As we enter a new political era, with a president that behaves in unprecedented ways (willful disregard for the truth; putting his chief strategist, a promoter of white nationalism on the National Security Council), many people are looking for ways to fight back. As we do that, I think it’s important to remember that we have many places to fight, including not just Trump, but those in Congress who want to take our country backward, state and local officials who will control redistricting in 2020, and the wealthy oligarchs who fund much of the conservative movement.
One battle we need to include in this list, however, is our own sense of fatalism. Too many times I’ve heard friends and colleagues talk as if the situation is out of our control, that nothing we will do will have an effect on the outcome. I hear this often when I talk about privacy. “Why do anything to protect my privacy from the government? They have all my data anyhow.” But these beliefs lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy — if you truly believe that your actions have no effect, you’ll never do the things that might actually make a change.
Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke eloquently of how in the fight against racism, “fatalism isn’t really an option.” Even if you believe that change won’t occur in your lifetime, you need to work to make that change happen for your children, for your grandchildren.
We don’t want people to fall into fatalism or nihilism. We must view ourselves as change-makers, optimistic about the future and our ability to change it. Our antagonists are these fatalists who don’t think the world can change, that Trump leads to Armageddon. It’s only through our actions, taking the long view, that we will eventually create the society that our ideals tell should be ours.
This is why I am so happy about the recent protests and marches. In pictures of the Women’s Marches, you could see the joy, excitement, and determination on people’s faces. In person, these feelings were palpable. One march may not have an effect on its own, and many have written about how the energy in those marches need to be harnessed. But there is energy, there are people who believe they can cause change, make a difference, and dare to create “…a more perfect union.”
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.