What to Do in the Coming Days

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Wed, 01/17/2024 - 13:58

This is not a blog I ever wanted to write.

Like many of you, I'd hoped for a different outcome from the U.S. election on Tuesday. I'd hoped we would not end up with a right-wing demagogue as our next president.

Yet here we are.

Many people are validly afraid of what this result means for them, for their loved ones, and for their communities. There are a lot of unknowns about how this will all play out⁠ , which only amplifies the fear so many of us feel, particularly if we or our loved ones are marginalized in any way. It's hard to brace for the oncoming wave when you're not certain of its size and shape.

As we move into the coming years, there will be a lot of work to be done. Right now, many of us are still in shock, and in damage control mode, trying to care for ourselves and for those we love.

I've seen discussion about how to talk about the outcome of this election with young people. I want to address young people directly.

I'm so proud of you; of us. Of how many of us voted against the rhetoric, the promise, of hate and fear that colored this election. Of how many of you campaigned and canvassed in the days, weeks and months before it, and how many of you rose up in protest when told that you'll be governed by someone who encapsulates the worst parts of our culture. I know many of you are afraid of what the future holds. But my god, there is so much hope in you, in us, so much readiness to push back against injustice.

All of our staff at Scarleteen come from some activist background or another. And we all belong to at least one group targeted by the rhetoric of Trump and his supporters, the majority of us to more than one. As we have done during other times of darkness, crisis or institutional nonsupport, we will be creating and sharing concrete advice and information about how to navigate sexual⁠ health issues, and others related to them, under a government that is hostile to them. But today, from us to you, here is what you can to do care for you and yours.

First and foremost you are allowed your emotions. There will be people, probably adults⁠ , who tell you that your anger and protest are pointless and silly. That they will accomplish nothing because this is just the way the world works. Be wary of this argument, especially because it's wrong. The world is what we all make and how we live in it. Resistance is crucial in the face of injustice -- and has always been the only thing that has ever changed it and made it have to answer for itself -- and anger is part of that. The arc of the universe may indeed bend towards justice, but often you have to hammer on it to help it bend that way.

Likewise, if you're saddened or frightened, you are allowed to feel that way too. Some truly hateful things were said and done during this election, and it is not foolishness to fear that there is more hate to come. But as much as you can, try not to let that fear rule you. Even if you're not sure of your own ability to push back against whatever awfulness may come, there are others, young and old, who have already promised to do so. Take comfort from that if you can.

I also strongly recommend you take time to disconnect from social media, the 24 hour news cycle, and the internet as a whole. Are those spaces powerful tools of connection, organization, and information? Of course. But right now they are also echo chambers of people's very raw emotions. While it can be useful to see others feeling as you feel, it can also trap you in a loop of directionless anger and panic, which is draining. So back away from the screen, as much as you can. Go outside if you can, into nature if at all possible. Or find a quiet space to meditate or pray. If you have a pet, sit and play with them. Go to a library and read children's books or books about weird birds. Do anything you can to pull yourself away from the cacophony of emotion and bad news and to a place where you can find some semblance of peace.

Likewise, if soaking in the bad ways you feel feels more right, and more like what you need than doing things to influence your emotions towards the positive, that is just as okay. It's okay to be in your feelings, even when they are awful, and sticking with hard feelings for a while, rather than seeking soothing, is how some people process them. Our executive director has been unable to sleep, and one of the things they've done in the wee hours is watching horror movies, because horror and fear is what they have been feeling, and anything else simply doesn't feel true to them right now.

Going along with taking time away from the news, self-care is also important right now. Your unhappiness and exhaustion will not fix the ills of the world, no matter how much you might wish it could. And more than that, we want every last one of you reading this to get through the next few weeks, months, and years. Here is our basic guide to self-care, and here's another lovely one. Here is a masterlist of calming resources.

Whatever you need to do to help you focus on your well-being, to care for yourself, to make it feel like the world is not coming down around you, I encourage you to do it. Exercising, cooking a nice meal, or doing your nails while watching cartoons won't fix what's going on. But you deserve moments of joy and calm, as well as the experience of having at least some of what feels like life as you knew it before, and making time for them will help you stay in an okay place emotionally and mentally.

In addition to caring for yourself, it can be incredibly healing to care for each other and be kind. In a world flooded with hatred, with suspicion of anyone who is different from you, there is immense power in kindness and gentleness to other humans. Reach out to people you care about, especially if they're in targeted communities. Ask what you can do to help them and support them, even if it's just listening to them or giving them a hug. And if you're hurting, if you're afraid, try to ask for what you need. If you can, surround yourself with people who care about you, and for whom you care. Love does not solve everything, but it makes a strong buffer around the awful aspects of the world.

There is power, too, in acts of kindness to those you don't know. In the last few days, a lot of people have donated to causes they believe in or to local charities. Or they've looked for chances to volunteer with organizations they care about. Helping others, even in small ways, can make you feel as though you can make a positive difference in the world. If you can't, for whatever reason, donate time or resources to a cause, you can do your best to be kind to people you interact with, be they service staff, coworkers, etc. It may not always feel like it, but gentleness when the world would rather you be hardened is a form of resistance.

You may also find it helpful to foster connection and community. If nothing else, connecting with your fellow humans will make you less like a single grain of sand facing a tidal wave. It serves as a reminder that, if you choose to work against injustice, you do not do so alone.

If you're already involved in community organizations, do what you can to reach out to other groups and form coalitions. If your organization is mostly made up of people with privilege, now is the time to talk about what you can do to stand up for the members of your community who are likely to be targeted in the coming years. And talk about what can you do now as a community, or group of communities, as damage control in the fall-out of this election. Sometimes, that action can be as simple as saying to LGBTQA, Muslim, African American, Latinx, women's and disabled communities, "We are here for you, we are ready to help you, and if things get rough we will have your back. What do you need?"

That focus on building community on a local level can also help you look to the bright spots, few though they may be, of this election. For instance, Arizona voted out a sadistic sheriff and women of color made historic victories. Hillary Clinton also did get the popular vote: more people voted for her than for Trump. These things may feel insignificant in the face of so many people voting for Trump, and supporting what he stands for, but they tell us something. They tell us that there are still plenty of people who want to push forwards as a country, people who do not buy into bigoted rhetoric. And if those smaller victories can be made, larger ones are still possible. That even if the national level is about to be one giant trash-fire, local politics can still push in enlightened directions.

Finally, have courage.

I know that sounds corny, but I firmly believe it is true. For some of you, that courage will be needed to simply survive the next four years. That is an immense victory, though I wish it was not a battle you'd ever have to face. For those who have the ability to do so, courage will be needed to resist injustice in ways large and small. That will not be easy, and those efforts will not always succeed. But if those who take power decide to strip away rights from LGBTQA communities or Muslim communities, if they or their followers threaten the safety of Latinx or Black communities, we will need to stand up, to keep fighting. We will need to bolster courage in ourselves and in each other.

Courage, right now, may feel incredibly out of reach. But I would not be championing it if I didn't believe it (I'm no fan of bullshit in times of crisis). Our greatest strength as humans is to come together when the time calls for it. To care for those who need it, to fight for those who are vulnerable. To love each other, to exist, resist, and thrive in the face of ideologies that tell us we cannot. We have that potential inside of us. We will face whatever comes and we will help each other through it. We will overcome.

I see the response to Trump's election from you who are younger than me. I see in you that most magnificent of refusals: that you don't believe the ideology of Trump is the best we can expect from our country and from each other. And that gives me courage.

We, Scarleteen, have been around for almost two decades before this election. We will be around after it. We will keep doing what we do.

To those of you who are survivors, who are queer⁠ , who are women, who are Muslim, who are of color, who are disabled, who are already poor, to anyone who is now looking at the future with fear:

We love you. And we will stand by you.