After the contentious US presidential election, in which it came to pass that Donald J. Trump would become the 45th President, action was alive anew, resistance palpable in the air and fresh on the lips of many.
And, many pointed to such esprit d’corps as a balm to soothe the politically fearful: “the upside,” each would begin, “is that now so many people are so engaged.” Indeed.
On election night, after being on the air for early coverage of the poll returns, I stood next to a woman ― a minister and activist ― and when the numbers, and thus, the immediate future, started to become clear, she said, “either way, we will wake up tomorrow morning with a road map, roll up our sleeves and we will know the way forward. We will know the work we need to do.”
She’s right. Yet, this metaphorical map is also a source of fret. Indeed, there is a feeling of person-to-person organizing on the streets with new vigor, and yet, so strong is the siren call of systems so deeply ingrained in our lives ― hyper-consumerism, information overload, mindless glorification of “busy,” language dangerously both exaggerative and vague, and skewed definitions of success, beauty and love ― that I fear in a matter of weeks or months, this spirit will fade. Yet, it is more important than ever that it does not.
After the inauguration, citizens will exercise the right to non-violent assembly and protest, to express contempt and fear, and put the incoming administration on pre-emptive notice, to let its players be made aware that the people will not stand quietly and passively aside and let rights be removed, culture be infected with hate, autonomy over our own bodies revoked.
But let us be clear: just as getting hired is but the first step in an era of a career, the real work is to be done in the day to day; so too the right to vote is incomplete without the diligence of holding elected officials accountable, even if not a lawmaker for whom our own vote was cast.
While the post-inauguration marches and actions planned around the country— and in fact, the world in solidarity— are important, and we must never fail to understand the importance of showing up and of being engaged citizens exercising our rights and lifting our voices. We must also never fail to understand that with that right to protest and resist, we must bind it before our eyes and minds that a march is but a symbol to convey our intention, an action to commit ourselves to the work ahead, and that it is vitally important to be clear in such moments of our motivations for participation and of our demands.
Let the actions in the coming days be demonstrations in the truest form of the word. Let it be the case that intention is demonstrated and set forth, and that all are certain of what is at stake, what motivates them to continue, and why it is only a start.
Simply put, a march alone does very little; it is the actions of the people within it and in the days and weeks that follow that count so mightily. And, we must hold fast to our commitments to such, and not allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency as patriarchy, capitalism and hyper-consumerism would have us so quietly do.
Resistance and organizing when the pomp and circumstance have faded is hardly as alluring as large-scale, highly visible action around historic moments. But, fight the urge to believe they do not count, for deeply and surely, they do: phone calls and letters to elected officials count; clarity of demands counts, supporting not just charity but solving the underlying cause that warrants its existence counts, writing op-eds counts, being an example counts, sharing accurate information counts, allowing and supporting the press to do its job counts.
Now is the time to be hungry for knowledge, to examine narratives from many facets, to think deeply about what we say with the dollars we spend, to consider responsibilities that come with our rights, to ask ourselves, each day, “what have I contributed?”
On this moment of a transfer of power, demonstrate mightily, organize and network, be clear and hold leaders accountable more than ever, but also commit to resistance in the days ahead, to demanding accountability through our actions, to the quiet actions in the day to day that count, to doing more than updating a Facebook status but to concerning ourselves with meaningful and impactful actions.
On the pulpit of our social platforms, it’s easy to feel like our voices are enough on our screens. They are not. Not mine, and not yours. Our voices count, indeed, but they alone from our social platforms are not enough. With words must come actions, just as with an election must come citizens to watch with sharp eyes and hold leaders, and one another, accountable.