What have you done in the last year to respond to the upheavals in American politics? This is an installment in a series of short essays that reflect on the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency.
After my husband died last spring I opened his last credit card bill and discovered how much more than usual he was giving to candidates, and causes, in the wake of the election. That memory is one of many things that keeps me going as I grieve and carry on. Am I grounded? I don’t know. Am I active? Yes.
I demonstrate at big events. I protest at Tuesdays with Toomey — a local effort organized by Philly UP (Philadelphians United for Progress). I work with my union, Rutgers AAUPAFT to support our DACA students and to fight the graduate tuition tax. I donate money. My daily routine now includes a fax, email, tweet, and call to Senator Toomey and I’ve visited his DC office twice, always focused on health care. The Senator and I agree on nothing.
The neighborhood friends I’d worked with in the Obama and Clinton campaigns became a small indivisible group. We each take an issue to focus on and to keep others informed about (for me it is health care, for others voter suppression, the environment, etc.) We meet and write to elected officials (here’s a tip: collect postcards and note cards via your local Buy Nothing group).
Thanks to the inspiring work of Mete Egemen and others I joined Swing Left PA-07. We meet monthly to recruit new members and raise money to be given to the eventual Democratic Party candidate. After the primary we will canvass, phone bank, register voters, and work on GOTV along with other Swing Left groups. PA-07 stretches over five counties and is one of the most gerrymandered districts in the county. It is known locally by its shape: Goofy kicking Donald Duck. You should look it up.
Why do I do this? I feel a sense of urgency as hate groups become more powerful, democracy seems ever more precarious, wealth inequality grows, and the troubles of the world – from global warming to refugee crises – seem so far from being resolved and are becoming increasingly threatening. I sometimes despair and feel like there is nothing I can do that will make a difference, but I can’t just sit and complain.
I spent my early years in the streets protesting LBJ, Nixon, and the Vietnam War. Today I am grateful to LBJ and others for the Medicare that made it possible for me to sign my phased retirement papers so that soon I will be able to spend more time on political work (and other things) with the security of health insurance. I’m thankful that my adult children are fighting the good fight along with me. I’m thankful for others who are working harder than I am and committed to making change.
Janet Golden is an historian, writer, and activist