Rebel Well No Matter Where You Are
Like every other staffer here at Scarleteen, I was devastated by the result of the recent presidential election in the United States. This is not what I - what any of us - were hoping for, and I am scared. I don't live in the U.S., but I have friends and family who do (my colleagues here included), almost all of whom belong to one or more of the groups targeted by Trump and his supporters, and I worry about what kind of harm the next four years will bring to the people I care so much about.
For those of you who do live in the U.S., we've put out a guide to help you get through the coming months and years. However, the U.S. is not the only place where racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and all other kinds of bigotry and bias exist, and they are not new. A few recent examples include:
- The frontrunner in the race for the leadership of the Conservative party in Canada is someone who wants to screen all immigrants and visitors for "Canadian values".
- The government of Turkey has fired 10,000 civil servants and closed down nearly 160 media organizations. They also recently proposed a bill that would allow perpetrators of child sexual abuse to be released from prison if they marry their victims (although thankfully this bill was withdrawn).
- The U.K. vote to leave the European Union earlier this year was driven in large part by anti-immigration views and racism, and hate crimes and harassment spiked after the vote, similar to what has happened in the United States.
- Since the election of the current prime minister of India in 2014, students have been arrested for speaking out against the government and the voices of those pushing for women's rights and against the caste system have been suppressed.
- The Australian prime minister recently proposed a law that will ban refugees and asylum seekers who arrive by boat from ever settling in Australia. For nearly the whole of this year, the Australian government and some media outlets have been attempting to discredit and cut back the Safe Schools Coalition, an organization that works to ensure equality and safety at school for LGBTQI young people all over the country.
Because plenty of you live somewhere other than the U.S., and like me, might be looking for ways to help, this piece is a list of things you can do to both assist folks who may be more directly impacted by the Trump presidency, and just as importantly, to help ensure that no one Trump-esque ends up in charge of your country (or your state, or your town). All those -isms I listed above are unacceptable no matter where they play out, and while it's important to support anyone you know in the U.S., it's equally important to do what you can closer to home.
So, what can you do?
If you have friends or family living in the U.S. who are worried or scared about what the next few years will bring, get in touch with them; let them know you're thinking of them and ask if there's anything you can do to support them. It might be just checking in with them every so often to see how things are going, but even that can help. (And remember ring theory - comfort in, dump out.)
If you have the resources and want to support organizations doing the good stuff in the United States, consider donating. This list is a good place to start. Also think about donating or contributing your time as a volunteer to organizations that are local to you who are doing similar work. Many such groups have limited budgets and rely on the work of volunteers to continue running, and there are usually a variety of ways you can assist as a volunteer depending on how much time you can give and your skills and abilities.
Get informed. Find a few reliable news sources - including print ones - and keep on top of what's happening in the world. Be wary of trending stories on social media sites like Facebook or the top results from search engines; if you can't find the information on more than one source, it's not likely to be true. It can also be worth searching out some information about autocratic governments or oppressive regimes, either in your specific area or globally, and what resistance to those regimes can look like.
Find out what organizations or people in your area are working on causes that are important to you and keep up with what they're saying and doing. Most organizations have a social media presence these days, and volunteering can be another way to keep in the loop about what's happening with the issues you care about.
If you are of an age where you can, VOTE (depending on where you are, voting might be mandatory; please take that responsibility seriously!). Voting isn't just important for federal elections either: state or provincial and local (city or town) governments matter too, and for some things, have a bigger impact on day-to-day life than the federal government. Research your candidates. Read up on their viewpoints, their experience, their goals for government. If you are not yet at an age where you can vote and you feel safe doing so, consider talking to the adults in your life about any upcoming elections and whether they're voting, who they're considering voting for, and why.
Get in touch with your representatives at all levels of government: regardless of your age, you are their constituent, and you are perfectly within your rights to contact them about issues that are important to you. It's generally pretty simple to figure out who your representatives are; for example, I'm Canadian, and the Government of Canada lists every single member of parliament (MP) on their website like so, with options to search by post code, area of residence, or the name of the MP if you know it. The contact information of each MP is listed, which makes it straightforward to get in touch with them through email, a phone call, or by writing a letter.
Finally, most of the suggestions on this page are things anyone can do regardless of location. The U.S. might be getting a lot of attention right now, but it is not the only place with problems, and as the old activist credo states, "think globally, act locally." Small, local contributions to making the world a better place are still contributions, and they matter.