The United States (and the world – sorry about that, world) is facing a fight against fascism. And while Muslim dual citizens, lawful permanent residents, and immigrants appear to be the administration’s first target of choice, the nomination of folks like Jeff “the most irritating thing teachers face is disabled kids” Sessions and Betsy “IDEA should be left to the states” DeVos implies that disabled folks aren’t far behind.
None of us asked to be born in these times, but here we are, fighting harder than ever for our right to exist. Here are some tips for doing that sustainably over the next four years. While they’re written with autistic and disabled people in mind, they’re also good advice for anyone hoping to make it to the end of this four-year marathon.
Ways to Resist Fascism Without Burning Yourself Out
1. Exercise your First Amendment rights in a way that works for you.
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles going around with instructions on how to call your elected representatives, exhortations that calling works better than e-mailing, and cheerleading bordering on shaming that “anxiety is no excuse!” Maybe not, but anxiety, auditory processing problems, and similar barriers are damn good reasons not to pick up the phone.
But just because you can’t call doesn’t mean you can’t communicate. Here are some alternate options:
- Email. Still better than silence, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Put the most vital message in the subject line (“Please OPPOSE Sessions nomination”, for example) so that the email doesn’t even have to be clicked on in order to get your message across.
- Paper mail. Multiple elected representatives at both the state and federal level have told me, personally, that handwritten mail gets their attention best, followed by typed paper mail. Do what you can manage. Postcards are cheaper than first-class letters in envelopes, plus they don’t have to be opened to be read.
- Meet your reps. Did you know you can (usually) schedule meetings with your representative and senators? You can! Try their local office if D.C. is too far a haul for you.
- Town hall meetings. Many reps hold town hall meetings in their home districts. Attend one if public speaking is a thing you can do.
- “Slacktivism.” A terrible name for a thing that, sometimes, actually works. For example: Uber changed its policies after the #DeleteUber hashtag trended as a response to the company’s serving as scabs during the NYC taxi strike. Tweet at your reps, share articles and videos (like this one), and so on.
2. Move your body.
It doesn’t matter if you categorize it as “exercise” or “dancing” or “going for a walk” or “gardening” or “lifting things” or “hot raucous sex.” Move the body parts that move in a way that you enjoy. You’ll generate some endorphins, and you’ll be adding to your overall health, which will help you survive the regime.
3. Eat and sleep sustainably.
These are often the first things that go to hell when we’re stressed, especially if executive function or insomnia are already an issue. Prioritize them. A phone alarm can help, or a note in a place you’ll see it several times a day, or a friend who can check in and ask, “hey, have you eaten today? When was the last time you slept?” The things we lose first when stressed are also the things that can help us beat it.
4. Limit your exposure.
If the past week and a half has felt like an eternity, well, it kind of has been. One of the ways an oppressive regime overcomes resistance is by bombarding the populace with one outrageous human rights violation after another until we’re all so confused, distracted, and overwhelmed that we can’t take it anymore. Resist this tactic by setting rules for yourself about your exposure to this stuff, and follow them.
For example: I now have a rule in place wherein I don’t check Facebook or Twitter until after 5 p.m., which is the time of day I do the daily postcard for the #first100postcards project. Checking them in the morning ruins my mood and stresses me out for the rest of the day; checking them at night lets me focus on one thing to write to my representatives about. It gives me a sense of control over the bullshit. This sense of control is very important, because it’s precisely the thing that fascists don’t want you to have.
5. Set goals.
Do goals feel futile right now? They do to me. But I’m setting them anyway. Because these bastards don’t get my future in addition to my country.
Even small goals are good. “Today I will get the laundry done.” “Today I will write a postcard to my senator.” “Today I will play a video game.” Small goals keep you moving forward. They keep your life happening.
6. Get nerdy.
What do you really love? What do you know a lot about? Dig into it. Teach it to someone else, start a blog about it, treat yourself to a new book or skein of yarn or video game.
One of the new administration’s first moves was to propose massive cuts in funding for public science and the arts, and to issue a gag order prohibiting federal agencies that do science from communicating with the public – everyone from the National Park Service to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They did this not because science and art are useless, but because they are powerful – and every dictator fears power they don’t control. Be the power fascists fear: share what you know.
And/or: learn something new. When I decided not to do social media or news in the mornings, I needed something else to read over my breakfast. I chose the Feynman Lectures. Physics goes on being physics regardless of who is in charge, so it gave me a valuable touchstone for reality. Plus, reading about physics in the face of an administration that clearly wants to gag public science feels deliciously rebellious. Good luck taking what I already know about atoms.
7. Do what you can do, and no more.
Set boundaries on things that sap your energy, and stick to them. For instance, I can handle sending one postcard a day. I could probably send six emails in that same amount of time, but sending those emails would be six times as tiring, too, and I would burn out in a week and not send any messages at all. One postcard a day is something I can do, so I do it.
Do what you can. Make lots of time for things that give energy back to you. That’s how we make it through this marathon.