You’ve been horrified and depressed, filled with despair since the election. Maybe you are going to a march, and getting involved in some other way; if not, you should be. Mourning and grieving are important, but you know it’s time to move beyond that.
What you may not realize, however, particularly if you’re young and haven’t been through anything remotely like this, is that you’re about to experience a complete transformation.
Your priorities in life will come into sharp focus and you’ll meet many new friends, many of whom will stay friends for life. You’ll rethink the path you’ve taken before, and you’ll move away from relationships you realize were superficial, some with people you also realize you never really knew. None of this will stop the fear, nor the terrible realities to come under a Trump administration, many of which with be more brutal for some people than others. But you will feel empowered and proud that you fought back. And you will likely be part of changing the world again.
In the ‘80s, those of us who are gay men faced the horror of AIDS in a callous world in which the Republican political establishment pandered to people who literally wanted us dead, and in which Democrats were politically petrified, or indifferent to our plight. As those we loved suffered and died all around us every day – and with the knowledge that any of us could be next ― those of us organizing in groups like ACT UP knew there was only one thing we could do: fight. And we had to operate from a place in which we had determined there was not much left to lose.
That, in fact, is an incredibly liberating feeling – breaking from the shackles of caution and speaking truth to power. ACT UP changed the world, not just bringing life-saving treatments to people with HIV; the group invigorated the LGBT rights movement with a new, uncompromising passion for full civil rights that led eventually to marriage equality. There was no turning back. We said, “Never again.”
We followed in the enormous footsteps of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement and so many others before us. It didn’t mean we weren’t smart and strategic. But we knew it was no time for pulling back, settling, compromising or being nice. And that’s what we must do now, through peaceful non-violent protest, complete resistance and political organizing.
And we are so much better positioned than were LGBT people in the ‘80s, or other groups at other times. The difference now is that we, as many groups together, are the American majority, and we are unified in supporting one another against a threat to our democracy, an authoritarian who threatens all of us on so many fronts.
Donald Trump won the election with a minority of voters, and in the end the polls were not off that much. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.1 percent, just 1 to 2 percentage points off from what the national polls predicted ― and thus the polls were more accurate than those in 2012. So, don’t believe Trump supporters who claim that this invisible majority rose up or that Trump’s approval ratings – the lowest of any president coming into office in modern history – are wrong or not a disaster for him moving forward. Even if they’re off a few percentage points, the majority of the American people are opposed to him and his cabinet choices, which are extreme and radical.
Republican politicians know this too, despite the bluster and show of defiance they’re currently putting up. They must be made to abandon him, and we must take on any Democrats who don’t listen to progressives in the base of the Democratic Party. The time now is not to move toward the middle, but rather to embrace the base and fight hard.
ACT UP changed my life in so many ways on a personal level, bringing me together with people who shared my values and with whom to this day I feel a deep connection. It inspired me and empowered me. But I realize, too, that fighting back went back further, to my childhood. I was taunted and physically assaulted for being a “faggot.” And I always fought back, beating the crap out of any bullies who laid a hand on me, or outsmarting them in other ways.
Donald Trump is a bully. And we must beat him back, as an organized movement, the majority of Americans standing shoulder to shoulder. So, on this dark weekend of his inauguration, think about how his election is transforming you in ways you might not have expected, ways that will make you grow, and how we’re going to transform this country, too, after we beat the crap out of this administration and vow, “Never again.”
Follow Michelangelo Signorile on Twitter: www.twitter.com/msignorile