The election and subsequent inauguration of the United States’ 45th President has inspired strong feelings in just about every person in the country. There are those of us, myself included, that are angry about a man known for spewing out hate being put into the most powerful position in the country. To those feeling hopeless right now, stop. We’ve already begun to put hopelessness behind us and are moving onto the next phase — action. Look at the historic march that occurred yesterday. Millions of people came together and made their voices heard. It was quite possibly the largest and most powerful demonstration in decades. But we can’t march every day. Instead, we’ll need to do the difficult, often boring, work of creating political change.
We all, those disappointed or upset by the current political swing, must now become the opposition. It is now our job to focus in on the actions being taken by our country’s political establishment, and to stop actions that might be detrimental to this country’s citizens. So, what do we focus on?
Everything. We, the opposition, must focus on every aspect of government at every level. We must organize for everything. We must do everything we can, contact everyone that we can. We must give everything that we have to do this, and we must do it always. That’s the bad news, but it’s best to face the truth now than to find it later.
This is not to say that we need to stop everything that political system attempts in the foreseeable future. Undoubtedly, some good ideas will arise, whether they come at the local, state, or federal level. But it IS likely that most of what is suggested, voted on, and enacted will be detrimental to the country. Revoking the ACA will hurt people. Reducing education standards will hurt people. Restricting voting access will hurt people, as will targeting minority groups for extra surveillance, deporting children whose parents brought them to our country illegally, and building walls between ourselves and our foreign allies.
Possibly the hardest thing about the years to come will be finding all of the information required to effectively fight the fight. Beyond that, there is the ever-present challenge of determining whether or not the information we’re consuming is reliable. So, read, and read widely. Give most of your attention to middle-ground sources: NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal; NBC and ABC in the television world, CNN if you must. Don’t stop there. Read left-leaning publications like the Huffington Post and The Atlantic. Read right-leaning publications like The Economist and The Hill. Focus in on the middle-ground, but read lightly from other places as well. At the very least those other publications will tell you about the ideas and rhetoric of both sides of the establishment.
Knowledge is power, and power is what the opposition must grow. Without knowledge, you cannot act usefully, and useful action is much needed right now. Share your knowledge, and seek others who share their knowledge. We need to organize. We need friends and strong relationships both with people who agree with us and those who don’t. We need to recognize that not all of our opinions will be heard or shared. Be humble, be respectful, be open-minded, but most of all, be together with those around you.
Action cannot stop at organizing. Having groups of people talking is good, but having those groups assert influence over the larger establishment is better. Everything starts with the people. If there are issues that are under-recognized in your area, promote them. Not everyone reads the way we must read, but ignorance of facts do not make those facts any less true or powerful. Raise awareness. Welcome helpers, and especially welcome debate, while refusing to give hate speech a platform.
Now attention must shift to those who are in power. We have as much power over them as they have over us. Atrocities like the financial crisis of 2008 cannot happen if an educated public holds government officials accountable. If you are reading, you will know what is happening in Congress, in your state legislature, and around your city. Go to meetings. Call your representatives at every level. Call them. Do not email them. Do not tweet at them. Do not make Facebook posts. Call your representatives and tell them your opinions. Especially tell them your opinions on specific bills and issues. Call them every day. Tell them how you feel, how you will vote. Do it in droves. Watch what they do. And when the time comes, vote.
Information is the base of any movement, and the opposition must be structured as a true political, grassroots movement. It is good that we are unhappy right now. That unhappiness can become action, and our actions can create change. That is a fact, but it is only true if we work the dull work: reading, organizing, informing, and calling every day. Vote when it’s time, every time.
Do not ever doubt your own power. Yes, you are attempting to hold an entire government accountable for its actions. Yes, you must pay attention to every issue. Yes, you must make noise. Yes, you must listen to the noise of others.
But, yes, you can do this.
We can do this.