Reading the news every morning has become something of a sick fascination; it’s an experience akin to passing by a car crash. You hate what’s happening and yet can’t tear your eyes away from it.
I fight the impulse, of course. I ignore my “daily briefing” from the New York Times. I stay off Facebook. I fill the first few minutes of my workday with positive things: a daily spiritual reading, emails from friends, a look at the day’s plan. But irresistibly I’m drawn back to the news.
Because if there’s one thing that we’re guaranteed these days, it’s that the current administration will have done somethingovernight to hurt people who live in this country.
In other words, that there will have been a car crash.
Like many others, I am heartened by the protests, the resistance, that is flowering everywhere (yes, even in Kansas), even as I am aware that it might be short-lived: 20 states have already introduced bills limiting the rights to peaceful assembly. Think about that for a moment: 20 states out of 50 want to make sure that we cannot march, cannot protest. And it’s only May of the first year.
I’m going to say something and I hope and pray with all my heart that I am wrong.
There may come a time when we can’t protest, even here, even at Land’s End. There may come a time when violence becomes the accepted practice of the country, even here. There may come a time when being a person of color, or an LGBT individual, or a woman, or a poor person, will mean becoming a victim in a new organized and vicious way by this administration. Even here. Maybe even especially here. And I think that we need to plan for that possibility.
While the story of the frog and the boiling water is in fact apocryphal, its lesson is not. As rights are stripped away one at a time, it’s easy to post our anger on Facebook and drum and march and then move on to the next horrible thing on the administration’s agenda without realizing the sum of what’s happening.
For many years, I’ve had one defense against fear: anytime I’m scared of anything, I ask myself what the worst possible outcome might be, and whether I can handle that. If I can handle it, my anxiety goes down. If I know that I can’t handle it, I formulate a plan to deal with that outcome should I not be able to change it.
I’m scared now, and I’m looking at worst possible outcomes, and I don’t want to handle what I’m seeing, so I need to do the scariest thing of all: plan for dealing with it—deciding what I will do when America becomes a true fascist state. Am I going to shelter people in my home if it might lead to my own imprisonment or death? Am I going to intentionally violate the new rule of law and ensure that same imprisonment or death? What is my plan?
I know that what I just said sounds a little melodramatic; but remember that I’m looking at it through the lens of the worst possible outcome. I’m not being hysterical or theatrical here. I’m being pragmatic: I need a plan. I’m not willing to let circumstances dictate my actions because I couldn’t face what that sort of future would look like. I’ve seen what happens when people go with the tide of circumstances. I’m not willing to accept that.
I think we should all carry on with what we’re doing, of course. We need to resist. We need to wake others up to the dangers ahead. We need to put pressure on our politicians. We need to write open letters and pray and drum and march. We need to do everything we can, now, to stop this.
But we also need to know that there’s a plan if we can’t. What is yours?