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Let's Talk About It: Engage, Engage, Engage



Editor's note: This is one in a series of opinion pieces solicited by the Journal. In the immediate aftermath of Nov. 8, it became very clear that people need safe spaces to discuss their ideas and feelings, and generally process what was the ugliest and most vitriolic presidential contest in generations. To that end, we reached out to a variety of community stakeholders, people who we felt could help starts this community dialogue. The response was overwhelming, and a full list of submissions complete with links can be found at the bottom of this post. We hope you'll also join the conversation by commenting online, writing letters to the editor and talking to each other.

This election was a roller coaster ride of emotions for those of us who worked to influence its outcomes. Here in Humboldt, volunteers for the Bernie Sanders campaign had the complicated sensation of intense pride and happiness at the 70 percent victory we helped to secure for Sanders in Humboldt County's Democratic primary, coupled with the crushing disappointment that came with Sanders' overall defeat in California and, soon after, the primary.

Many of the same volunteers who campaigned here for Bernie went on to lobby for progressive change at a local level, working as the North Coast People's Alliance (NCPA) to help pass Measure P (True Ward) and Measure V (Mobile Home Rent Stabilization), and to get Austin Allison elected to Eureka City Council. Once again, on election night we found ourselves overwhelmed with contradictory emotions — unable to wholeheartedly celebrate our remarkable victories on all three local campaigns in the midst of our devastation over Trump's win.

At NCPA, we're all working through our individual reactions to the events of the past six months. For most of us, there is immense gratitude for the bonds we've forged and the progress we've made locally for progressive causes. We are energized to continue this work well into the future.

But many of us are also experiencing intense fear and anxiety over what the future holds under a Trump Administration. Some of us need to take time to heal and rejuvenate; others are more galvanized than ever and ready to fight injustice and inequality immediately with renewed intensity.

One consistent theme throughout this year is a sense that our current system of government (and elections) is truly and fundamentally broken. Our government no longer serves the interests of regular people; it's become an out-of-control monster whose only purpose is to increase power and wealth among elites, at the expense of the well-being, safety and happiness of the rest of us. Our electoral system silences meaningful debate, excludes innovative candidates and ideas, and doesn't even ensure that the candidate with the most votes actually wins. How can we even call this a democracy?

One thing is painfully clear — we can't look to our newly elected national leadership to save us from the climate crisis, or to lead the way toward justice and equality. We're on our own. This is The People's fight now.

Critically, each and every one of us must plug in however we can. This is no time for standing on the sidelines. Engagement will look different for everyone, but it's vital that you — yes, YOU — do engage, in whatever ways make sense to you. Here is a list, by no means exhaustive, to spark your own ideas and plans.

Change Begins at Home:

Plant a garden or connect directly with local farmers.

Turn off lights and electronics when you're not using them.

Install solar panels on your home (cheaper and easier than ever).

Divest from fossil fuels and the associated banks.

Walk, bike, carpool or use transit instead of driving alone.

Support local nonprofits.

Check in on a neighbor or visit a nursing home.

Visit a place of worship that's not your own.

Ditch mainstream media — U.S. corporate media is complicit in what has gone wrong. Find and support reputable alternative sources for news such as Democracy Now, the largest public media collaboration in the U.S., which refuses both corporate and government funding.

Think about the vulnerable people in your life, and ask them what they need to feel safe. Then fight for that.

Engage with Movements:

Wear a Black Lives Matter or Native Lives Matter shirt — especially if you're white.

Attend a protest.

Go to Standing Rock.

Write a letter to the editor.

Donate to NAACP, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, 350.org, etc.

Join a group — the North Coast People's Alliance, the Humboldt Democrats, the Humboldt Green Party, True North, Humboldt Move to Amend, etc.

Start a group — one is in the works for SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) in Humboldt — how about a local chapter of 350.org or Black Lives Matter?

Engage with Politics:

Find out who your state and local representatives are, and let them know what's important to you.

Serve on a school board.

Attend a city council meeting, county supervisors meeting, school board meeting, or local partisan central committee meeting. Listen closely and use your voice.

Run for office, or volunteer for a quality candidate you believe in.

Analysts and scholars have drawn frightening parallels between the rise of Hitler and Trump's own ascent to power. This is not hyperbole; the similarities are terrifying. I would venture to guess that most of us, at one time or another, have pondered the rise of Hitler, asking ourselves or others, "Why didn't good people stop this disaster before it took root?"

We are in that kind of moment today. We can choose to act now — swiftly, collectively, with courage, compassion and solidarity — and we just might have a chance to stop the atrocities Trump has already begun to inspire, and avoid some of the most catastrophic effects of climate change. But our window of opportunity is small and in order to succeed, we must avoid the pitfalls of perceived helplessness, despair and petty infighting.

We must each find solutions and actions for our own lives to ensure that, decades from now, we can tell our grandchildren exactly what we did to divert catastrophe. Our actions must be bold, loving and brave to withstand history's judgment.

Tamara McFarland is a steering committee member with the North Coast People's Alliance.

Submissions from NAACP of Eureka First Vice President Liz Smith, local attorney and U.S. Army reservist Allan Dollison, North Coast People's Alliance Steering Committee Member Tamara McFarland, Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills, Humboldt County Central Democratic Committee Chair Bob Service, local programmer and freelance writer Mitch Trachtenberg, Humboldt County Green Party Chair Dana Silvernale, Rabbi Naomi Steinberg, Humboldt State University assistant professor of history Leena Dallesheh, Friends of the Eel River Executive Director Scott Greacen and League of Women Voters Humboldt County President Rollin Richmond can be found by clicking their names.


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