It was a couple of weeks after Donald Trump's election as president and we were feeling demoralized after a victory for plutocracy and white male privilege. Hate crimes committed in Trump's name were increasing. So on Nov. 27, I published a piece titled: "Friends, Even This Cloud Has a Silver Lining."
Despite these defeats, there really is something to be thankful for when we consider all the ways in which the previously apolitical and disillusioned among us have decided to activate. Here we are more than a month into the Trump presidency. If there's anything Trump should understand by now, it's that we are not going to sit idly and watch as he chips away at our civil liberties, women's reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, the environment, the arts, immigration, relationships with allies, national security or public education. Throughout the country, Americans are getting involved in local politics, helping to reshape them from the inside. People who never imagined running for office have done it or are planning to in time for the 2018 midterm elections. People are also forming grassroots organizations to hold their elected representatives accountable, writing letters to their local papers, flooding offices of their congressional members with telephone calls and emails, staging sit-ins at congressional offices, and, protesting from coast to coast, continent to continent. The Women's March the day after the inauguration was the dawn of this progressive awakening.
It's working. Our vociferous pushback, Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy's stellar parodies on Saturday Night Live, and opposition to Trump's Cabinet choices, are getting under the president's thin skin. We must continue, not abate, these efforts.
However, we must also be cognizant of the fact that this thin-skinned narcissist also has a propensity for retaliation. Just look at his Twitter feed. He's not the only one, though. No sooner did Trump take the oath of office when lawmakers in ten states proposed criminalizing peaceful protest. In Minnesota, Washington, Michigan and Iowa, Republican lawmakers have proposed anti-protest laws to increase penalties for demonstrators who block traffic. North Dakota is advancing a bill that would allow motorists to run over and kill protesters as long as it is "accidental." Indiana (home state of Vice President Pence) proposed a law that would instruct police to use “any means necessary” to clear protesters from roads. Colorado is considering legislation to increase penalties for environmental protesters. Virginia is interested in increasing penalties for people who engage in “unlawful assembly” after “having been lawfully warned to disperse,” currently a misdemeanor, to up to a year of incarceration and a fine of up to $2,500. A bill is pending in Missouri that would make it a Class-A misdemeanor to participate in an “unlawful assembly” in which one intentionally conceals “his or her identity by the means of a robe, mask or other disguise”—including hoods—except for the purposes of religion, safety or medical needs. Those caught concealing their identity could face up to a year in jail. In North Carolina, Sen. Dan Bishop is talking about introducing legislation to criminalize heckling politicians after protesters chanted "Shame" at former Gov. Pat McCrory while he attending Trump's inauguration.
I present this warning not because I secretly wish protests stop. As I said, we must continue, not abate, these efforts. The fact that legislators are seriously stepping up attempts to quell our constitutional right to assemble and redress our grievances is a testament to how nervous we are making them. Like you, I believe knowledge is power. We must be prepared to confront the opposition Republicans—with Trump behind them—are mounting in an effort to tire, frustrate and disillusion us.
So, keep it up. Protest every day. Ramp up your efforts if you can. While you're at it, inform your fellow patriots about the plans to stop them. The more of us who know what Republicans are up to, the more likely they are to back down when exposed.
Ted Millar teaches English at Mahopac High School in Mahopac, N.Y., and poetry at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He resides in New York's Hudson Valley with his wife and two children. His poetry has appeared in Third Wednesday, Tiny Poetry: Macropoetics, Scintilla, GFT Press, Inklette, The Grief Diaries, Cactus Heart, Aji, Wordpool Press, The Artistic Muse, Chronogram, Brickplight, and Inkwell. He is also a political blogger for Liberal Nation Rising.