This weekend was a sobering one for the US. One that came with a glaring reminder of the fragility of American democracy, and how it has always placed the yoke of responsibility on the individual rather than the collective.
With the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, all of us got a glimpse of the dark future we may be headed towards. But instead of being bogged down in “what-about-isms” and “she should’ve’s,” it’s time for us to remember that change and progress can and should come from us.
On July 20th, 1993, after being nominated for the bench, Ginsburg was asked why she wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice. She said: “It is an opportunity beyond any other for one of my training to serve society. The controversies that come to the Supreme Court, as the last judicial resort, touch and concern the health and well-being of our Nation and its people.”
As the last judicial resort.
Ginsburg, in her own words, acknowledged at that moment that for better or worse, in the structure of American democracy — a structure that has and continues to be emulated and held up as a legislative model for many countries all over the world — the courts are the final step in creating lasting change. But where does that change begin?
It begins with you and me. It isn’t up to just one significant individual or a few to create and implement change, it is up to us. We can do things to impact our communities, things that could ripple out to impact our countries and even our world. We are the force that changes the course of history, as our ancestors were before us.
So take this moment to feel every negative feeling you have, for they need to be validated. Your anger, your fears, your anxiety, feel it and allow it to fuel you. Channel it all into a bright, burning passion for actively helping to create a place where people don’t need to depend on a lone 87-year-old woman to champion or protect their rights.
Use this time to invest more in yourself and your community. Get involved. Use your voice. Make sure you know what’s going on in your own backyard, in your own streets.
Look into local politics. Do you know who’s running and what for? What issues are being discussed and contended? What does productive, positive funding look like for your community and society? These questions start you on a path of taking care of yourself, your family and your loved ones.
Find out if your community has any grassroots organizations that are designed to help at-risk people, like those experiencing homelessness and/or food insecurity. How can you help? Do they need volunteers? Are you able to support them financially? If not, can you contribute your time?
These questions allow you to take part in a local collective, which is the second step in shaping a better society. Once your community is taken care of, you can look outward and help more of those in need around you. Your actions will help spread this compassionate and empathetic way of living from coast to coast.
There are ways to help those already fighting. Look around you again. See what is happening. Listen to others. Is there a sit-in somewhere? Possibly a protest happening? There might be, especially right now. People in several American cities have been protesting for over nearly four months now. How can we support those protestors?
They need people in the streets. Are you able to be one of those people?
They need shields to protect them from rubber bullets and pepper spray. Can you help make them or pay for the materials?
They need food and water. Is that something you’re able to help provide?
Take a day, think these questions over, and answer them for yourself. And then, most importantly, take the actions you are able too.
Because this is how we fight; this is how we create change. By taking a stand. By demanding it, by fighting for it and saying, “You have no choice but to listen! You have no choice but to pay attention!”
Make your elected representative pay attention! Call, text, and email them. Let them know that you are watching, that they need to be cautious of what they do and say, because you will be there to remove them from office should they betray your trust. Tell them, “I am one of your constituents, I reside in this city/state, and I want to know you will be fighting to ensure that our next Supreme Court Justice isn’t nominated until AFTER the upcoming inauguration!”
Tell your friends and family to do the same. Not everyone will listen, but if just one person does, that’s one more fighter than we had the day before.
With the upcoming federal election, decide if you will participate. If you’re a white person, especially a man, use your power and privilege to vote and support those oppressed by you. If you are a Black person or a non-Black person of colour, decide if you will participate in the election. If won’t, you will face no judgement from me for having lost faith in the systems of oppression that claim to give you freedom.
If will, I honour your choice. Remember that your safety matters and that your vote needs to be counted, your voice needs to be heard. Try and send in an absentee ballot. Many of them look like Trump propaganda and flyers, so check your mail thoroughly for your ballot.
If you’re in a region or state requiring in-person voting, form a voting plan. Look up where your polling station is. Ensure you’re a registered voter, check if you need ID to vote, go with friends and family so that everyone who wants to vote gets the chance to do so. Wear a mask if you’re going outdoors, take some snacks and water to sustain you while you wait in line, and apply and reapply sunscreen if you have to wait under the sun.
Remember, you’re not in this alone. We are all here with you. People have spent the last four years getting involved and creating support systems to help progressive candidates run and flip historical red states. There are organizations that help citizens navigate their way through the election process.
The tremendous amounts of progress we’ve made over the past 4 years may be hard to see through the haze of loss and grief, but we’re going to get through it together. The weight you feel bearing down on you, remember you are not shouldering it alone, because no one person is responsible for enacting change.
Hold on tightly to the hope for a better future, a brighter day, an easier life. Every single one of us deserves a comfortable, safe existence. The journey to get there may be difficult and long, but we will walk it together. Together, we have the power to create the world we want to live in.