Can you feel it? That chill? That… quiet?
It’s the feeling of normalcy. The feeling that this is the way things are.
It’s only been two months since the orange man became president. The first month, remember that? The whirlwind, the protests, the news. We were resisting, we were on fire, we wouldn’t be stopped.
It was fresh then. We remembered having normal presidents. We remembered not worrying about banning Muslims from our country. We remembered when hate crimes didn’t suddenly rise overnight.
We were shocked, and so we rose.
But now, has much changed besides us? The president still tweets hate. Just yesterday, the head of the FBI finally said they were actively investigating the Trump campaign’s links to the Russians, and denied any proof that Trump’s conspiracy of being wiretapped was legitimate. Oh, and because the second attempt to ban Muslims failed, Homeland Security has decided to ban travelers from the same countries from using electronic devices on plane rides to the US. And hate crimes continue spreading to more mosques and JCCs.
Only a month ago, all these things would have sparked epic protests. They would have led to us angrily posting, writing, talking with other like-minded people. And sure, some of that is still happening. But it’s getting harder, getting harder to stay outraged. Of course the president tweeted something crazy, he’s crazy! Of course he tried to ban people, but at least we have the courts. Never mind that he and his administration seem determined to find a way to discriminate against Muslims in any way possible. Of course there are more hate crimes, but how is it really possible to keep up on all of them?
“Of course.” That’s the refrain, that’s the call of, “I just want to get on with my life already.”
How long can a person, really, sustain anger and outrage and determination to fight? After all, how many of our lives have personally been truly affected by this crazy administration?
Well, that’s the danger. That’s the trap. That’s how authoritarians work. They wear us down, they get us used to them. Soon, we think that this is just how it is, this is normal, this is acceptable. We want to finally live without having conversations every two seconds about this. We want to go on Facebook and see pictures of our friends’ weddings, not argue with those same friends about why they’re blindly following a hatemonger. We want peace, we want calm, we want friends.
And the authoritarians love it. To authoritarians, our apathy is their fuel.
But if you think about that first month, how did so much of Trump’s pathetic attempts at evil actually succeed? How much did he accomplish? Not much and very little. And it’s not just because he’s incompetent. It’s because a resistance rose. A group of people that demanded the other branches of government not lay over and give Trump whatever he wants. The Democratic party was moved to resist only when they found out how their constituents felt. The Republicans quaked in their boots when they realized that perhaps attaching their wagons to a psychopathic conman might not be the best strategy in a world where the people have a say in their choices.
In other words, any good that came in that first month was because of us, and don’t let any pundit, cynical sympathizer, Trumpophile, or alt-right hate-monger convince you otherwise. It was our outrage, it was our voice, it was our protesting. Everything else is secondary, an after-effect. That is how democracy works, that is how the world works. The people lead, and the leaders follow.
And why did we resist? Because it wasn’t normal, because we refused to accept it, because we were willing to deal with a slightly more intense Facebook experience.
Friends, we did it. Our voices and our marches were heard around the world and right in Mar-a-Lago, where the orange man tried to convince himself through tweets that we were paid operatives.
The point is that we cannot let go, we cannot start to “live our lives” or rely on the courts or trust the press to keep breaking stories. We must be angry. We must now work to actively remember how it used to be. We must dream of something even better than it ever was. We must continue to connect and build networks of resistance. We must stand strong, we must stay focused.
The internet has made it easier than ever to do all these things. But it’s also made it easier than ever to lose our attention, to find something new to get outraged about. But right now we have a priority for the next four years, or until the man is gone: and that is to sustain what we are building.
This is not normal. This is not okay. And we must never forget that.