If the first two weeks are any indication, civic engagement is going to be a vital component in keeping this administration in check. The response thus far has been inspiring. People are calling their representatives in droves, flooding congressional email servers, donating serious cash to human rights organizations, and actively participating in large-scale demonstrations.
This is all wonderful. It seems as though, for now, this administration has effectively slaughtered complacency. But we need to be aware that this could be a tactical maneuver. This frontloading/bundling of executive orders that we’ve witnessed over these 12 days is likely deliberate. They jump-started the pipelines, pulled us out of the TPP, reinstituted the Mexico City policy on foreign aid for family planning, rolled back manufacturing regulations, made the first steps to repeal the ACA, and haphazardly instituted their Muslim ban all in their first week in charge. By piggy-backing one upon the other, they can limit the individual noise against each EO and muddle the opposing messages by broadening them. And, more significantly, they’re hoping to tire everyone out.
They’re hoping we’ll eventually lose motivation and focus—they’re banking on this fervor settling down. The first thing they’ve succeeded in doing is setting the bar very low, and again, this may not be an accident. When you start with calamity by way of blind nationalism and shameless authoritarianism anything halfway normal, but still potentially damaging to the fabric of our country, may seem like a drastic improvement.
We cannot let resistance fatigue set in. We cannot lose focus or motivation in these coming months and years.
Here’s some tips for quelling defiance burnout in the age of Trump:
Not every protest or action will garner positive or immediate results—and that’s fine. It’s the way things work. Never let any perceived failures impact future engagement negatively, use them as motivation. Remember the precipitating factors behind your actions, those are what matters. Civic action is more of a marathon than a sprint; it’s about setting things in motion and making noise. You are on hold listening to mind-numbing Muzak waiting to speak with a representative’s staffer for a reason. You are spending your weekend on the streets chanting, jello-armed with a sign above your head for a reason. And that reason should supersede everything. Think about the people you’re fighting for and stay angry.
Do Not Fall Victim to the Diffusion of Responsibility
There’s not doubt that it’s easier to not make the phone call or sign the petition or march through crowded streets in frigid temperatures. It’s tempting to kick the can down the road and assume that someone else will take responsibility. This is a sociopsychological phenomenon known as the diffusion of responsibility, and the best way to combat it is the be aware of it. This is one area where it is beneficial to be self-centered. This is about you. Other people will not do this stuff for you; if you feel strongly about something it is your responsibility to take action. Complacency is a virus—do not let it take hold.
Know That Your Presence Makes a Difference
In a march of thousands of people, you may see your role as expendable and thus, not vital to its success. This kind of thinking can destroy a movement before it ever takes hold. Much like diffusing responsibility, once this notion is introduced is can zap your motivation entirely. YOUR PRESENCE MATTERS. It matters just as much as anyone else in the crowd. These issues are tackled as a collective, that is what’s so beautiful about civic engagement. It’s about the community of the whole thing. There is no hierarchy. We are all equal in our ability to elicit change.
Give Yourself a Break
If you try to attend every rally you will likely burn out. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it means you are a human being. If you let these issues invade every moment and cell of your life, you’ll become a ball of stress and you’ll begin to resent the entire structure. Give yourself a break now and again. Remember to live your life, and smile and relax, it will help you stay grounded and connected. This is just the beginning, we need people to remain connected for the long haul.
Bring Snacks (And a Thermos/Flask if needed)
This should be a general life rule, and it’s important advice for marches and rallies. These events take time to move—you will be out there marching, chanting and conversing for hours. And while splitting off for a bite is occasionally an option, it kind of disrupts the flow of the day. So, bring a backpack full of snacks or any other paraphernalia that helps you enjoy the day. If you’re in a cold region bring a thermos, or perhaps a flask. Some Bulliet does wonders to warm the soul on a cold, NY day.
It’s heartening to see so many people around the country and the world engaged on this level, it truly is. But this cannot be a flare. We need to maintain this energy and this anger.
This is the basecamp, not the summit.