As some people face losing their rights while other people look away, we will find ourselves at a crossroads. We will have to make decisions less by our political ideologies and more by our moral compasses.
I remember when mass shootings started to become part of our everyday news cycle, when one of Trump’s first actions as president was to bar citizens of seven countries from entering ours, that we were encouraged to “look for the helpers,” as Fred Rogers once advised. These were emergency first responders who tended gunshot wounds and lawyers who arrived at airports, offering pro bono assistance to detained immigrants. My mother’s partner even kept a list of people that he casually dubbed “the good guys”: Democrats and Republicans unafraid to speak truth to power. Tony Schwartz. Jeffrey Toobin. Ana Navarro.
The second half of 2018 is a living nightmare. I, along with several of my friends, have deleted social media and news apps from our phones. Children have been separated from their parents and thrown into cages by our government, denied hugs but prey to sexual assault. The soon-to-be-empty seat on the Supreme Court, leaves Roe v. Wade and same-sex marriage vulnerable, and likely first on the chopping block. It is already too much to carry the knowledge of these things without having to be reminded of them several times a day.
In July of last year, I published some tips for combating resistance fatigue, especially for those of us in occupations where we regularly clash head on with Trump’s policies. Being at our best for the tasks that lie ahead is about a balance of knowing when to fight and knowing when to rest. It’s about not being afraid to ask for help because we are, indeed, stronger together. Now that my home state of Maryland has had its primary elections, I am taking a deep breath and ramping up for what is next. Here’s another round of tips for moving forward into November.
Take care of yourself.
This tip seems obvious, but there is a reason it’s first on the list. Two weeks ago, I woke up sick and called my doctor. A few hours after I picked up my antibiotics to get better, a shooter opened fire in that very building. He killed five Capital Gazette journalists – one of whom was a member of my Unitarian Universalist church – and injured several others.
Now I feel sick for a different reason. I began this article with an anecdote about mass shootings. I continued to write it as a mass shooting unfolded in Annapolis, the city I love and am proud to call home.
Needless to say, I’m ready to unplug and decompress. Part of resistance is knowing our own limits enough to take a break. Breaks allow us the space and serenity to recharge our batteries for when we are needed again. When we are needed again, we must be at our best.
Accept that you will lose people in your life.
Our country is accelerating into some previously uncharted territory at a terrifying speed. As some people face losing their rights while other people look away, we will find ourselves at a crossroads. We will have to make decisions less by our political ideologies and more by our moral compasses. We will reach a point where we can no longer hold back from saying, It is wrong to separate frightened children from their mothers and fathers. It is wrong to knowingly deceive the American public on a daily basis. It is wrong to line the pockets of gun lobbyists while students, concertgoers, and journalists die.
When we say these things, there will be people who come out of the woodwork to accuse us of being too partisan or too radical. This is all code, of course, for their discomfort. As we know, the “regrettable conclusion” that Martin Luther King Jr. came to over 50 years ago was that “the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.” Hopefully, as the momentum builds, more of them will be incentivized to get off of the benches.
There will be others who outright hate our resistance, who double down and regurgitate the same lies they are fed, who liken immigrants to animals and who are invigorated by the incitement of violence toward media workers. These people are not our friends. I’ve written a few times before about being from a very rural area that largely supports Trump; it was inevitable that I would lose contacts from this part of the country as I became more vocal and active. But as a wise friend once told me, part of getting older means “realizing that you are not for everyone.” If it turns out that you are not for people who are angrier about kneeling football players than devastated Puerto Ricans – trust me, you’re doing something right.
Get out there and defend democracy.
I moved to the Annapolis area not long before the 2016 election, and was traveling so much for work and professional development that I didn’t make many friends at first. The election results changed that entirely. Moved to action, I showed up at a happy hour for young Marylanders around the corner from my apartment. That night was the start of many things: getting connected with kind, dependable folks with my same core set of values, learning more about the local political situation and how my skills could be best put to use, and best of all, meeting my now-partner.
At first I was completely resistant to knocking doors. I was energized, but felt silly and self-conscious about bothering people that their homes. One morning, I met a woman who offered to be my door-knocking partner. We were much less anxious together than we would have been apart. We knocked on doors together for weeks and found that barring a few “Sorry, I’m not interested” lines, most people were happy to talk to us. They were scared, but also focused. They knew exactly what problems were most important to them and were eager to tell someone who was diligently taking notes.
After last fall’s elections were over and we enjoyed an almost solid progressive victory, my door-knocking partner became something else. She started her campaign for state delegate.
Mere hours after the Annapolis shooting, Capital Gazette reporter Chase Cook tweeted, “I can tell you this: we are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.” If a local newspaper can continue their work the morning after watching their colleagues gunned down, we can follow their example. We can be the “helpers” we once looked for.
This column is dedicated to the five Capital Gazette journalists who lost their lives in the June 28, 2018 shooting in Annapolis: Gerald Fischman, Robert Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. It is also dedicated to the Anne Arundel County first responders who acted so bravely and quickly.
Chelsea Cristene is an international student adviser, English professor, and graduate student based in Washington, DC. She has been published by the Good Men Project, Salon, xoJane, The Establishment, and MamaMia, and has appeared on HuffPost Live. Find her on Twitter.