Bleeding Heart in a Blue State

The last few months have been hell for so many people– it’s scary and eye-opening for so many, as we enter the unknown. This week, the first of the new administration, has shown us that our fears are well-founded, and that actions both radical and small will be needed, today and every day for the coming months and years.

But it’s important to recognize that we live in the same country today that we did on November 7th. If you’re just realizing that this country remains deeply racist and sexist, welcome to the party. Let’s chat.

I’ve thought a lot over the past months about a game plan for the next four — or eight– years, and I think that the end of this first week, which has been full of terrifying, confusing and multi-directional Executive Orders, mass delusion, and a total abandonment of facts– is a good time to regroup and revisit this plan.

As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety my whole life, I know a thing or two about self care, because that’s how I keep going on a daily basis. Here are the things I’m doing to take care of myself and those around me.

  • Reaching out. For me, this is best done through writing letters, postcards, and notes. I’m sending notes of appreciation, thank yous and thinking-of-yous, and my favorite way to do that is through the mail. Email and text messages work too. For me, creating a daily reminder that we are in this together, and that I have a network of humans that I care about, is a source of immense comfort. It’s also helping me to build a long email list of like-minded people, and I know that will come in handy as I need to mobilize others and get them involved.
  • Checking in. I’m doing this for neighbors, coworkers, and strangers. So many people are hurting, anxious and scared, cycling through stages of fear and grief, and reeling from hourly news updates. I’m working mindfully to cultivate caring and kindness for others, and working to understand what they are scared about, so that I can support them in the way that they need.
  • Keeping my money in my community. I live in a place where I can support local grocery stores, fruit/veggie stands, local producers and artisans. Yup, it’s Portland. I encourage anyone who can to get a CSA. Yeah, you’ll spend a few bucks more, but you’re getting the best quality local and organic produce while supporting those in your local community (and I don’t just say this because my brother is a farmer). I know that this isn’t accessible or feasible for everyone. But I would encourage you to do it if you can. It feels fucking good.
  • Remembering that money talks. I tried to keep this top of mind during the holiday season, but I think it bears repeating. When you’re buying gifts for others, try to purchase items that support your local community rather than corporations. Give gifts that give twice. There are tons of places where you can buy tote bags, shirts, art prints, and jewelry from artists who are donating a portion of their profits to causes that they care about. This is great because you’re giving a gift, supporting an artist, and also giving to a cause, all with the same dollas. Support artists on Etsy, go to craft fairs, shop at local bookstores, do whatever is available to you. Your money means a lot to small proprietors and to artists. And there stuff is really cool, too.  
  • Listening to podcasts. For me, this is a really helpful way to hear as others process this political landscape and consider what it means to be an American. I’m getting so much out of hearing different feminist voices from all over the country. I’ve been listening to Still Processing, Call Your Girlfriend, Speed Dial (that’s on MTV), Dear Sugar, Another Round, and 2 Dope Queens. Their voices give me comfort and hope, and make me feel less alone.
  • Eating well and getting moving. These are standbys for me, and during the times when my anxiety gets out of control, these the best ways to get me back on track (along with taking my meds, drinking water, and sleeping). Stress gets inside of you, affects how your body functions, and inhibits your brain. It is a real health problem, and cannot be underestimated. Be gentle with yourself. Cook good food for yourself and for others. Go on a hike or a walk, if you are able. Keep moving.
  • Limiting internet time. This one is so hard, especially as someone who is obsessed with news and media, and terrified of missing out. But it’s been key for me. I’m not on Twitter in the morning or at night; by checking it once or twice a day, I feel that I can get the news I need. I deleted Facebook months ago, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve done for my mental health in the past year. Honestly, the memes will still find their way to you. You won’t be left behind. Delete it.

OK, so that’s the immediate, and that’s what I’ve been especially engaged with for the months since November 8th. Now I’m ready to take action. I live in a blue city and a blue state; I feel pretty isolated from what’s going on in most of the country much of the time, but these things affect all of us, and the privilege that comes from my zip code is no excuse for inaction. There are still tons of things I can do, and the same goes for you, no matter where you live. Here’s what I’m committing to keep doing, long after the memory of President Trump putting his tiny orange hand on the Bible for his swearing-in has faded.

  • Giving money and time. This is pretty self explanatory, and it’s been repeated often. I’ve chosen to give to a few nonprofits that are small, without stable funding, and unlikely to receive grants from foundations. Those are the organizations where your time and money can go the farthest. There are tons of organizations to support in whatever causes speak to you. As far as political contributions, I have a different take than many others do. Remember that HRC raised and spent much more money than her opponent, but she still lost the election (eh, lost the electoral college). For politicians, particularly those who are not local, I prefer to give time over money, whether it’s canvassing, phone banking, or just talking to family members and encouraging them to vote. That’s where I feel my efforts are most valuable.
  • Subscribing to listservs and newsletters. This can be a great way to become involved with certain causes, and to see what’s going on and where you can fit in. It’s also a good way to continue being reminded about and involved in efforts in an ongoing way.
  • Become familiar with available resources. There are lots of great resource lists out there, and really important conversations are happening right now. It’s important to understand the concerns of other communities. Many are experiencing a state of fear and seeing a bleak reality; for some, they have always  lived with this, and it’s nothing new. Become familiar with their concerns about what’s to come under the Trump Administration. Listen to understand. Do this work so that you can support and protect those around you.
  • Sign petitions and make phone calls. There are lots of petitions out there; whitehouse.org and change.org are good, well-known sources. Set aside a few minutes each day or week to sign something. It’s really quick. Phone banking on behalf of candidates, advocacy groups, and causes is also incredibly easy, and I say this as someone who will do almost anything to avoid talking on the phone. In my experience with phone banking, people are way nicer that you expect. Both of those things are easy to neglect, so for me, it’s easiest if I add these things to my regular tasks — pay my heat bill, write a rent check, sign a petition. Make it a habit.
  • Draft letters to send to your representatives. I find it really helpful to have a generic template on hand. With a template, I can quickly make my views known, whether it’s in support or against a given issue or bill. I’m not creating something to just cut or paste, but having a jumping-off point can be the difference between writing or not writing at all. This is also something you can share with others, and another way to lower their barriers to becoming involved.
  • Look after your health. This is especially true if you are covered under the ACA, and at acute risk of losing coverage. Get your annual exam. Get an IUD (I am in love with mine, it’s one of my most successful relationships to date). Get your HPV vaccine. Stock up on Plan B (for yourself or others). Do it, and do it now.
  • Don’t fuck Republicans. OK, let me explain this one. It means: don’t ignore the politics of those close to you. Even if your Trump-voting friends, family or boyfriends don’t identify themselves as racists or misogynists, they have emboldened a demagogue with actively discriminatory views and policies. Do not give them a pass. Trump voters have put their humanity above the humanity of others. Period. Now it’s your job to call them out whenever you can. If you want to work to educate them, then be specific, personal and forceful. Saying nothing is the same as endorsement, and I’m frankly done with niceness. It has gotten us nowhere. Tell them exactly how the election of this administration has made you and your community feel afraid and feel less than. And definitely stop fucking Republicans. You really shouldn’t have been doing that in the first place.
  • Assess your risk and the degree to which you can speak up. For me, this has been perhaps the biggest shift post-election. I am a white cis straight woman and a US citizen. I have access to financial and other resources. I live in one of the most liberal cities in the country; my family and close friends are liberal; my employer has a strong commitment to social justice. What does all of this mean? It means I have literally no excuse not to make my voice heard, and to amplify the voices of those around me who do not have these privileges. The personal consequences for me to speak out are exponentially smaller than they are for others. Shit is about to get really bad. What are you going to be able to shoulder, and what are you willing and able to risk? Be honest with yourself. Set up what you need, whether you will be working behind the scenes or out protesting or organizing. We are all at different places with different limitations, and that’s ok. We are all going to need each other.
  • Ask friends what they are doing. What organizations, candidates, or causes are they supporting? Ask how you can help, and take action in any way you can. Get familiar with what those around you are doing, and organize around that. This can be particularly helpful if you live in a blue state, but your friends / family live in red states. Support their work, and start helping immediately.
  • Support those who step up. We are beginning to see this take shape, but no one can predict what media outlets, public figures, and politicians are going to take a strong stance against the Trump Administration. I was continually disappointed during the election cycle by the media and spineless politicians on both sides of the aisle. But whoever does step up, that’s who I’m going to support, and I’ll do so as visibly as I can. Again, money talks here; this could mean paying for a newspaper subscription, giving a political donation, or consuming art from certain artists. Pay attention to who speaks out, and notice who says nothing.
  • Talk to the white people in your life. Does this one need explaining? People of color, Muslims, LGBTQ+ people — marginalized people have been telling us, and some for lifetimes, about the hardships they face. But here’s the thing. It should not the responsibility of minority communities to educate others or to sound the alarm. If you are white, talk to the white people in your life, because they might actually listen to you. Hold them accountable. It’s beyond time for us to get our people and to do better.
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