I first learned about caring for the welfare of all beings through social activism. As a child, I protested the first Iraq War by doing cartwheels on the White House lawn. We protested Reagan and war and nuclear power and global warming and all the things that I’ve since forgotten. Since then, especially during the complacent days of Obama, I have spent a good amount of time meditating, including three-year retreat. The compassionate fire of protest has given way to generating bodhicitta on the cushion, aiming to increase my capacity to benefit beings through meditation practice. Recognizing not all suffering is physical, sometimes the best way to be of service is with the heart.
With the election of Donald Trump and the rise of the far right movements emphasizing racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia, and more, for me, sitting on the cushion, though always vital, is no longer enough. This is a time for skillful and effective action, informed by meditation practice, inspired by compassion. And the question many have been asking is: How can we be most effective?
Some of the ways we can resist:
1. Peaceful Protests
Peaceful protests are taking place all across the country. Join them. Organize them. The most effective protests are peaceful and get wide press coverage. Bring your creativity to protesting—interesting protests bring more attention. The more attention, the more effective. Before the invasion of Iraq in 2002 the massive protests against the war were not covered by the mainstream news because there was huge fear of being seen as unpatriotic after 9/11. This is not that time, and the press have been widely covering protests. We must continue to protest in peaceful and interesting ways.
2. Call your elected representatives, a lot
It is about 6 million times more effective than signing online petitions, and only takes about 5 minutes. Not sure their number? Here is the link to find out. Save their number in your phone, and you can call them every day about different issues. These days there certainly are plenty. If it is outside of business hours, you can leave a message.
You can say: Hello, I’m a constituent from ________. I am very disturbed about _________ and I expect my representative to take a strong stance against this. What does the Senator or representative plan to do about this?
Be nice to the staffer. You don’t have to be well-spoken or clearly explain the issue in an informed way, if it is a hot issue, they know about it. A bumbling diatribe is just fine. What they do is tally the number of calls about the issue, so that the representative knows how important the issue is to her or his constituency. It is as important or more important to call representatives that don’t agree with your perspective, let them know that holding to their perspective will lose them votes.
Organize a protest in your community. Organize a community meeting with your elected representative. Invite your friends to dinner and then have everyone call their representatives. Be sure also to organize people for self-care—relaxation is an important part of being productive. Thank the politicians who are speaking out and taking strong stances.
4. Support charitable organizations large and small
My family has a tradition for the holidays of donating to charitable organizations on each other’s behalf, for the adults, of course, the children still get gifts. There are wonderful non-profits large and small that are doing incredible work to protect our rights, the rights of our more vulnerable members of our society, and our environment. They need our help more than ever.
5. Subscribe to your favorite newspaper
Yes, getting the news online is easy. But traditional newspapers are already struggling to stay afloat. We need journalistic integrity now more than ever. Once Trump takes office he has promised to make it more difficult for newspapers to report fairly. Sensationalist fake news gets a lot of clicks but we need more than ever strong journalism. It is essential to our democracy, and they can only do it with our support. This is also a great gift!
6. Pick your battles
While fighting with your relatives over Thanksgiving is tempting, perhaps utilize your energy instead to organize or attend a public protest. While arguing in the comments of your high school friend’s Facebook post might feel justified, instead write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Try and use your energy in ways for maximum effectiveness.
This is not a short battle. We cannot afford to spend all our energy now in despair or fanning the flames of anger and resentment. We need to take care of ourselves in order to diligently fight for the next four years. We need to feel our anger, our despair, our devastation, our sadness, so that we can offer our love, our hope, our resistance in positive ways. This is not a time for hatred—as we have found, our world has too much hatred right now. This is a time to resist out of love and compassion. Protesting is a spiritual act, and we must act from a place of love rather than a place of insane fear or bitter resentment. What do you need to do to take care of yourself in these dark times?
8. Find inspiration from the past
This is not the first time the world has faced this type of darkness, and probably not the last. Read up on resistance movements, Gandhi’s autobiography is a great place to start. Talk to older activists who protested the Vietnam War, the nuclear arms race, the Iraq War. How did they do it? How were those struggles won? Did they seem endless? Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, they also faced insurmountable challenges, and were ultimately successful. This is part of the way the world is—there are dark forces that prey on hatred and fear, but we have a job to do, and that job is to peacefully resist.
Skillful resistance, like meditation practice, doesn’t happen in one day. It is what we do daily over a long period of time that we can enact change. We must steady ourselves for the long fight ahead, and find within our hearts the love and compassion to fuel this journey. When we lose that motivation, we burn out. Let’s be peaceful and loud. We are not alone, or even a minority. This is only the beginning. We are lucky to have the opportunity to stand up for what is right.
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