How to be a better activist and humanist

Stop giving into anger and vengeance. That’s what got us here in the first place.

This type of behavior is what you’re fighting against. Your love of punching Nazis is the exact equivalent of a Nazi’s love of punching people of color and/or gay people. The hypocrisy is blatantly obvious here, and all this type of aggression does is add fuel to the fire, increasing everyone’s fear. All it does is justify further violence from both parties; one Nazi punched in the face gives all of his friends a reason to feel justified in going out and beating up a member of the queer community; then queer allies feel justified going out and beating up more fascists; and on and on. And the whole time we’re just making it more and more difficult to do the one thing we need most: calm, respectful, unifying dialogue. And I know what you’re thinking: “Steven, you’re being naive. This is war. This is what has to happen. You can’t talk to Hitler and Nazis.” But that’s simply not true, because the majority of people in this “war” are actually in the middle, wanting some semblance of reconciliation. It’s people giving into these type of radical behaviors that make us think it’s not possible and thus push more people out of the middle and toward the edges. Civil war CAN be avoided, we just have to have the courage to not resort to the worst aspects of ourselves while peace is still an option. 

If we would stop giving into petty bouts of anger, stop increasing the amount of fear we live in, we would be less susceptible to the sway of the governmental propaganda that (like in 1984) simply wants us fighting each other, that wants us so blinded by our hatred of our fellow citizens that we ignore the fact that the government is the real enemy; they’re the oligarchs economically and ideologically grinding us into the ground as they extort us for manual labor and money(power). Your radicalism, whether your left or right, is power given to the true enemy. You hurt all of us with such actions.

And so the best way to save this country is going to be putting out the fires, finding compassionate and respectful conversation with people different than us— and for fuck’s sake: finding out how to respectfully disagree. We need to grow up and stop living in a world where everyone has to agree with us just like they do in our little internet echo-chambers and at our local bar. We need to actually be willing to admit that we don’t know what it’s like to be on the other side; we need to be willing to listen to rural white male Christians who have been losing their jobs and watching heroine epidemics sweep their small towns; just like they need to be willing to listen to us when we tell them about our communities where queers, women, and people of color give us the same amount of love and respect as the white male might give to his family members, and that we’re all just trying to avoid being oppressed by that same government. We need to build that common ground, and it’s only going to happen by listening authentically, admitting your ignorance, and respectfully sharing perspective—not by a continual stream of derogatory blanket statements, and certainly not by cheering on violence and hatred. Violence needs to be used strategically, and as a last resort, when we know it will bring about meaningful and tangible change, not in this vindicitive, short-sighted, and hollow way that only creates more turmoil that further threatens the ones we love. 

Organize with active intent, realize the power of local strength to spread.

Once you have opened your perspective, once you’ve put aside your radical behavior, once you’ve gained us more allies through love rather than causing more aggression through anger, then we can use our greater numbers to impact change.

This starts locally, and by breaking down the issues.

Find out the individual problems addressing your community, then build steps to solve them bit by bit. This isn’t going to be a war we win with one fell swoop, this is a war of putting out fires along enumerable fronts. And one of the most important ways to do this is through pragmatic solutions to local issues.

If we want to see change, we need to create little pockets all over the country, all creating a stable defense and slowly pushing outwards. Eventually, all of these ripples will connect, and like snowflakes they can become the avalanche of change.

Let your community be a beacon, an example of what is possible. So often in this world, all it takes is one example of what is possible for other people who would normally do nothing to jump in and get active. To know of San Francisco’s resistance to the Vietnam war was a message that got people inspired to do the same all over the country. To know of Rosa Park’s refusal to sit in the back of the bus inspired people all over the country to see the validity of civil rights, to believe their actions could do something, too.

See, the way we lose is to become so overwhelmed by the amount of bad things happening, by the complexity of the enemy at hand, that we recoil into numbness, apathy, and a demoralized sense of futility. But if we get involved in taking these small steps where we can in our local community, we can not only pull ourselves out of the stupor that depresses us and helps no one, but we can actually change policies and protect groups.

For example, I was recently at a cafe where a man told us about his wife who works with disabled people in the school system. She’s also part of a union. Well, here in Portland where they work, we are a Sanctuary city, and as such we are about to lose federal funding for harboring immigrants. This is a drastic impact on this man and his wife, to the disabled people’s rights, and to the school system. Furthermore, Trump is actively working to dismantle labor unions.

At a community meeting, if each person going through these kinds of issues could voice share their struggles, then we can, as communities, build up lists of problems. Then we can prioritize through feasibility and greatest positive impact.

We can build a list of resources:

Who in our community understands the law? Who understands unions? How much money for a policy, appeal, lawsuit, etc that will either save people against these struggles or at least buy us time to figure out other solutions?

If our schools lose funding in Portland, then we can crowdfund the exact needed amount. If a measure needs signatures, we can figure exactly how many and organize an initiative to go get them. If we have a question about a specific law, we can find out who knows someone who can help us. If it cost money, we can raise the funds to buy their legal aid. We can find the tax loop holes and the hidden laws that have long been used by the powerful to turn the tables back against them and to throw wrenches into Trump’s progress, maybe forcing supreme court cases that take years to sort out, thus getting us safely to the other-side of a Trump presidency.

We can put on fundraisers for any of these efforts. As artists and organizers, we can take the meaningful and high-road of contributing our time for free to help draw people out and to help give people a reason to donate.

And all skills are helpful. If you’re a web developer, perhaps make a website for your community(or all communities) that will allow us to track our local issues. Create a detailed list of problems facing your community, then create a list of ways to stop each separate issue, including what resources are needed: what type of skillset? How much money? How many people? What questions still need to be answered? Where are we in progress with each?

That way, when we meet regularly, we can simply pull up the website and know exactly what we need to do to resist.

Learn as much as you can. Get as detailed as possible when breaking down the big problems directly affecting your community and make simple step by step ways to build up the resistance, to change policy, and to build up that stable core from which we can continually push out further and further from until we meet other community’s cores of resistance, and then we can team up to have even greater regional, and eventually national, impact. Be the ripple that turns the tide. Be the appeal that halts governmental progress. We need legal avenues of change, because as we’ve seen with Trump, you can get away with anything if you’ve got the support and use the law to push your agenda.

Artists: Create art and wear clothing that promotes unity!

This may seem simple, but the bottom line is there are a lot of artists out there who are pouring every ounce of free time and money into fighting against Trump and protecting our humanistic values, sometimes going so far as to giving away time and money they can’t afford.

If you like the message being promoted by an artist, buy their stickers, their books, their t-shirts etc. Not only are you helping those who are creating beacons of resistance and threads of revolution to create more, but you’re becoming a beacon yourself.

Put their stickers on your laptops, their posters in your windows, share their books with your friends and wear their screen-printed t-shirts. This may not seem like much, but it’s important that our allies know they’re not alone. It’s important that our Black, Muslim, Mexican, queer, female community members see our support for them as they walk the street. I know if I was being oppressed, seeing a stream of people wearing shirts that speak to my protection would stop me from feeling so afraid. And I know from growing up in the kind of community in southern Ohio that put Trump in power, that seeing someone speak up for human rights helped me realized that I could disagree with my hateful, indoctrinated community, because I saw that I had other allies in my neighborhood that would welcome me. 

It’s also a wonderful talking point. If you see someone wearing a Women’s March t-shirt, or maybe a shirt that says “We are all Immigrants,” or something to that affect, then you can engage the person and find out how you can help each other, discuss community initiatives you’re a part of. And in this way we turn away from being singular entities feeling isolated as we wander through a sea of sharks and sheep, and instead become an organized group who love and inspire each other to change the world.

Look at how to impact Midterm elections, and stop congress from approving all of Trump’s insane agendas:

If you ever thought voting didn’t matter, look at your current President who was voted in by incredibly narrow margins, often because of third party people believing their “principles” were more important than the stability of the species and the rights and safety of the common citizen. We need to realize that our votes are of the utmost importance, and that it’s not just about “who we agree with” anymore, it’s about who can we ensure will provide some stability to this warthog that is wallowing in the White House in an existential, toddler-like temper tantrum, hoping to bring down the world around him as he falls into old age and death.

Fortunately, just like the Republicans have long blockaded Obama, we can instill a congress to blockade the progress of Trump. We can change our votes if we’re in red districts, and we can campaign in nearby districts if we’re in the blue.

Sites like https://swingleft.org/ are extremely important in organizing this effort, getting people from already blue districts to link up with their nearest red district so that we can stay on top of issues that that particular right-wing community is focused on, so we can help reach out to them in an attempt to build a respectful and compassionate dialogue, to hopefully show them the actual people being hurt by their actions, hopefully finding a way to show them why a Republican-dominated congress is just as dangerous to them as it is to us, because of how much we know Trump is going to ruin the planet, our economy, and potentially bring us into nuclear war.

And again, this is where it becomes SO crucial to put aside your ego. Don’t attack these people for being on the right—that will only make them more dedicated to rallying with their political party in spite of any evidence you present. Show our fellow American’s that the left truly does accept people of all kinds and that they are welcome to join our community in unity and without malice against them. To switch people from the right to the left, they have to feel comfortable within the new cultural group they’re aligning themselves with. Show them the love the left is supposed to embody, and they will finally have a reason to turn against the uncomfortable fear-driven mentality they’ve been forced into by an indoctrinating party that specializes in demagoguery. If we do otherwise, we are making the people on the right feel like Trump is their best chance at protection from an angry leftist movement, and by virtue of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” we force our would-be allies into support of Trump.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I was inspired by the beginning of your post however by the end the writing it had fallen back to the more hate and fear driven language that is being seen across the nation by violent left protesters. “… so we can help reach out to them in an attempt to build a respectful and compassionate dialogue” “….warthog that is wallowing in the White House in an existential, toddler-like temper tantrum, hoping to bring down the world around him as he falls into old age and death.” Is this your example of the accepting lefts respectful and compassionate dialogue?

    • Reaching out to the masses with respectful and compassionate dialogue is different, in my humble opinion, than ignoring the realities of an individual’s behavior. I’m asking my peers to not make blanket statements about the right, but I believe everyone, when taken on an individual basis, can be judged for their actions. In the case of Trump, his actions seem to be that of an old dying Tyrant King who wants statues of himself built in an attempt to immortalize himself into the histories of time. His actions in regard to climate change and foreign affairs show that he has little sight beyond his own mortality. Therefore, the existential temper-tantrum.

  2. Might I suggest that we all keep our eyes more on the vulnerable and less on the flamboyant personality? He will be attended to by those elected to ensure there is no abuse of power. The Republicans will see how his instability eventually will hurt then at the polling booths and they will desert him. I am a politician because I am a social worker. I can tell you who will be in harm’s way when specific programs are cut or restructured. We need to run toward the fire together to have the backs of those who are about to be in for a world of hurt.

    I’m not saying we ignore this administration, but there will be continual unraveling that will act to distract us from the consequences of the policy shifts that are very much in line with the majority party in Congress. Even if somehow we get a new president next week (for the sake of discussion), the policy shift will continue due to the agenda of the far right.

    The singularly most important thing everyone can do to make real time change is to either find a candidate locally to support by actually volunteering time and contributing money, or even better, run for office. Run for school board, city council, state legislature. That’s what the Republicans did in the 1970’s as they watched the anti-war radicals protesting. That’s how we got that large red swath across our county.

    Of course we need to continue to make calls and write post cards and go to protests. That truly does make a difference. I know of legislation that has been withdrawn when constituents complain loudly enough.

    I can’t imagine doing this without meditation.

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