As the result of the vastly changing political landscape in the past few weeks since the Presidential election, many of us have been stricken with grief, panic, and outrage. And with each tweet by the president-elect, our anxieties grow.
So what to do in this very disturbing and demoralizing situation? As with any significant challenges in life there are options no matter how bleak the situation might seem. However, one must be aware of the potential outcomes of each choice. Here are a few of the more obvious ones and some suggestions for how to proceed through this political nightmare.
First, you could ignore it and hope it goes away. Tragically, like a skin cancer, this condition is not going to disappear magically any time soon. And often ignoring it only makes it worse.
Nothing will change unless folks carve out a couple hours a week from their busy modern lives to work on making the country a better place to live.
Next, you could move to a far off land that may seem more enlightened and welcoming of your political perspectives. This decision is fraught with challenges such as, do you pack your whole family in the van, including in-laws, and make the trek north? Do you sell your house or only rent it in case there is a transition of power in the near future? What about employment and whether you have the job skills needed? Will you be welcomed in your new land?
The other reality about fleeing the country is that wherever you end up might have similar issues. You might trade the electoral college for a constitutional monarchy; neither of which make much sense. Often folks think that the grass is greener on the other side of the border, but in reality it is greener where you water it.
Which brings us to the last option on this particular list: take action. Certainly, getting involved might be uncomfortable and annoying, however, it is the only option that could actually change the nightmare in which we find ourselves.
The truth is, of course, that you have to make time for political action. Nothing will change unless folks carve out a couple hours a week from their busy modern lives to work on making the country a better place to live. We make time for coffee meet-ups or 24 Hour Fitness or shopping on-line or a USC/UCLA game. However, we are hesitant to make time for what could really make us happier and healthier—building trusting relationships.
Here are a few suggestions on how to become an activist and have fun doing it.
Step one is to organize around a positive concept or action. Working together around a creative project or activity is much more productive over the long term than blocking the big box store from invading the neighborhood or ridding your block of the drug house or slowing traffic on your street. Negatives are divisive and you don’t have a whole lot to talk about after they are solved. Positives provide something to look forward to and they develop deeper relationships.
Next, recognize that everyone has value and possesses a characteristic or talent that might be instrumental to your success. Often we dismiss those who are ornery or loud or, frankly, a bit complicated. Your challenge is to identify the unique abilities of each member of the community and then channel those into a role that utilizes those skills in an effective way. Certainly tricky in implementation, but once you create the right conditions for everyone to participate your team will grow dramatically.
Another key strategy is to bloom where you are planted. So often we want to save ‘those people’ when we should really be saving ourselves and our own neighborhoods. For many of us, it may be easier to write a check to help kids to acquire an education in Africa than it is to tutor neighborhood children at the local middle school. Where would you like to live: on a street where everyone knows each other and are able watch out for each other, or on a street where you didn’t know anyone and were worried about what your neighbors might think or do? If everyone were to take responsibility for their own corner of the planet and make it as healthy and caring as possible then we will be focused less on charity and dependence and more on self-reliance and collaboration.
In the end the key is to do something. During the Obama years, folks could sit in the La-Z-Boy and bark complaints at the T.V. and not risk too much. Today, however, we find ourselves in a seriously dangerous situation, so being an arm-chair politician will no longer be an innocent pastime, but will actually cause damage.
We live such busy lives in this country that we feel as though we don’t have time or the energy to get involved. After all, most of us are just trying to get by. But with the political power in the hands of those who want to roll back human rights and social justice advances by at least 50 years, you either get in the game or you will be played by it. Just because you didn’t participate in a decision doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. It just means that someone else made it for you.