Recently, I’ve been thinking about how research can be used to break down elitist systems, rather than reinforce them. In academia, the use of academic jargon and the cost of accessing classes or published research is a barrier for folks to looking to learn more about a certain subject, or find data on their own communities. As researchers, we must work to ensure that science remains public, especially during times of political crisis. The right-wing’s appeal to the “white working class” is anti-academic, labeling the university as indoctrinating students with liberal ideas, which they label as an attack on the working class. Thus, it’s time to put theory into practice, work with our communities, and use our privilege/skills to present truths. We have the tools to disprove #AlternativeFacts and must make that work accessible.
Last Sunday, I went to a Post-Women’s March Huddle. It was great to see the turnout. One hundred fifty people! That’s a lot for a Sunday and for a small college town. I didn’t see a whole lot of color but that’s also to be expected in White (Iowa) suburbia. We spent the first twenty minutes sharing stories of our experiences at the Women’s March in D.C., Chicago, here in Iowa City–anywhere. It was great to hear stories of the unity and camaraderie felt that day even if many people were unaware of how un-inclusive or divisive the march was for some.
The next twenty minutes was spent listening to a speaker talk about how to use effective language in our voices as activists. It boiled down to the other side is better equipped and more experienced but we have our own advantages: There’s more of us and we can be louder.
It got me thinking though. We’re barely halfway in Trump’s first 100 days in office and look how much political tension there already is in the country. We have four years of this. Can we keep up the momentum? Will I see these people next year or even at the next event?
I worry that we will get complacent, that the other side will win because we’ll burn ourselves out. I imagine it a little like a boxing match. We’re going round and round the ring and they’re trying to wear us down. How will we hold up? How is the political climate going to be next year?
I admit I’m an imperfect activist. I’ll write post cards, send emails and march at demonstrations but to call and talk to representatives? I haven’t been able to find my voice for that. I’ve always hated being on the phone. Besides texts and checking emails, I hate talking on the phone. I can’t bring myself to call a representative and tell them what to oppose or support. I just can’t. Or realistically, maybe I won’t. Is this the start of burnout for me?
In an instant, life gets crazy busy and it’s easy to let one thing slide and then the next and then the next. I think activism means doing what you can with what you’re comfortable with and to stand up for what you believe in. There’s enough pressure from society and the Trump administration to be a certain way. I don’t want to have to fit into a mold of a ‘good political activist.’ Maybe I’ll change, in fact, I know I will. I’m sure I’ll grow in my activism and learn how to acknowledge my fear but still be courageous. This is only the beginning after all and we have quite the journey ahead.