For me, the week started on Dr. King's birthday. I found myself pondering the frightening level of inequality in the nation I call home. Black folks are over five times more likely to be put in jails and prisons than their white peers. Whiteness is still the standard for beauty in the dominant media, and a woman of color is expected to straighten her hair with harsh chemicals and lighten her skin with make-up. One in three Native American women have either been raped or have had to fight off a rape, and yet the majority of those cases are never prosecuted by our unfair justice system. America, I'm sad to say, is a long damned way from becoming a more perfect union.
By the end of the work week, I was watching the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, and I found myself thinking — not for the first time — how our inaugurations have become coronations. Far from being a servant of the people and the person charged merely with executing the will of the people as expressed through the legislature, the President has become more akin to a sovereign, someone we are afraid to criticize too harshly because we "have to respect the office," someone who can have foreign citizens assassinated via drone strikes with only a capricious whim and no meaningful oversight.
Please understand: This is not a Republican vs. Democrat sentiment. If you're looking to have a two-minutes hate about which party is "better," go tune your TV to any of the corporate-owned news stations. I assure you that they'll have it on endless repeat.
A few years back, during the struggle for same-sex marriage, the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A become something of a political football. Well-meaning progressives — including me — were boycotting the chain because of their support for religious right organizations who were working to oppose same-sex marriage and queer rights. This provoked social conservatives to buy lots of chicken sandwiches to express their opposition to queer rights and support for what they considered Christian values. In other words, a complex issue of civil rights became all about where to buy fast food chicken sandwiches. The absurdity of this situation caused something in my brain to break, giving way to an older and more chaotic personal approach to politics. Any world so fucked up as to conflate buying consumer goods with political activism is definitely not a world I can be expected to take seriously.
Frankly, I'm done with politics as defined by the ruling parties and their corporate masters. When you agree to their terms, either way they control the battlefield you fight on. Corporate profits skyrocket, and the same political oligarchs stay in power. Meanwhile, people in the small towns I grew up in keep grasping at straws, and brown folks everywhere struggle to exist in a system that seems hellbent on telling them they are lesser and putting barriers in the way of their success. Children go hungry, and families work three jobs to barely make ends meet. Wars are waged in my name, and people die by the thousands in countries most of my fellow citizens can't even name. But hey, the stock market is booming. God Bless America.
I'm done with that. Insofar as I pray, I pray you'll be done with all that soon too. I'm done with the people being turned on each other and wasting valuable energy they could use to make a difference. I want to work for universal liberation and the dismantling of oppressive hierarchies that limit our potential. I'm through with fascists whether they're dressed in red or dressed in blue.
What am I going to do now that Trump is elected? The same things I did when Obama was elected. I will donate money to organizations who work to protect our civil liberties like ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I am going to work to feed the hungry, stand against corporate power, support the rights of all workers, and fight for the liberation of the oppressed wherever I see it. I'm going to work to amplify the quietest voices in the room, and though I no longer regard myself as Christian, I'm going to love and support my neighbors the way Christ demanded of his followers. When a homeless person needs food, I'm going to either give them money or help them buy food and I'm going to look them in the damned eye and treat them like a human while I do it. When I see unarmed black folks being shot by police, I'm going to stand up and march with my brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings against injustice and oppression. When I see Native Americans being shot with water cannons and tear gas for trying to protect their source of water, I'm going to wire money to those who are supporting their struggle. When I see a trans woman being barred from access to a place to pee because she doesn't meet some arbitrary standard for femininity, I'm going to lock arms with her and march into the restroom through anyone who intends to enforce oppressive laws. When I hear about poor whites in my state being ravaged by addiction to prescription drugs, I'm going to get off my ass and work to get them help — both with their current addictions and with the hopelessness that spawned those addictions.
Compassion is power, or at least it can be. When we get off social media and actually work to make things better, we build up those held down by the system and we reduce the power of those propped up by it. We don't need the State to do things for us. We don't need the corporations or the elites. All each of us need to do is make the world a little better every day in a direct and very personal way. I have faith in the endless capacity for compassion and solidarity that we all possess. Faith really can move mountains, but the mountain only moves when each of us picks up a shovel and bucket and we work in aggregate to move it one bucket at a time.
Spread compassion. Build each other up. Understand that you have more in common than the system would have you believe. We are in this together, and they can't fight all of us if we work together to actually make the world great.