“What can we do?” So many people I know are asking this question right now, as the new President of the United States begins plucking out the foundation stones of our democracy one by one, in such quick succession it’s hard to know how to respond as one person, with one voice.
I live in the red middle, in a rural city, the likes of which has become the emblem of “how we got here”—white, working class voters who feel their voices have not been heard. I’ve heard enough stories of low-income, white bodies destroyed by factory labor not to doubt this claim. But I also know that the cries of despair from my white neighbors are in the same key as the song sung by my black and Latinx neighbors, and many others are now waking up to join the chorus.
I hear the notes of the aching lament in conversation, in posts on Facebook, in e-mails. Its movements are alternately mournful and angry, with just the faintest overtone of hope. And I’m weary of feeling like I’m the only one listening to so many people singing solos, in the desperate hope of another voice.
So here are ten things I did instead of writing an editorial about local government for the February 2017 issue of Topology.
- Invited people to a gathering at the theatre bar in downtown Three Rivers. I don’t know what good this will do, but I had to start somewhere. A dozen people showed the first night, and nearly 25 the second night. 60-plus are on the growing e-mail list.
- Scrolled through Facebook. It helps to know that friends around the world are paying attention, feeling the grief, taking action. I also need to be reminded that people I love are not yet concerned, and that life goes on.
- Made soup for our weekly community potluck. Shared some with a friend whose advice on local organizing I’ve been finding invaluable, and whose deep grief over the potential impact of current political shifts on friends of color and LGBTQ friends is like a hair shirt I wear. Willingly.
- Shared pizza and beer with our mayor and the Downtown Development Authority director. Discussed the nature of evil.
- Made a list of questions to address at our gathering of concerned citizens at the theatre bar:
- What is one action you took in the past week?
- What is one thing you bring to this group?
- What is one thing you need from this group?
- What local organizations are you connected to?
- What one or two issues are you most passionate about?
- What should we call this group? (We landed on River Country Solidarity.)
- Bought Post-It notes to facilitate answers to the above question. Or, as my hermit friend calls them, “Posty Stick-Its.” I prefer Posty Stick-Its. Screw the brand. Bring on the beautiful mistakes.
- Met with our pastor about becoming official members of our church. More than ever, my husband and I need this community of co-strugglers who are committed to the non-violent way of Christ.
- Contacted a representative from the local UAW whose name popped up in some interesting places when I was looking for Michigan organizing connections. I remain convinced that I will never reach the end of the surprises this small city holds.
- Wrote a letter to my friends and family who still think President Trump might be good for our country. Tried to be respectful and find the common ground of our Christian faith.
- Contacted my representatives (again). Phone calls are easier to make than I thought they would be, and they get even easier (though spelling my full name for someone over the phone does not). E-mail and fax work, too, on days the office is closed or the voicemail is full.
I hope this editorial would be irrelevant when it goes live in a week, but I commit to keep doing the work, whatever happens. Please share the things you did instead of writing a letter to the editor of Topology, and if the chorus responds, we’ll publish the complete score. Now is the time to sing out in harmony with our neighbors, friends, in every place throughout this amazing world. Now is the time.