Like many other liberals, I’ve been dealing with the pending Caligula Administration with studious avoidance. Not watching the news (not even Rachel), ignoring all the stuff coming out of Washington these days.
Not a healthy long-term solution, but I just can’t spend much time staring into the void without it staring back. Fortunately for me, I write about Vermont politics, so I can remain engaged without focusing on the potential horrors of the next two years.
Also helps that I’m a cis white male, so my immediate freedom, security, and personal safety are not at risk.
But still, not a long-term solution. A correspondent writes:
I still feel physically ill from last week, and am only now dipping back into the news. And trying to figure out what to do that might be useful. And not coming up with a lot yet.
I have some ideas that don’t involve moving to Canada or taking part in ineffectual protests on our safe Vermont streets or the left’s favorite pastime, the circular firing squad. They don’t immediately involve political action of any sort, because it kinda feels toxic right now and there’s plenty of time to plan for 2018’s Return Of The Jedi.
First, support the organizations that will be a vital counterweight to the likely excesses of the Caligula Administration. Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are a good start. Outright Vermont. Doctors Without Borders. I’m talking less about groups that do direct political action, and more about organizations that provide actual help at the level of communities and individuals.
Choose your own groups, the ones that feel most relevant to you. If you have like-minded folks on your holiday list, make donations in lieu of gifts. (Well, if you want to troll Racist Uncle Ralph by giving a gift in his name to the Southern Poverty Law Center, you go right ahead.)
Second, put down the checkbook and get involved yourself. Again, not in guilt-assuaging demonstrations, but In Your Community. Food bank, homeless shelter, soup kitchen, refugee resettlement program. The Humane Society. A church group that doesn’t make you want to puke.
The latter is an underrated commodity. Some church groups ought to have their tax-exempt status removed forthwith (and should look forward to queasy afterlife encounters with St. Peter), but a lot of them do a whole lot of good. Even the most intolerant church organizations do good stuff for their members.
This is, in fact, the hidden strength of the right wing. Religious organizations make people feel welcome, give them a sense of community, and motivate them to help others. It’s not all hatred and bullying; most of it is actually well-intentioned and even makes the world a better place. The left could use a dose of that person-to-person engagement.
One of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done was in a small southern town where I lived temporarily about 30 years ago. There was a church-based charity that gave small emergency cash gifts to needy recipients. It was networked with local social service agencies, and there was a reasonable screening process that didn’t involve any sort of faith test.
I’ve lived a pretty damn lucky life. Middle class suburban family, scholarships to get through college, married someone in a recession-proof line of work. I’ve never gone hungry or had to seek assistance. Volunteering at that church gave me a window onto the struggles of too many Americans.
The town’s dominant industry had this lovely system of at-will employment. Workers were on call, their hours varied from week to week, and they never got enough hours to qualify for full-time status. Slow week at the factory, they ran out of money.
Right now, and in the near future, we can’t stop all the damage that President Trump and Paul Ryan and Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pence and Uday and Qusay can do. We can mitigate its effects on our most vulnerable neighbors. And in the process, we might learn something about what it means to live on the edge.
I’m not saying don’t do politics. Your mileage may vary, and I don’t begrudge anyone their chosen coping mechanisms. Everyone’s different, and my pain is much more indirect than many others’.
A bit of music helps too.
Then a piece of mind fell over me
In these troubled times, I still can see
We can use the stars to guide the way
It is not that far, the one fine day
One fine day
One fine day…