don’t get to pick our place and time of battle. We do get to choose how we react to the battles we’re given.

The easiest response to adversity is always to abdicate. Whether that means literally curling up and dying, or withdrawing from others, or becoming entirely self-centered, or turning bitter and angry and ineffective, or self-radicalizing into aggression, they’re all the same. Those reactions are all forms of conceding the point and deciding that your values aren’t worth the effort to preserve, defend and advance them. It’s saying the opposition is right and giving them exactly what they want — for you to go away.

I have no patience and no sympathy for abdication in any of its forms. It’s purest selfishness and it doesn’t work. We have to fight and do the work. 

I do have sympathy for grief and shock and loss. As a group, we progressives have taken a body blow. Our spirits and often our bodies are bruised and aching. We’re confused and frightened. We know we have no roadmap to navigate the coming years. We are feeling abandoned by our leadership and at a loss. We need to grieve.

And this is where we need to take Joe Hill’s final words to heart: Don’t mourn. Organize. Joe was a union organizer in the early 20th century. He was judicially murdered for his activism. He is one of the ones who gave us the model of resistance that we need to investigate, internalize and return to action.

If you still need to time to process, take the time and do it now. You have 31 days left to do so. Then it’s time to get to work.

Here are your deadlines:

  • By January 19, you must establish a self-care routine to keep yourself fed, housed and emotionally and mentally ready to do the work that’s coming our way
  • By January 19, you must decide what your specific area of focus for the coming years will be.
  • By January 19, you must connect with a local group that works on your specific area of focus.
  • On January 20, you must be plugged into the activist network, because that’s when our mission goes live.

I’m not exaggerating here.

During the AIDS crisis, we had a catchphrase: Silence = Death. At the time, the Reagan Administration refused to even say Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or Human Immunovirus, or acknowledge that hundreds and sometimes thousands of people were dying nationwide every week. We refused to be silent. We refused to go quietly to our graves. We organized. People who were literally hours or days from death loaded themselves and their oxygen tanks and fluid bags into cars and went to state houses. We took our inspiration from the old Irish custom of the hunger strike, and died on our adversary’s doorsteps as a means of forcing the opposition to see what they did. It took time that too many of my HIV+ friends didn’t have, but we got funding for medical research. We got access to medical care and disability support. We got the right to declare our own families, our own carers, and to leave our property to people of our choice. The fight for the right to marry was born in AIDS activism. LGBTQ Civil rights was born in existential crisis, and while the fight isn’t won, we made strong progress in 30 years.

On January 20, 2017, Silence will again equal Death, and not just for HIV+ people. This time, it will extend to married GLBTQ people, and people with uteruses, and poor children, and people with disabilities, and the elderly, and for your own hopes of retirement and for anyone who is vulnerable.

This is going to be an enormous fight. We are going to lose battles. We will lose ground. Every victory will be hard-fought, and will take far more time and effort and energy than it should. It will be demoralizing and seem never-ending. And it is a fight that must be fought. You need to know the stakes, and you need to commit to the fight.

I’m not helping with the despair, am I?

This is a fight we can win. And none of us have excuses for sitting it out. Compared to literally dying AIDS activists taking their support system to state houses, demoralization sounds like a pretty crappy excuse, right? Why are you so special that you get excused from doing the work?

Okay. I feel really bad. I can’t cope. I’m scared. I don’t know what to do or how to do it and I’m scared to let anyone know that I am not perfectly competent the first time. And I’m afraid to do the work because if I do, and we don’t win, then I’m a failure again, and it will hurt more. And I’m already hurting more than I can bear. Which is why I’m resisting doing the work.

That’s totally valid. And that’s the root of the fear and the anger and the despair. I wish I could say that we will be successful every time. We won’t be. We will fail. We will bang our heads against walls that feel like they’re 20 feet of solid brick. And when we fail, we will fail together. We will pick each other back up, dust each other off, drink together, cry together, and get back in the fight together. And when we win, we will win together.

This series is primarily aimed at comfortable liberals and progressives in urban-suburban areas, because these are the people who seem to be floundering most from the pending reversal. It’s not that we live in a bubble — every person lives in some type of bubble — but that we are often less connected to our local governmental and activist infrastructure because that infrastructure is large and complicated. For a rural liberal — they do exist — knowing who ones’ allies are is a necessary survival structure. For liberals who live in small groups within a sea of red — such as university towns — connections within the community are again, survival strategies. But we in urban-suburban areas have a double-edged sword in our place. Our communities are generally stable, tolerant and functional, and we’ve come to expect that sense of continuity. Now that it’s threatened, it feels worse because we lost both our shielding and our trust in the continuity. Because we’re comfortable, we often don’t have the experience of fighting to enforce our smallest right. We’ve always had easy access to our rights, and that is a privilege that we can no longer take for granted.

But we have a positive in that sword, too — there are a lot of us in clusters. We can protect each other, work together, make positive differences for each other. Local action is the most effective form of resistance, because it preserves a day-to-day living environment, and because it can be most rapidly implemented and enforced.

If you’re reading this and you’re living with insecurity, it’s not that I’m not addressing you. What I recognize is that you’re at or near your limits already. I’m not asking comfortable progressives to come White Knight at you. Intro to resistance and activism is a 101 level class. You’re living resistance. Consider yourself fully accredited. What I am asking of you is to focus on your self-advocacy. It’s not selfish to be advocating for your own economic, social, legal and physical health.

Part IV: Resistance

What’s the point? The Twitting Mendacity is going to put us all in concentration camps anyway…

Then what the hell are you waiting for? If it’s going to happen, make a difference while you can. If you’re going to hang for stealing a lamb, take the whole damn flock. And if you make the difference, there’s a good chance it won’t happen.

The opposition wants you tired, defeated, demoralized, anesthetizing yourself with reality TV and fake news and false dopamine charges from click bait. They want you uninterested, unenthusiastic, sick, frustrated and despairing. Why are you giving them what they want?

Inside every adult, there is an oppositional-defiant teenager just begging to be let out to play. This brat would have happily spray painted all seven of the forbidden words on the football field, would have accompanied Ferris Beuller, would have super-glued the principal’s office door shut. This person is your resistance self, the one who refuses to be cowed, shut down or silenced. Give this moppet access to the world.

Resistance is a state of mind rather than a set of activities. It is an essential commitment to your own principles and a promise to yourself to think for yourself. It’s the state of having faith in what you know is right, and being willing to defend it with action to the extent of your ability.

Resistance becomes a perpetual challenge, once you make the decision that your resistance matters. How much can I get away with? How far can I push myself? What more can I do? Resistance can be personal, social, economic, legal or direct action. How you choose to resist will vary based on circumstance and need. You resist racism by keeping your headphones low on the bus, and being the accomplice who talks to the woman in the hijab when an asshat is yelling at her. You resist climate change by being on that bus. You resist the destructive influence of Big Agriculture by eating as locally, seasonally, and regionally appropriately as possible, and the destructive influence of global exploitative capitalism by resisting fast fashion and disposable clothing. You resist the Twitting Mendacity’s power grab by denying him the attention he craves. Pay attention to his, and his cronies’, policies but ignore the ranting behavior. It’s just a tantrum. 

But I don’t know what I want, what I believe. I’m unsure of my principles, I just know that what’s happening is bad.

Okay, that’s a start. Principles are not a fixed state. They develop over time and with thought. You have to know you. Getting to know yourself is worth the effort, and your principles are worth thinking about. If you’re not thinking about it, you don’t actually care.

Here’s a list of 100 resistance actions, from the very small to the moderately large. Some will speak to you. Some won’t. Feel free to build on them, distribute them.

  1. Register to vote. 
  2. Vote.
  3. Help someone else register to vote. 
  4. Write to your Congress person and your Senators once a week about something. 
  5. Write to your governor once a week about something that affects you in your state. 
  6. Write to your state legislators once a week about something that affects you in your town. 
  7. Attend any Congressperson’s town halls and ask them specific questions about why they voted on an issue that matters to you. Especially attend the town halls of the opposition. Make them uncomfortable. Take video. Post it.
  8. Consider your regional environment. What grows there naturally? What’s invasive? What did the Native Americans who lived here first eat? Eat like they did. 
  9. If you live where grain and beans grow, consider shifting your diet towards vegetarianism/veganism as a means of reducing the carbon load. If you live where pasturage is the primary form of agriculture, shift your diet towards locally raised, pastured or wild meats and local produce and away from processed grain, because grazers are nature’s way of converting grass into calories humans can use and eating what’s native to the environment reduces the carbon and watershed loads.
  10. Can you walk to the grocery store? Walk to the grocery instead of driving. 
  11. Can you walk to work or school? Walk to work or school.
  12. If you are going to move soon, look for the smallest residence you can afford and manage, as close as possible to work/school and amenities. The less space you have, the less time it takes to care for it, the less it costs to heat/cool it, the more free time you have to devote to other activities. The closer you are to your major destinations, the less time and fuel you spend in transit. 
  13. Look at your budget: what’s the single biggest item other than housing and health care? How can you reduce that line item? Take that action. 
  14. Do you have student loans? Can you afford them? If not, take advantage of the income-based repayment agreements as soon as possible. Those agreements will endure even if the program is broken, but if you’re not in the program when it is broken, you will not be able to use that program. 
  15. Do you have a mortgage? Are you underwater? Then it’s time to consider restructuring. Corporations use debt restructuring all the time to weasel out of their obligations. There’s no reason you, as a private citizen, should be held to a different moral standard. 
  16. If you menstruate, get a menstrual cup and learn to use it. Less pad and tampon waste means less carbon production, and means you’re not participating in the unfair tax on having a uterus. Deny your state that tax revenue.
  17. Do you want a child now? In the next five years? Ever? If no to all of the above, start talking sterilization with Planned Parenthood, regardless of your gender or gender identity. If you might want a child eventually and have a uterus, consider an IUD or implant. If you have insurance, use it at Planned Parenthood, because as a private pay client, your insurance payments will help support their survival. Cash flow matters for health care providers.
  18. If you have a good relationship with your physician, ask if they will write you a scrip for birth control pills, the morning after pill, and/or mifepristone and misoprostol. Fill the scrips and stockpile them. Learn how to use them to prevent ovulation, prevent implantation, and abort an unplanned conception. Remember you may need to share with someone who doesn’t have your access. 
  19. Do you have a passport? Is it current? Does it have your correct gender and name? If not, apply for a passport. 
  20. Do you have a copy of your birth certificate and social security card? If not, apply for them. 
  21. Do you have photo ID? If not, get one. 
  22. Do you have accomplices who have gaps in their documentation? Help them fill those gaps.
  23. Can you reduce your debt load? If not, use the bankruptcy courts now, while the option remains viable. It’s not a moral failing to have debt and be unable to fulfill it.
  24. Are you happy where you live? If not, why not? Consider where you would be happy, and start working to get there. 
  25. Do you have a yard? Can you convert all or part of it to a garden? Every plant you raise takes in carbon. Every calorie of vegetable you raise is one calorie that doesn’t have to be shipped. 
  26. Do any of your faucets drip? Fix that, either yourself, through your landlord, or by hiring a handyperson. Clean water is a precious resource we can’t afford to waste. 
  27. Do you have a craft? Consider turning it towards creating practical items for people in crisis.
  28. Artisanal craft gets a bad rep, but anything you can make for yourself is something that isn’t being shipped around the world or feeding the coffers of international corporate capitalism. The more you can make for yourself, the less you participate in vulture capitalism. Figure out one thing you want to learn to make for yourself, and learn that thing. Then learn the next thing.
  29. Reduce, reuse, repair, recycle. Consider what you have before you buy something. Reuse everything you can and buy used when possible. Repair items until they can’t be fixed. Recycle everything that can be recycled. 
  30. Share with allies and accomplices — use a tool library, a book library, freecycle and maker-spaces when possible. 
  31. Teach what you know to allies and accomplices. Share knowledge. Deny knowledge to the opposition, either by refusal to teach, or by active misinformation. 
  32. Reduce your involvement with corporate media and be skeptical of advertising-supported media. They want to sell you something, or they want to sell your participation. Either way, someone else is making money off you without your express consent.
  33. Do you have a VPN to protect your online self? Install one if you don’t. 
  34. Do you know how to code? Join the EFF’s online privacy and sustainability projects. Help write code to protect dissident voices and keep the online world open and secure. 
  35. If you can’t write code, but can test, EFF needs testers, too. 
  36. Change banks to a regional, community or credit union. That money stays in your community. 
  37. Support businesses that support the progressive agenda. Boycott those that oppose progress. 
  38. Don’t try to avoid jury duty. 
  39. You’re not an ally — you’re an accomplice. Build your networks to aid and support the whole team, not just your role. Commit to the idea that your wellbeing is tied to every other progressive’s wellbeing, and if one falters, we all falter. Keep the chain of accomplice work going. Lift the boat together. Allies are missionaries. Accomplices are co-conspirators. Remember the difference. 
  40. If you’re technical, help a non-technical friend who is in a more vulnerable situation set up their online security. Help them stay up to date. If you’re not technical, start asking your technical friends for resources and 101s.
  41. Use as many online security measures — TOR routing, VPN, crypto, PGP — as you possibly can. The more people using security, the more that truly vulnerable people blend in and can’t be targeted just because they use heavy security. 
  42. If you’re in a marijuana legalization state, and you have a knack with plants, grow your legal limit of medicinal strains, even if you don’t consume. Preserve the knowledge and the plant diversity. Share the products of your growth. Medical marijuana has become indispensable for the people who need it. That is under threat. 
  43. Do you have a go-bag? If not, prepare one for every member of your household.
  44. Do you have a 3 day emergency kit in your house? If not, start building it. Then build out to a 7 day kit, a 10 day car kit, and a 14 day kit. Keep adding a little at a time, until you have a sufficiency to make you feel comfortable. For some people, this is 7 days, for some it’s a year’s supply. Being prepared for an emergency is not prepperism, it’s a means of preserving a community in a time of crisis, and it gives you a cushion against income loss or a means of helping someone else in crisis. 
  45. Keep your gas tank at least at half. You’ll fill more often, but you’ll use the same amount. 
  46. Do you have books you will never read again? Donate them to your local library or take them to a Little Free Library in a community where books might be hard to get. 
  47. Do you have a spare room? Can you handle a roommate? Consider sharing a house with someone. 
  48. Look around your house. Look at the spaces. Can you keep someone safe if they need shelter? Figure out how to do so. 
  49. Learn your rights when dealing with the police. Practice saying “get a warrant,” until you can say it without fear. Never consent to a search. Never invite a cop into your house. 
  50. Refuse to cooperate with people you know to be anti-progressive. Don’t include them in social events, don’t help them, give them bad directions. Lie to them if they ask the time. Isolate, exclude, mislead. 
  51. Attend City Council meetings. If your City Council is intending to pass anti-progressive regulations, be gently, subtly disruptive. Tell long anecdotes with no point during public comment. Cry. Ask that the matter be referred to a committee. Delay, distract, disturb.
  52. Same with School Boards. 
  53. Participate in your local School Board, even if you don’t have and/or aren’t planning on having children. Review all textbooks. Protest the bad ones.
  54. Use chalk to encourage resistance actions in public places. Think like Banksy. Make memes, except on walls, sidewalks and benches.
  55. Ask questions of officials. Demand explanations. Don’t accept sound bites. 
  56. Let children in your vicinity be children. Don’t demand they be seen and not heard. They need the freedom to be kids who are learning to be people. Your tolerance models tolerance for them. 
  57. Know your limits and don’t exceed them. Step back from activism when you’re feeling overwhelmed, before you burn out. Step back up as soon as you can.
  58. Support independent journalism with your eyeballs and your money. 
  59. Read your local newspaper. Subscribe. Read your alt weekly, too, and more than the back page. Pay attention to who writes well and seems to dig. Follow that person. 
  60. Pick up litter. 
  61. When you make a meal that can be doubled or tripled (pasta sauce, soup, casserole), make two or three and freeze the spares. It takes less energy to cook in bulk, and if you have spare food ready to use, you can use it on a busy day or give it to someone who is having a worse time than you. 
  62. Don’t spread fake news. If it looks wrong, too good to be true, from a source that seems suspect, it probably is. Fake news is propaganda. 
  63. Take a knee or refuse to participate in displays of nationalism.
  64. When a disaster happens — and it will, either natural or intentional — don’t panic. Don’t jump to conclusions. Expect that it’s coming, brace for it. And expect the media to report it badly.
  65. Question everything. Be aware that media has corporate interests — they have to keep advertisers to pay their bills. If a story seems slanted, expect that it is. Dig deeper. Look for holes.   
  66. Commit to your activism and be reliable. Show up. Do the thing. Bring a friend. 
  67. Listen to your accomplices. When someone who is not of your gender, race, identity or faith says something is a problem, believe them. Follow their lead on how to make it better. Don’t argue or diminish their experience. 
  68. Boycott and divest your money. If you have a 401K, examine it carefully. Make sure the fees aren’t eating your contributions. If it’s invested in a fund that isn’t in line with your ethics, ask your employer to move it. If you’re responsible for your own stocks or money, move it in line with your ethics. 
  69. Stand with unions that stand with progressive values. (This does not include the police unions.) Don’t cross picket lines. 
  70. Put a balaclava or a buff in your daily carry bag. Be prepared to wear it during protests or if you encounter an event that is drawing attention and police presence. Anonymity is a radical action, and is self-protective.  
  71. Dye your hair. Often. In different colors. This doesn’t foil facial recognition, but it can make it more difficult to track you through crowd pictures taken at different times. 
  72. Sew or glue reflective tape or piping on your hats and around the edge of your hood on your hoodies. This also won’t entirely foil facial recognition, but it helps, especially with a flash/low-light/infrared camera. 
  73. Consider removing any facial or ear piercings as a safety measure. Piercings can give an adversary something to grab and make you hurt. 
  74. Carry gloves with knuckle protection, especially the ones designed for skateboarding and motorcycling. Wear them in crowds or at protests. 
  75. Consider adopting dazzle makeup and hair if you can get away with it. Recognize that it makes you more memorable to people, but less recognizable to machines. 
  76. Wear practical shoes at all times. 
  77. Work on your endurance. Be prepared to walk at least three miles at a time and run a quarter mile. If you can’t do it today, start working up to those goals. Protesting comes with physical demands. Be prepared for them. 
  78. Add to your daily carry a small, very bright flashlight, a clean bandana in a plastic bag and a small bottle (like a pill bottle, label removed) of lime juice or vinegar. The bright light can be used as dazzle in a confrontation, giving you space and time to get out of the way. The bandana can be used as an emergency dressing, and in case of tear gas or pepper spray, an acid-soaked bandana will give you enough safe breathing space to get to safety.
  79. Take a first aid class. Then take a street medic class. Take your refreshers regularly. Practice C-spine, bleeding and airway control between classes.
  80. Relearn to memorize important phone numbers and information. Recognize that your phone can be used against you. The only phone number you should ever write on yourself in permanent marker is the phone number of your or your organization’s lawyer. Everything else — make sure you can rub it off. (Chalk markers are good for this.)
  81. Wear weather appropriate layers at all times. They give you a little bit of padding, and being able to change your top layer quickly can mean the difference between an arrest and getting home safe.
  82. If you wear glasses, always get shatter-proof lenses. If you cannot see without them, carry a head strap and use the strap in large groups. Contacts are dangerous in any crowd situation that can go bad. They can trap chemical weapons on your eyes, and if you’re hit in the eye, the contact can slice into your eye. If you have to wear them, carry shatterproof goggles and use them.
  83. If you like messing with tech, get a small drone with a camera to phone video relay. Learn to fly it. Take it to protests, and stay out of the protest yourself. Get up high, fly your drone over the crowd, and relay police movements to the ground to an accomplice. Only drones can prevent kettling. 
  84. Consider building a gambeson for shock protection in crowd and protest situations. A gambeson is a quilted body jacket that was traditionally worn under armor. Today, it can help protect against rubber bullets and batons. The more layers, the better the protection. With enough (20+) layers, they can be bullet resistant. Gambesons are also cozy.
  85. When dealing with visible or known anti-progressives, be plausibly obstructive. Require all documentation. Follow all procedures, no matter how insignificant. Work slowly. Do not smile. Do not exchange pleasantries. Make their lives mundanely unpleasant. 
  86. If you have a phone with fingerprint recognition, only use that feature at home. When you’re not home, use a passcode or passphrase. The more complicated, the better. You can be forced to give up a fingerprint. You cannot be forced to speak a passcode or phrase. 
  87. Encrypt everything. 
  88. Reinforce your door locks and door frames. 
  89. Dress to blend. Jeans and knit shirts or oxford shirts are boring. They’re everywhere. That makes them, and their wearer, anonymous.
  90. Your tattoos are gorgeous artwork. Keep them covered. They identify you, your artist, and through your artist, everyone else who came into the shop. There is no right to privacy on tattoos. 
  91. Organize your workplace. Join a union if you live in a union state. If that’s impossible, talk to your coworkers about collectively buying a share of the business. 
  92. Keep current on your vaccinations. You are part of the herd; help keep herd immunity a viable strategy for people who cannot tolerate vaccines. When you have a virus, practice quarantine to the extent of your abilities. Try not to spread crud to your accomplices and organization. 
  93. Meet your neighbors. Know their names. 
  94. Care for your local habitat. Pick up litter. Sweep up glass. Flush the toilet in a public restroom. 
  95. Trust your instincts. If something feels hinky, it probably is. 
  96. Learn to identify surveillance cameras.  (3 separate links) Look for them especially in places where privacy should be expected, like dressing rooms and restrooms. If you see one, leave a note pointing it out to others. The note may not survive long, but in the time it’s there, people will see it.
  97. Carry a chalk marker. Write notes to others on non-porous surfaces like tile, mirrors and glass. Use your graffiti tendencies for good. Remind people they have rights. Remind others to resist, to carry on, to have hope. 
  98. Remember your accomplices, even if you haven’t been formally introduced yet. Stand up for them. 
  99. Don’t feed the trolls. 
  100. Write and read. Share what you learn. Use your printer if you have one. A zine is a blog on paper. 
  101. Write letters. The mail is still more secure than email. If you have something you need to say, write it down, stick it in an envelope, and send it by mail. 

Part III: I’m Going To The Meeting!

Take a quick poll of the progressives in your life: What are they doing to be progressive? If they’re typical, then their list looks a lot like this:

  • I’m registered to vote. 
  • I vote in most elections, even if I don’t fully know what I’m voting for or about. 
  • I throw a little money at a cause once in a while. 
  • I tweet. 
  • I sometimes argue on the Internet. 
  • I like progressive posts on Facebook. 
  • I sign online petitions. 

Oh, boy. And this, right here, is why progressivism needs activists. This is pretty much the bare minimum of action anyone can take. 
What’s missing in that list?

  • I attend City Council meetings. 
  • I attend School Board meetings. 
  • I attend Parent-Teacher Association meetings. 
  • I attend my Congressional Representative’s town halls. 
  • I show up for protests. 
  • I show up for work sessions. 
  • I do cooperative work with activist organizations. 

The difference in those two lists is attention and location. The latter list is what keeps society functioning at the operational level. They’re the time commitments necessary to being a citizen who lives and works in a cooperative, social contract society. The former are social signaling behaviors intended to convey the appearance of living in a cooperative, social contract society without actually doing the work.

Online activism has a lot of names: slacktivism, hashtag activism, armchair activism. It has utility. As a tool for raising awareness, online activism is incredibly useful. It’s great for getting people to take very small, almost costless actions, like signing online petitions. It’s a good communications tool for organizing on-the-ground action. It’s useful for raising money.

However, it is entirely useless without physical, local, on the ground activism. It generates empathy that doesn’t get turned into action. Activism from behind a screen is futile. It’s time to get feet on the ground and hands dirty.

Not that activism without organization is much better. Back in 2011, three years into the financial crisis, a lot of activists merged into various parks around the country as Occupy. It was a protest without goals or demands. And it was ultimately futile. Occupy failed for many reasons, but one major factor was the collective refusal to work with establishment political organizations, or non-governmental organizations because the group could not agree on directions or actions. That was a mistake, and in part led to the razing of the various Occupations. The governments that Occupy was petitioning for redress needed to hear a petition. Occupy didn’t have one. We raised a lot of energy and enthusiasm… and didn’t use it.

This is the trap that progressives of all varieties fall into — we think we have to agree 100% to participate. We don’t. We just need to be running in the same general direction. NARAL and Planned Parenthood have different goals — NARAL’s aims are legislative; PP’s are direct medical and healthcare action. They can have deep philosophical disagreements on specifics of their goals, and yet can still work together to ensure that everyone who wants access to an IUD can get one. NARAL and Emily’s List have overlapping goals — more women in elected office is likely to result in more favorable reproductive rights legislation. They can disagree, but they work towards the same goals.

You, as a budding activist, need to realize that you may not agree with everyone in your local organization. And that’s okay. You and they need the practice in hearing voices who are both supportive and disagree. Your ability to deal with the opposition is better if you have practice disagreeing within your own organization. As a Quaker, I’ve been involved in more than a few interfaith peace and justice actions. I may have nothing in common with a Conservative Christian Southern Baptist except that we believe in helping refugees, but on that, we agree, and can work together for that end.

You’re going to pick the organization that is the best fit for you, while recognizing that the other people in that group have also made the same determination. Give them the benefit of the doubt and agree to disagree when you do.

Established activism groups have advantages — infrastructure is a big one. An old organization like the NAACP has history and context. They have seen variations of today’s challenges in the past, and have experience in handling them. They also know how to put your hands to work. New organizations have enthusiasm and fresh approaches, but lacking that infrastructure and institutional knowledge can lead to organizational burnout, fracture and a lack of direction. You know your talents and preferences. If you thrive within a structure, pick an organization with some history in your area. If creative chaos motivates you, look for a young group. But pick something, and show up. Keep showing up.

Local action is always going to be more effective than internet action. It’s impossible to fill food baskets online. You can’t protect a domestic violence survivor from their abusive partner by signing a petition. You can’t make a casserole or hold someone’s hand in a chat room. And it’s very easy to become demoralized in an environment where you cannot effect change.

Thus, it’s time to push our comfort zones. You decide what’s most important to you. You declare your focus of activism. I don’t know what that will be, but you do. You know what’s most important to you. I trust you to make that decision, and I trust everyone else to decide, too. What I need you to do is to trust the rest of us to make our decisions, too, and let us do our work while we let you do yours. If we’re all working on our personal priorities, all the work will get done. But if we’re all trying to do all the work, we will all become overwhelmed and none of the work will get done.

You need to focus. You need to choose and commit to your activism. If you need to limit your news feed to issues only pertaining to your issue, then do it. If you’re focused on LBGTQ issues, that’s fine. Others will focus on racial justice, and criminal justice reform and mental health access. When we need your voice, we will let you know, and when you need our help, we’ll show up. But in all activism, we need individuals working their individual problem. We have to focus, because if we don’t, we’re too distracted to accomplish anything.

Focus doesn’t mean being a jerk about it. I only care about climate change; your civil rights don’t affect the atmosphere. No, not true. Societies without civil rights are more likely to pollute, and polluted societies are more likely to trample civil rights. You must recognize intersectionality, even if your priority is limited. If your climate change group is doing traffic work, then you do need to talk to poverty and disability rights activists, because the people who use your work are also likely to be poor or disabled or both. But you can focus and use your specific activism as the lens through which you interact with the other activisms. Just do your part.

Local activism means going to the meetings, being in rooms with strangers. This is the part that can be difficult, no matter who you are or what you’ve been doing all of your life. But you go to the first meeting. If you stand in the back of the room and only listen, that’s perfect. Then you go to the next meeting. And the next. Just keep showing up. When you’re ready, you’ll put your name on the committee list, or volunteer to take over a print and fold operation.

I am not asking you to give up every evening or two mornings a week. Right now, I’m asking for one meeting a month to start. You will increase your participation as you can. Trust yourself.

But I hate being around people — Oh, you are so not alone. About a third of us are introverts. People are fucking exhausting. Hell is other people, amirite? But the only way we can act collectively is to act collectively. Preserving our country in the face of looming fascism cannot be a rugged individualist, lone-wolf operation. Now is the time for solidarity, not isolation. There were introverts in the Civil Rights movement, and in the suffragist movement, and in the abolitionist movement. They coped. So can you. Balance your activism with alone-time self-care.

But I really can’t handle people — Okay, that’s fair. There are places where you can do important work from behind a screen, but they’re going to take skills. If you don’t have them, you need to develop them. If you code, you can devote your activism to the various EFF and open software projects that aim to maintain individual privacy and security and universal accessibility. If you can’t code but are technically adept, you can test for those projects or write user guides. If you are not technical but are detail oriented, you can contact your state’s Innocence Project and volunteer your time as a documents reader/organizer, or doing data entry — IP projects have enormous documents sets that need eyes. You can build backpacks or hats or coats or scarves for kids in foster care. You can make freezer casseroles for people who can’t cook for themselves. Keep bees. Grow corals for reef restoration. Nurture plants. Look for a fire-watch job and keep wildfire from devastating communities. Examine your talents. Use your skills.

You keep mentioning freezer casseroles — Yep. Everyone has to eat. Use spices. Don’t add salt. Avoid any recipe with condensed cream of stuff soup or tater-tots. Use 4 serving containers, usually 24-32 ounce. It’s easier to bake two than for two people to eat eight servings. If it needs to be baked, put it in foil or freezer cardboard. I can’t recommend any plastic except for vacuum sealer bags (they’re inert enough to not leach plasticizers into food). Mason jars are excellent for soups and sauces. Rotate your recipes, and include at least one vegetarian and one wheat-free recipe in your stable. Get good at what you do. Never make fewer than 3 casseroles at a time, and always freeze two.

But I’m a person of color, and I’m feeling oppressed — Yep. Well aware. We all bring context to the table. Here’s my context: I’m a white academic who grew up on the Mexican border. I speak Norteño, though neither of my parents do. I’ve always lived in places that were at least half minority, mostly in smaller cities. I’m an aging punk ass bitch who cut my first set of activist teeth in AIDS work, and my second set in antifa and I’ve been a visibly identifiable religious minority almost all of my life. Call me a sell-out or blinded by my privilege, I’m going to shrug. I been through the profiling, too. And the stop and frisk. And the exploitative jobs and shit housing and being locked out of a power structure because I wasn’t born to the right parents. Today, I do exploit my privilege to live under the radar — nobody looks at middle aged white ladies. In a few years, nobody’s going to hire me, either. I live in a small city with better than state average diversity. Here’s the problem. The only people doing stuff in my town are relatively wealthy white women. And they don’t get it. They can — they have empathy — and they will be accomplices, but they need you to talk to them. They’re usually past 101 level, but they may need 102. Sorry about that. When they/we act? They/we are guessing about what to do. My city council does mail out multi-lingual invitations for comment. The councilors do go door knock. They use as many tools as the city can afford to get more input from people who aren’t wealthy white women. That’s the improvement in communication my academic, punk, socialist, antifa ass can make them do. I can’t speak for you. You don’t want me to do so. You don’t want me guessing and I don’t want to guess. I want your voice because communication requires two or more parties in a conversation. So why aren’t you at your city council meetings? You live there, you pay taxes for it. It’s your right to participate. Oh, they schedule the meetings at incredibly inconvenient times? Well… when you do have time, you go to your council rep’s office and ask why they’re holding meetings at 4:30 in the morning on the fifth Friday of the month. You have a right to know. Your face is important. Your presence matters. You make yourself heard only by speaking to power. Same with your school board and county commissioners. Even if you’re the only person of color there, even if you never speak, your presence means they have to take notice. I know you’re tired. I know you don’t have spoons for this. But seriously — This is your activism. The people doing the work can’t guess. Don’t throw away your power. Government is not handed to us. We have to participate.

But I want this to change now!!

Yeah, and I want a pony. So? Do your thing. Participate. Act. Speak. Show up. Work the problem.