WHEW, what a week.
B-bye, affordable health insurance. Zip it, National Park Service. Suck it, Standing Rock.
Funding for the arts and humanities, flushed. Endangered Species Act, poached. Muslim ban, check.
Hope you knock out your teeth as we rip away that welcome mat, refugees. Oh hey, giant, unaffordable, ridiculous border wall that no amount of imported tequila is ever going to fund.
I fully expect that by the time this column gets uploaded, the wrecking ball of this new, “alternative” form of democracy will deliver more demoralizing blows to our civil society, undoing the will of the people with its tiny, grabby hands. But I can’t anymore with the play-by-play of this shock-and-awful.
Many of us have been witnessing the catastrophe unravel in constant motion, and we’re trying hard to click and comment out of an overwhelming sense of helplessness.
Maybe that’s working for some, but seems the rest of us just end up frustrated and blustering, sending 47 scary monster mask emojis to that redneck uncle in response to his guffawing comment about vagina hats.
Even if we just bounce around like Minions on Ritalin in our padded echo chambers, the constant barrage of bad news can be debilitating, no matter how reputable the source. Even those with the time, stamina and stomach to process the state of emergency coming out of Washington are hitting the Red Bull hard to keep up.
But we must not succumb to this obvious strategy of overwhelm and distract.
The shit tsunami formerly known as the federal government will continue to rain toxic fecal matter upon the citizens of America, you betcha, and our sustained attention and outrage is essential. Last week’s marches showed us that the Resistance is organized and ready for action, but this is a long game, friends. So here’s a short field guide to navigating our role without losing our marbles:
Just say NO to the ‘Refresh’ button. Step away from the 24-hour news cycle. Unless you work for a national news outlet or you’re that poor guy tweeting from under his desk in the White House, you’re not going to be the first to know anything, so relax. If you have a hard time self-imposing limits on your social media use, pretend you’re a petulant teenager and your mom is a mean jerk.
Focus on your No. 1 issue. Pick a thing and COMMIT. Make the calls, get down and dirty about policy and educate others on the nitty-gritty. This doesn’t mean we don’t advocate and march for the bigger picture, we’re just dividing up the work and setting lasers on what matters most.
Don’t engage the haters. You’re savvy enough to discern who’s interested in civil discourse and who wants to work out their daddy rage. Block those who attack your character or with whom conversations go nowhere but hell, even if they’re bloodkin.
And remember that not everyone who disagrees with you is an enemy. Opening ourselves up to debate hones our talking points and forges alliances—especially when we do it offline, face-to-face, over snacks.
Spend a few minutes a day letting your DC representatives know you’re alive. No matter where you live, you’ve only got three: Two senators and a House rep. ‘Round here, Sen. Johnny Isakson probably doesn’t want to know what you think about his glowing endorsement of Betsy DeVos, but you have every right to tell him. He can be reached in Atlanta at (770) 661-0999 and in D.C. at (202) 224-3643.
Also feel free to give Rep. Buddy Carter a shout about your thoughts on his climate change denial and his recent vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act as well as HR586, a bill he co-authored that would not only criminalize abortion but possibly ban certain forms of birth control and complicate the in vitro fertilization process. The number to his Savannah office on Lee Blvd. (912) 352-0101; DC is (202) 225-5831.
Many have already put those numbers on speed dial. Lately, both offices are going straight to voicemail. Shock and awe ‘em, dahlins’.
Don’t neglect the work closest to home. The national stage has all the drama, but local is where we actually make a difference. Here in Savannah, we’re still dealing with the same issues we were before Herr Despot unleashed his tyrannical agenda, plus a few new ones:
Chatham County Rep. Ron Stephens has introduced legislation to legalize gambling in certain parts of Georgia, because a tacky casino along I-95 is exactly what Savannah needs to complement its ugly hotel and sex trafficking problems. Surely there are other ways to fund the HOPE scholarship, like taxing the millions of cargo TEUs passing through the Port?
Also fogging up local Facebook pages is Mayor Eddie DeLoach’s proposal to hasten the use of eminent domain to clear cloudy property titles. City leaders tout it as a means to reduce blight more effectively in poor neighborhoods.
Critics say that the practice unfairly targets African Americans and allows the government to seize property for its own interests. Bound to be more in the coming months, stay tuned.
And there is the ever-present specter of crime and violence, fed by the city’s poverty rate, a large population of felons who can’t support themselves legally and a tippy-toe culture that some say might be racially desegregated but definitely not integrated.
“Marching is great and there are a lot of serious things happening, but we have triage to do, right here at home,” says Lana Abbott, who hosted Savannah Perceptions II: Roundtable last week at the W.W. Law Center.
About 80 citizens—mostly black and white, though so many of us fall in between or outside those labels—gathered to continue the unpacking of systemic racism and help identify solutions. It’s a slow process, and many people need it, as one participant put it, “Barney-styled down” to the alphabet block basics of simply recognizing the challenges people of color continue to be subject to every day.
“Savannah Perceptions” is also the name of Abbott’s radio show Thursdays 8-9pm on WRUU (online and hitting the FM airwaves in March!) on which she and guests discuss what she calls “the reality of being Melanated in America.” (No, that’s not a new reality show in which FLOTUS tours the baby seal-stuffed coat closets of cabinet members’ wives.)
On a related note, how the hell does the Port Wentworth Mayor Glenn “Pig” Jones still have a job? (Yes, that’s his legitnickname!) It might not be technically illegal that he circulated obscene upskirt pictures of councilwoman Debbie Johnson to their shared colleagues for the better part of a year, but it sure ain’t right.
Oh oops, almost forgot, sexual harassment with racist overtones is great again! But we will not stand for such smirking attacks on the dignity of women—especially African-American women who have fought tooth and nail to achieve positions of leadership. Dozens showed up to demonstrate quiet support for Ms. Johnson at the most recent council meeting, led by sociologist Bertice Berry. Be warned, elected creepers: Chatham women are keeping our gimlet eyes on you.
Practice self-care. An effective resistor is a healthy one, so get enough rest, eat good food and snuggle with loved ones. Dance more, waaaay more. Emergent Savannah’s James Brown Dance Party Saturday night at the Sentient Bean was salve to the soul, and I propose that the Dept. of Cultural Affairs start sponsoring more opportunities for Savannah to get down with its bad self.
Also, take lots of walks. The upside to global warming is that it’s absolutely gorgeous out there. Best enjoy it, ‘cause we’re gonna fry come July whether Buddy believes it or not.
The past week might feel like death by a thousand bitch slaps, but we’ve still got 207 left to go. Thousands have descended upon airports around the country to protest the immigration ban as I type, and who knows what fresh hell will be unleashed next.
So hunker down, find your niche in the foxhole and prepare for action, ‘cause the monster mask emojis ain’t gonna cut it.