Here’s the conundrum.
On the one hand: We don’t want to normalize the Trump regime. One of the ways fascism and authoritarianism get a foothold is by turning up the hot water a little at a time. We get used to a little more autocracy, a little more corruption, a little more contempt for democratic government, a few more foxes guarding the henhouses, a few more basic rights dissolving into the night.
And once we get used to all that, the regime makes it all a little bit worse. We can’t allow ourselves to get used to it. We have to resist it at every turn, and we can’t allow ourselves to think it’s normal or okay.
On the other hand: We can’t live in a constant state of crisis. Emotionally, psychologically, that’s just not tenable. It’s exhausting and demoralizing. For those of us with mental health problems — and those numbers have gone up dramatically since the election — a constant state of crisis can make those problems worse. And it can lead to the exact numbness we’re trying to avoid. If we’re going to have the strength to resist, we have to live our lives. We have to have some sort of routine: eating meals, going to work, playing games, paying bills. We have to put one foot in front of the other.
That’s especially true when we’re in it for the long haul. We might be able to drop everything and throw all our reserves into a political crisis if it can be resolved in a few weeks, or even a few months. We can’t do that if the crisis will be going on for years.
So how do we do this? How do we live with the unacceptable, without accepting it? How do we get on with our lives, avoid treating every day as a crisis, without allowing the intolerable to become normal?
Here’s how I’ve been framing this for myself:
Don’t normalize fascism. Normalize resistance.
Make resistance part of our daily or weekly routine. Do something on a regular basis to resist the current regime. Call or fax elected officials, every day or every week. Post notices on social media every day or every week, encouraging our friends and family to call elected officials. Put the phone numbers of our elected officials in our phones, to make these calls easier. Sign up for notifications of resistance actions. Go to meetings of resistance organizations, every week or every month.
Go to protests when we can: make plans with our friends to go. Donate money to resistance organizations: set up regular automatic donations every month. Subscribe to good sources of news. Wear buttons and T-shirts, put bumper stickers on our cars, signaling our resistance. Participate in boycotts. Stay on top of the news. Stay informed about which news sources are reliable (yes, there’s fake news on the left as well as the right). Share news on social media.
Read about the history of resistance movements. Read about the history and experience of marginalized people, especially in groups you’re not part of. Talk politics with our friends and co-workers and families. Listen to marginalized people when they talk about their experiences and tell you what they need — even when they’re criticizing you, especially when they’re criticizing you.
And very importantly: Keep talking with each other about how bad things are — and what we can do about it. Keep it on our back burner, and bring it to the front burner regularly. Keep it in each other’s consciousness, and in our own.
Don’t normalize fascism. Normalize resistance.
We don’t all have to do all these things. We can pick one or two or three, more if we can but only if we can. We each get to decide which forms of resistance are within our abilities: physically, emotionally, financially. And we don’t have to do resistance work every second of every day. In fact, we probably shouldn’t. Self-care is not selfish; preventing activist burnout is not selfish. Taking care of ourselves is one of the ways we get the strength to resist — and that includes setting limits and taking breaks.
In fact, taking regular breaks can be part of how we normalize resistance. Taking care of each other, building supportive communities with other people doing resistance work, is itself a form of resistance work. Dinner parties, dance parties, chat sessions, game nights — all of this helps us get to know each other better, care about each other more, work together more effectively.
And making resistance pleasurable is an important way to make it normal. People are more likely to keep doing activism if it’s at least occasionally fun — and we’re more likely to make activism part of our lives, part of our selves.
Folding resistance into our everyday lives lets us have “normal” lives in a fascist regime, without letting fascism become normal. And it gives us daily reminders that fascism is not normal.
(Thanks to my Facebook friends for their suggestions of concrete, everyday resistance activities.)