Since the election, I have been absorbing information around me and planning my next steps. I know that I cannot sit back and do nothing while policies I do not believe in are enacted around me, but I have struggled with how to proceed. What hits me most is that there are people in my own community who are already feeling the stress of this election, and Trump isn’t even in office yet.
I’ve joined Facebook groups. I’ve ranted and complained to friends. I have tweeted and retweeted, and none of it makes me feel like I’m doing enough. Here are some the areas I am concerned about in the immediate term. This is not an exhaustive list.
Women’s Access to Healthcare
Our president-elect has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. When asked about what women would do if their state no longer had abortion clinics, Trump said they would have to go to other states.
It’s not as simple as “going to another state,” especially with protectionist laws in place that make it even harder to access healthcare, such as waiting periods. A woman would not only have to find the transportation to another state, but would need to be able to take several days off of work to get there, get seen by a doctor, and then have to wait the statutory amount of time before getting an abortion. Twenty-seven states have waiting periods. Most of the waiting periods are 24 hours, but some states have waiting periods of 48 or 72 hours. That’s a heavy, heavy burden on women, and it disproportionately affects our most vulnerable groups of women.
Although Trump has said he will stand by the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage, there are a lot of other areas where he, or his administration, can chip away at rights for the LGBTQ community. Potentially most pressing would be an appeal of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, which currently protects transgender people from discrimination in seeking healthcare. The ACA also protects against discrimination based on preexisting conditions, which includes HIV/AIDS. There is also a general anxiety regarding the future administration’s treatment of the LGBTQ community, and what that might mean for same-sex couples who have adopted a child. We know Republicans want to repeal Obamacare immediately. It might even be the first thing on the Senate agenda in 2017. It’s unclear what other changes might happen that will impact the LGBTQ community, but it’s safe to say that people are worried.
Let’s forget the wall for a second, which has its own issues. In 2012, Obama’s administration passed something called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”), which protected from deportation young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. These individuals are referred to as “Dreamers.” There are about 750,000 of these Dreamers living in the United States, who have been given work permits and safe harbor from deportation. These individuals are known to the government, as they have applied for protected status. President-elect Trump has vowed to “immediately terminate” DACA. This would lead to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of individuals, would break up families, and would send back individuals who have been living in this country legally.
There has been a rise in hate crimes since Donald Trump won the election. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 900 hate crimes in the 10 days after the election. Since then, they have continued to update those numbers, and the results are chilling. I can, and will, do a longer post on this, but regardless of what is motivating these individuals, they feel emboldened. Hate crimes are unpleasant and scary, and can be very dangerous, but I believe they are also a symptom of anger that might be directed in other, more nefarious ways, and I am highly concerned about where that might go.
What Can You Do?
This is a lot to take in, and can seem overwhelming. I have spent the past few weeks reading, reading, reading, trying to wrap my head around what my concerns are, and how best to take action. One thing I have come to realize is that politics is not just national. We can do work locally, and we can start now. I don’t have to have the answer for the electoral college problem, but I’m a lawyer in Chicago and can use those skills to help some already-existing organizations.
Here are a few things I have done, and they will only lead to more action:
1. Change my lifestyle to be able to donate more. Donating is now a key role I can play in making sure the organizations I care about are equipped to tackle an onslaught of issues that are coming down the pipeline. I’m not shopping right now for anything personal, and I plan to continue making those cutbacks so I can give back more. It feels really good to pick my organizations and to be able to join campaigns I care about.
2. Become a member of already-existing organizations. Another thing I’m realizing is that there is so much work going on around me. Right now there’s a huge influx of people who want to do something, but I don’t know if we need to recreate the wheel. I know that even though I’ve been aware of these groups in the past, I have not always opened the emails they’ve sent me, and I certainly have not always signed up to volunteer. Here are a few options (apologies if these are Illinois-based, but there are similar organizations everywhere)
- I have signed up to be a legal volunteer for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (“ICIRR”). There are lots of other volunteer opportunities if you want to get involved in immigrant and refugee rights, check out other volunteer opportunities here. I am interested in volunteering as a legal screener, where I will be assessing client eligibility to apply for citizenship and pointing clients in the right direction if they are eligible.
- Become a Legal Observer through the National Lawyers Guild (note – you do not need to be a lawyer to be an observer) to ensure First Amendment rights are being protected during protests. I am attending this training on December 15 – maybe I’ll see you there! Register here and find out more about the training here.
- I am also attending a training and orientation on volunteering with the Center on Halsted, which is a LGBTQ service agency in Chicago. I will be starting in February, but there are lots of options to register here. The Center does so many things, but I am interested in getting involved in domestic violence issues in the LGBTQ community.
3. Stay smart. I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but fake news is all around us, on both ends of the political spectrum. We cannot afford to let go of facts. Subscribe (and I mean pay) for good journalism. The Wall Street Journal has a deal right now that gives you 12 weeks of digital access for $12, check it out here. The New York Times will give you 4 weeks for 99 cents, and then $3.75 per week after that, here. If you can’t fit that into your budget, then stick to free online publications that link to their sources and follow real journalistic procedures. People are doing some great work sifting through what’s real and not. This short piece is a good start. Note, this used to have a link to a list of fake news sites but the professor who drafted it had to remove it due to threats and harassment. How scary is that? She is following up and I will post once the list is live again.
4. Support the performing arts. This might not seem intuitive, but comedy/performance has a huge role in challenging and critiquing the status quo, and performers who speak out against the regime are some of the first targets of free speech violations. Support the performers you care about. Watch their shows, tweet your support, and get involved in the work going on in your community. My personal project is the Neo-Futurists, which is a bad-ass group of performance artists doing awesome work. They recently separated from their founder and are undergoing a fundraising campaign. Learn more here, or hit me up if you ever want to check out some local theater.
Another thing I’m learning is that there is SO MUCH WORK going on around us, and these people have been fighting these fights for much longer than Trump has been president-elect. I know it is frustrating and challenging trying to harness your energy to DO SOMETHING, but these organizations do not exist to help you find your path; they exist to provide services to the most vulnerable in society. Work within their rules. Be patient if they can’t train you next week. In the mean time, give them a donation and a word of support. The onus is not on them to connect you to your ideal volunteer opportunity. The onus is on YOU to find out what you want to do and start doing it.
Now get out there and make your Facebook posts mean something!