The weather was damp and dreary on the morning of the Women’s March, but the atmosphere in Washington, D.C. was jubilant.
Like half a million of my fellow nasty women and bad hombres, I squeezed through the crowded D.C. streets, holding my sign aloft and felt my despondence lift.
However, following an “unpresidented” show of opposition to Donald Trump’s presidency a mere 24 hours after its naissance, a crucial question remains: What comes next?
Since the Women’s March, the unreality show of Trump’s first days in office has been governed by alternative facts and contempt for our fellow man.
He has silenced the National Park Service from dispensing scientific fact and has signed executive orders to build a wall of hate on the Mexican border and to ban our brothers and sisters from seven Muslim-majority countries from seeking refuge in the safety of our country.
The majority of American voters opposed Trump in the general election and it is clear that their fears are already being realized. It is crucial, therefore, that defendants of American values channel the resolve and spirit of the protest into concrete political change.
It will require action that goes far beyond knitting fluffy pink hats and creating imaginative slogans such as one fine “Twinkle, twinkle little czar / Putin put you where you are.”
Coalescing into a consolidated campaign is a task that has eluded other popular protests, such as the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it will be critical to resisting the deplorable policies that Trump’s White House has already enacted. Protesting is a good start, but it is not enough.
Remember the wise words of our beloved Barack Obama: “Don’t boo, vote.” If you are not registered to vote, it is a terrible shame that you missed your chance to prevent Trump’s presidency, but it is all the more important that your voice is heard in future elections.
Your governors, mayors, city council-men and delegates to state legislatures create policies that impact your lives just as our representatives in the federal government do.
Unfortunately, though, voter turnout in the U.S. is painfully low for off-year elections. This must change, as local and state politicians make important decisions about a myriad of issues that are currently under threat: education, anti-discrimination laws, reproductive rights and environmental protection.
Your local officeholders can also serve as an important voice of opposition against Trump’s administration. A crucial election for the governorship of Virginia is forthcoming in November 2017, and both Democratic candidates, Tom Perriello and Ralph Northam, have already articulated strong opposition to Trump’s policies.
Furthermore, quality journalism will be essential in counteracting the Trump administration’s Orwellian disregard for the truth. Smart, fair journalism with a scrupulous commitment to justice and the facts is crucial for a democracy to function well.
It is all too easy to exclusively focus on media that reinforces your pre-existing views or spotlights entertaining mistakes, gaffes and fluff, but it will not provide you with the know-how to hold our government accountable. The Washington Post, Politico, the PBS NewsHour, NPR, and the New York Times are excellent places to start. In addition, ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning non-profit newsroom, commits itself to investigative journalism in the public interest.
Specific actions taken by the Trump White House will require specific and rapid demonstrations of opposition. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, immediately filed suit on behalf of the brave refugees who were detained and established an impromptu lawyer’s office in a terminal of JFK Airport.
On Jan. 28, a federal judge granted the ACLU’s request for a temporary injunction to block the deportation of people stranded in U.S. airports. Certainly, it is high time for all of us to become card-carrying members of the ACLU. In a similar vein, if Trump follows through on his vow to institute a Muslim registry, we will all register to overwhelm the system and to protect our neighbors.
It is important that we do not label the basic civil responsibilities of voting and calling our elected representatives as “resistance” and rest satisfied with those measures.
Those are important steps; indeed, without them, we’ll surely not make progress. However, more will be needed. And that “more” will not feel safe or familiar. We may not know the best course of action at this early juncture, but we must be ready to take any and all avenues of opposition in the future. Our resolve must not be a flimsy New Year’s resolution made in the light of celebration and shrugged off weeks later. It must be a covenant. A commitment. We must act for all of us. Dissent is patriotic.