Preparing for the long haul


How happy I was to march in St. Paul last Saturday with my husband, daughter-in-law and an estimated 90,000 other Minnesotans with signs, chants and pink pussy hats. We stood together to support a range of causes – from contraception to Obamacare, immigrant rights to public education. We were even more united by our opposition to much of what our new president stands for –ignorance and isolationism, bluster and contempt for evidence, resentment of immigrants and minorities and salacious disdain for women.

But now, four days later, I awake to the anxious reality of a Trump administration. This morning’s headlines tell of jump-starting construction of a wall with Mexico, muzzling scientists at the EPA, and restarting construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. Today there will be more provocative tweets from the potus account and tomorrow more headlines…

Meanwhile, in Congress, a kind of cross-your-fingers game is being played in confirmation hearings on Trump’s cabinet choices. The nominee for budget director promises to educate his boss about the dangers of deficits while the Man Himself promises not to touch Medicare or Social Security but spend $1 trillion more on infrastructure. Sigh.

And so Trump’s authoritarian style and agenda of resentment bound forward. How do those of us who marched last Saturday prepare for the long fight of advancing different values and different policies?

Here are a few guidelines I’ll use:

  • Base resistance on core values. For me, foundational values come from my Christian faith and my conviction that “liberty and justice for all” includes every American and that our nation is vastly stronger thanks to its diversity and openness to the world.
  • Decide which nets to drop. Last Sunday’s gospel told of Jesus calling his disciples. “‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”  It’s easier for me to pick up new nets than drop old ones, but the result is often exhaustion and a sense that I’m doing nothing well. If I’m to make resistance as regular a part of my life as exercise or writing, what will I give up to make room?
  • Pick your issues. Because of family and community connections, I have personal stakes in health care, immigration policy and treatment of poor families. I’ll focus my political energy there for now.
  • Take at least one action daily. A young friend listed on Facebook all she’s done since the election – ranging from diversifying her media consumption to making monthly donations to favorite causes. Abortion opponents have been marching on the Supreme Court every January since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Liberals must cultivate the same staying power.
  • Share hope. Right now, this feels like a long, lonely battle. There must be joy in the effort. Support those who are marching with you.
  • Build bridges. Krista Tippett, host of the Public Radio show ‘On Being,’ puts it this way: “Coming out of this election year, I think what we absolutely have to find a way and a place and a vocabulary to talk about is moral imagination: the human effects of policies and the question of how we create common life and who we are to one another.”   I was saddened to read that abortion opponents were discouraged from joining Saturday’s march and that some who did were heckled. For more than 40 years, there’s been a standoff between those who believe abortion is murder of innocents, pure and simple, and those who believe it’s an essential right for women. When our interests intersect, as last Saturday, we should rejoice at the chance to explore our shared values and seize the chance to build on them.  In our personal lives, we need to do the same.

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